Criterion // 1981 // 116 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // May 6th, 1999
All the dreams you've ever had...and not just the good ones...
Terry Gilliam's flights of fancy give rise to a fantasy adventure for kids of all ages, this one included.
Time Bandits is the story of a young boy who has been whisked away by six "vertically challenged" individuals who just happen to be misguided employees of the Supreme Being (the Big Kahuna, in other words). They were bored with their lives and decided it would be fun to "steal" the map that shows all the imperfections in the old space-time continuum -- and jump from time to time stealing things. Well, they take poor little Kevin (Craig Warnock) with them, as they tromp through his bedroom and the fun really begins. The group visits Agamemnon (Sean Connery), Napoleon (Ian Holm) and eventually has a big-time run-in with the Evil Genius (David Warner).
Terry Gilliam is a genius. Let's just get that out of the way. I cannot think of one modern director who can take a place of imagination and create that place as completely on screen as Gilliam can. He has the ability to create not only the image of fantasy, but the FEEL of it as well. I don't know how he does it, I am just thankful that he does. I wish he would get more dollars and more licenses from studios to go out and build his films his way. The results are much better than the other way around.
That said, let's get into the crux of this particular disc. First, this disc is the Criterion version, not to be confused with the Anchor Bay version, which is now also available. While I am told the transfers are fairly similar, I have not seen the Anchor Bay version, and so cannot compare them. I can, however, say that Criterion has done a fine job with this transfer. Naturally I would have liked to see an anamorphic transfer on this disc, but up until now, Criterion has refused to accommodate. Thankfully, all that is about to change. Criterion has just recently announced their support for anamorphic transfers "whenever possible" starting with their coming release of Insomnia. Thank God. Disney?
The sound is quite good here as well. The surround track is taken from the original magnetic tracks, as is Criterion's want. Thankfully the sound is left alone as stereo surround and not remastered into 5.1. This allows for a full rich sound that never sounds tinny or compressed. Overall a nice presentation.
The thing that really shines about this disc is the plethora of extras provided by Criterion. Frankly, I wish all their discs included extras that were this comprehensive. It seems that sometimes they do, but then again, sometimes they don't. In any event, this disc includes a commentary track with director Gilliam, co-writer Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock. The thing I like about Criterion's commentary tracks, when they include them, is the production value. They splice several commentaries together, which provides a tightly knit track, which always moves around and stays interesting. By contrast, every other commentary track I have heard is of the same person or people talking throughout the duration of the film. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the person or people are interesting and/or entertaining. However, a track that is boring or uninteresting is a waste of a track, since they are so hard to sit through for two hours. In short, this is a call for more studios to adopt Criterion's method when it comes to commentary tracks...please?
The only drawback to this disc was a slight softness at times in the transfer. This could have been an atmospheric choice by the director or it could have been softness in the transfer. In any event, it did not detract from my viewing pleasure, and I doubt it will detract from yours.
Fans of Gilliam, stand up and be counted. Run, do not walk to your nearest Criterion outlet and grab this disc. Or better yet, sit back and let your fingers do the walking, and clicking, and ordering from your favorite web based retailer. This disc is a real treat, and worth the Criterion premium price, in my opinion.
Acquitted on all counts.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary by director Terry Gilliam, cowriter/actor Michael Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner, and Craig Warnock
* Time Bandits Scrapbook
* Original Theatrical Trailer