Time Bandits uncreditedly owes its source to Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-14), Winsor McCays cult comic-strip about the surrealistic dream adventures of a young boy that flourished in the first two decade of the century Time Bandits is sort of Little Nemos History of the World Part I. Terry Gilliam co-writes with Monty Python compatriot Michael Palin and their script is packed with a sly wit. Especially amusing is Ralph Richardsons God who is like an absent-minded High Anglican cleric, delivering droll asides upon preparing to depart, he resurrects his downed dwarves: Being dead is no excuse for not working and gathers them all around: Come on, we had better get back to creation or theyll say Ive been making mistakes again and put it all down to evolution. There is a vaguely anti-technology theme running through the film but not one that Terry Gilliam appears to be taking too seriously. Monty Python comrade John Cleese makes an amusing brief appearance as a Robin Hood who is played as a total twit who says jolly good to everything. How long have you been a robber? he addresses the dwarves. About four foot two, comes the answer.
However, the films episodic structure is also highly uneven. Later Terry Gilliam films like The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys are all the better for Gilliams framing them inside tight scripts. Gilliams earlier films like Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen often tend to a spectacular indulgence that isnt always connected to the main thread of plot. Certainly, Time Bandits feels like an often unconnected series of sequences that are only loosely knitted together. Some episodes are great the climax, the Napoleon encounter but others pale quickly the slight Robin Hood sequence, a sketch about a tv gameshow Your Money or Your Life. The Ogre episode and the image of the ship the dwarves are aboard rising out of the ocean as the head-dress of a giant has nothing to do with the rest of the films historical romp. The Mycenaean scenes seem to belong to another more wistful film altogether they are like a sincere Boys Own fantasy that the film often hearkens towards but gets sidetracked from.
Terry Gilliam has for several years, as recent as the 2000s, attempted to mount a Time Bandits 2.
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