Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved the fantasy genre. Back when I was kid and just learning to read, I loved fairy tales. When I was six years old I discovered Enid Blyton’s book The Magic Faraway Tree and I was hooked on the story of a group of kids who have adventures in different lands that appear at the top of a tree in an enchanted forest near their home. As I grew older and the day came when we finally had cable television, I then fell in love with fantasy movies that would show up on HBO. It was only natural that the day would come when I came across Time Bandits and it would become one of my all time favorite movies.
Time Bandits was Terry Gilliam’s second film as a director which was not a Monty Python film. Having grown up in England as a small child, I was pretty much raised on a steady diet of Monty Python. While Time Bandits is not a Monty Python film, it definitely has Python involvement, as it was written by Michael Palin and Gilliam. And therefore this is another reason I love this film (why am I trying to justify my love for this movie?).
Kevin is the central character to the story. He’s a young boy who loves history and reading about ancient Greek battles. His parents are more concerned with keeping up with the latest in technology for their home and watch television every night. As Kevin goes to bed one night, a knight on horseback suddenly charges out of his wardrobe and jumps over his bed into a forest that magically appears around him. Everything reverts back to normal, but Kevin is intrigued, so the next night he goes to bed with his camera on the ready. Only this time, a group of dwarves come out of his wardrobe.
The dwarves (Randall, Fidgit, Strutter, Og, Wally, and Vermin) are on the run from the Supreme Being, having stolen a map from him. The dwarves were supposed to use the map to repair time holes in the spacetime fabric, but instead they decide to use the holes to commit robberies and get rich. With the Supreme Being chasing them (in the form of a large, floating head), they escape Kevin’s bedroom by pushing on his wall and falling into a time hole that sends them to Napoleonic times.
After robbing Napoleon, they escape to the Middle Ages and meet Robin Hood. However, not only is the Supreme Being after them, but they are being watched by Evil, who also wants the map so he can recreate the universe the way he thinks it should be (less nature, more computers and technology). Evil then lures Kevin and the dwarves to his Fortress of Ultimate Darkness where they battle against him to save the map and thwart his plans.
I guess what’s always made this film striking for me is it’s imagery. Gilliam has set up some pretty memorable scenes throughout, from the knight crashing through the wardrobe, the battle between King Agamemnon and the minotaur, and the final stand against Evil. My favorite moment is when Kevin and the dwarves are wandering through the desert, searching for the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness only to bump into a fake wall that’s concealing it. They break the wall, revealing the fortress, and the sight of it still gives me chills. And I love watching them trying to escape from the large cage that Evil imprisons them in, as it’s filled with tension and humor.
It’s hard to believe this movie is intended to be a children’s film. It’s incredibly imaginative, and yet it doesn’t have a happy ending. But Gilliam intended this film to be a fantasy viewed through the eyes of a child and believes the ending also to be part of a child’s fantasy. We are all just one blip in the fabric of the universe, and time will always continue on no matter what.