Time Bandits: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

November 24, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Kevin (Craig Warnock) is a very smart young boy, but he spends more time alone with his thoughts than with friends. So he spends a lot of time inside his room, reading books or letting his vivid imagination run wild. He might not go outside and experience bold adventures, but inside his own mind, he travels the world and beyond. His walls are covered with images of brave knights and evil dragons, as well as other adventure elements. But when he is pulled into a real life adventure, can Kevin manage to hold his own? One night, Kevin was doing his usual routine, when his wardrobe burst open and out flew half a dozen midgets. That alone would be insane, but these midgets have also traveled through time. It seems a time travel device has been stolen from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson), so the midgets are racing through the portals of time, in order to keep from being captured with the stolen goods. Kevin, willing or not, is taken as they head toward the next stop, which means he is in for one wild ride. The group soon confronts such historical figures as Robin Hood, King Agamemnon, and even Napoleon. But the gravest challenge comes from the ultimate Evil (David Warner). Can Kevin and the time traveling bandits somehow outwit the Evil, or is this the end of the line?

If you think all family friendly films have to be lame and coated in sugar, then you’re in for a wake up call with Time Bandits. This movie, directed by Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, boldly takes us on an adventure that is grand in scope. Not just in sheer size of the locations or journey, but in the scope of imagination and innovation involved. Gilliam’s usual sense of visual splendor is on total showcase, as is his darker side. But while there is tension and darker undercurrents at times, Time Bandits remains safe even for young children. This is because Gilliam structures the movie on more than one level, so as to ensnare viewers of all ages. The kids will love the visuals and slapstick moments, while older children will appreciate the adventure aspect, then adults can be entertained by the subtle touches and attention to detail. So, Time Bandits doesn’t bring everything down to the level of small children, but it makes sure that audiences across the board will be entertained, which is no small feat. I think most kids will be pleased that the movie can be so much fun, without dumbing down the humor and situations. Simply put, one of the rare movies that entertains audiences of all ages.

Video: How does it look?

The previous Blu-ray version of this film looked, well, awful. It had a dated print, colors were murky and contrast was all over the map (so to speak). It wasn’t really indicative of a good movie on Blu-ray. But in comes Criterion and with their new 2K restoration of the film, I’ve literally never seen the movie look as good as it does here. There’s not really one area in which this new transfer excels as it excels in every area. Colors are warm and lively, contrast and black levels now give the movie a more “film like” look and improvement in detail gives the film a more clarified look. Not surprisingly there’s a slight amount of grain that can be seen throughout the movie, but considering the age of the movie and the improvement over the previous Blu-ray release, this is heads and tails the best effort out there. An amazing job.

Audio: How does it sound?

Gone is the 5.1 track featured on the previous Blu-ray and in is the new LPCM 2.0 track. Yes, you’d think that losing 3.1 channels would bring the audio down a few notches. Actually it’s quite the opposite. This new mix, made for the Criterion Blu-ray, is very subtle and crisp and clear as it comes. While the depth isn’t on par with those of modern films, it’s a nice, nuanced mix that is quite a step up from the previous effort.  Vocals are rich and clear, and while I heard a slight hiss in a few scenes, it’s of little consequence. This is by far the best the film has ever sounded.

Supplements: What are the extras?

If memory serves, Time Bandits was one of Criterion’s LaserDisc offerings. I can’t remember the supplements on that particular disc, but I do know that the previous Blu-ray only featured a theatrical trailer.

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring director Terry Gilliam, cowriter-actor Michael Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner, and Craig Warnock is actually the same track as features on the DVD of this title circa 1997 (one of Criterion’s initial offerings on the “new” DVD format). It’s a rather interesting piece with bits and pieces about the shoot. I felt it got a bit “crowded” here and there, but it’s a worthwhile listen and fans will enjoy.
  • Creating the Worlds of Time Bandits – New to this Blu-ray is a 25 minute segment featuring production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson. The duo discuss the different costumes for the different worlds and so forth. It’s nice to see a new segment for a movie that’s nearing its 35th anniversary.
  • Terry Gilliam and Peter von Bagh – Aside from the commentary, the most robust piece is this 80 minute interview with director Terry Gilliam and film scholar Peter von Bagh. The two discuss nearly aspect of the film as well as Gilliam’s history, growing up and so forth. It’s a worthwhile segment.
  • Shelley Duvall – The actress, who appeared on Tom Synder’s Tomorrow, discusses her attachment to this film as well as some brief quips of her films at the time.
  • Stills Gallery – Just that, a photo gallery.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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