By Tim Barlow
Lets get one thing out of the way, this is a very creatively envisioned movie, from the script and plot to the sets and costumes, Time Bandits feels original and imaginative. And despite dipping into some familiar waters: time travel, disenfranchised children escaping home, Sean Connery in a leather skirt, etc…, it still brought a lot of new and fun (and lets be honest, weird) moments to the screen. From the surface level like John Cleese’s take on Robin Hood to broader themes of theology and addiction to technology, Time Bandits is more than just a straightforward children’s adventure or late-night comedy.
But, and this is a Mix-A-Lot approved one, I didn’t really like watching it, in fact it took me two tries just to finish it. And yet, I think I could like it, as in eventually, as in, I don’t right now. Okay let me explain, so as someone coming into Time Bandits for the first time, and seeing names like Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and John Cleese attached, I had certain expectations. But Time Bandits isn’t Monty Python, or Holy Grail or Life of Brian. The humor was more subtle. There were underlying themes (or what I took to be themes) and they felt obtuse and nuanced. Almost like Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal or Weezer’s Pinkerton album, Time Bandits shows elements of Gilliam and Palin, but seems separate from their other collaborations, unique, and a little darker.
And it was because of this nuanced layering that I struggled during my first viewing. But again, maybe I could learn to love this movie, to appreciate the subtler humor. I could get better at recognizing and making sense of the underlying stream of themes. For example, I knew while watching that this movie has more to it than just dwarves fumbling through periods of history using a map of creation’s loopholes. I knew that it was more than just a kid escaping his boring life in the suburbs. But I only got a taste, and that taste left me with more questions than answers. Are they implying we’re all just dwarves fumbling around in a cosmic struggle we don’t really understand? How come the kid seems to “get it?” And what’s all this about the role of evil? Is evil just an experiment? Or is it a forgotten accident as is implied at the end?! Goddammit! My effing head hurts trying to understand this crap.
When you come across these efforts by creatives, the ones that just don’t fall in line with everything else, it can feel as though this is their true feelings despite being the outliers, this was the pet project, the one they had been dreaming about, the one they made because they wanted or needed to, not because it would sell. And that’s both the allure and the problem with these pet projects – I can’t stop my brain from trying to figure out the point. What are you trying to tell me? It has to be important or you wouldn’t have deviated from the system, so just tell me! TELL ME!
So in conclusion. This movie took me two tries to watch. It seems like there is more to it that just adventures through time with a team of thieving dwarves. Needs more viewing, but don’t want to. Not Holy Grail. My head hurts. Sean Connery in a leather skirt.