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Subj: sword and sorcery review #25: Time Bandits (1981)
Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2022 at 02:27:59 am EDT (Viewed 140 times)
(I know its not really S&S. I just don't want to make a new catergory)
My 13 year old daughter and I had a movie night, so she let me introduce her to one of my absolute favourite films as a kid. Its a film which is hard to catergorise, but I think it walks perfectly the line between comedy and adventure.
The story is fantastic, packing a huge amount of story into a few hours. A young boy named Kevin in suburban England has a great imagination and interest in history, despite his materialistic, indifferent parents. It turns out that his closet contains a time hole and he gets visited by 6 dwarves, led by Randal.
Randal and the dwarves used to work for the supreme being (God), but they rebelled and stole a map of all the holes in the fabric of the universe. They plan to use it to rob different time periods making themselves stinking rich.
One interesting observation is the way the film evolves organically. Rather than giving huge info dumps and explaining the concept from the start, they deal it out piecemeal, as we through Kevin, learn about the robberies, the supreme being, the map of the time holes, all slowly dealt out in a way that no film would do today. In fact the bad guy is not introduced until at least a third of the way, so as not to overload the plot. I guess audiences were just sharper back then, not needing everything to be spelt out for them.
My daughter was having trouble following things at the start. I just had to let her know it would all get explained with patience.
The actor who plays Kevin does a remarkable job. He's not well-trained as an actor, but this adds to his genuine-ness. He grows up over the course of the film. At the start he is fascinated by the violence and action and death in history, much like myself as a young man. But by the end, he has seen enough to question God about the lives of innocent fighters who died trying to defeat evil.
the dwarves are all well-written, each with having distinct personalities. Their comedy is spot on.
The time-travelling allows them to meet historical figures such as Napoleon and Robin Hood, who are presented as far different from the history books.
Sean Connery plays King Agamemnon brilliantly, who becomes a father figure for Kevin, who at least finds happiness in Greece, only to be pulled back in by the bandits, going with them unwillingly.
After a trip on the Titanic, the group reaches the time of legends and the fantasy elements are ramped-up until they reach the fortress of ultimate darkness and are captured by Evil (the devil).
The third act is extremely scary, particularly the actor David Warner, who plays evil and his skull-headed minions. The dwarves engineer a clever escape from a giant cage suspended over a pit that shows their competence and teamwork.
This leads us to the climatic confrontation at the end. As Kevin distracts Evil, the dwarves go to the time hole to recruit help. Just when things look the most dire for brave Kevin, the "forces of good" appear to save him. We get a history fans dream as the dwarves appear with a tank, a force of knights on horseback, Babylonian archers, a spaceship and cowboys.
"So this is the best the supreme being can do?" Evil taunts before the epic battle.
There ae so many fantastic themes which I haven't even touched on as this film is deeper than any childrens' movie. And the ending of course, might be a biggest shock to any childrens film ever.
My daughter seemed to enjoy it, even if its not her usual genre. She correctly predicted they were on the Titanic and that the adventure would be a dream. Of course, I pointed out to her that the Fortress of ultimate darkness was made from giant blocks of lego.
As a kid it inspired me to invent my own time travelling stories. As an adult, it holds up extremely well and you can see the deeper themes
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