I often find myself thinking about the children’s fantasy films of the mid-80s. Films like Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) and The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) are considered classics and for good reason. They’re timeless stories of good triumphing over evil and can give anyone a nostalgic flashback with the sheer mention of their titles. However, one fantasy that unfairly gets left behind is perhaps what kicked off the boom, to begin with. I’m talking about Terry Gilliam’s 1981 film, Time Bandits.
Released at the start of the decade, Time Bandits follows Kevin (Craig Warnock), a neglected young history buff who is thrust into adventure alongside a thieving band of time-travelling dwarves. Along the way, he meets historical figures, and monsters, and finds himself caught up in a great battle of Good versus Evil. If parts of that sound familiar it’s because this is a fairy tale in the truest sense. It is a grandiose tale of adventure with scope, heart, and scale. The scale of the film in particular is perhaps what is most memorable and impressive. Gilliam’s particular brand of strange camera tilts and zooms as well as the creative special effects sequences and set pieces, inspire awe in both young and old. The film is also home to some great cameos ranging from Gilliam’s fellow Monty Python alumni John Cleese and Michael Palin to Ian Holm, Shelley Duvall and the late great Sean Connery who looks like he’s having the time of his life as the legendary Ancient Greek hero, Agamemnon.
However, Time Bandits isn’t a perfect film as a noticeable lack of character development makes the protagonists seem more like archetypes than real people. The film is also home to some wonky pacing in the middle and a baffling cliff-hanger ending that just left me confused. These are only minor nit-picks however a film like this is designed just to be pure fun and adventure. Time Bandits absolutely delivers on this promise and despite my confusion about the film’s ending, I quickly forgot about it thanks to a sublime end credit song by George Harrison that left me smiling for hours which is all you need sometimes.