Monday, August 17, 2009

Lasers, Eight O'Clock, Day One!

"You never start on one! Whoever ever heard of anybody starting anything on one?!"

So, you're one of three types of people. You either recognize the quotes and the movie, you recognize the quotes but not the movie, or you're just waiting for me to explain myself.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a small British boy, and your parents are obsessed with the latest gadgets. Your dad's digital watch beeps and he sends you to bed. Then a knight on horseback crashes through your closet, leaps over your bed, and destroys your wall, riding off into a field.

So begins Terry Gilliam's (hard "G" folks) Time Bandits.

I picked up around 25 Criterion Collection DVDs this weekend, and Time Bandits was the first to be watched. I'll reveal something here that's true for every one of those DVDs I just bought - I'd never seen this movie before.

Which is good, because my view isn't coloured by nostalgia, or by being told I'm wrong time and again. It's a raw experience.

And you know what? It's amusing, imaginative, and at times, hard to sit through.

Don't get me wrong, Time Bandits is a good movie, but it doesn't sit in the pantheon of classics that people believe. I feel the same about Brazil for that matter (although Brazil had an obvious and dire warning about bureaucracy run wild, and no small 1984 vibe to it that contributes to its popularity). Despite being co-written by Michael Palin (who also shows up a couple times), and an appearance by John Cleese, it ain't Monty Python. But then, it isn't meant to be a full-on comedy.

No, I'd put it on the same shelf as The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, (both of which I own) and similar fantasy movies of the 80's. It has both whimsy and terror in equal parts that just wouldn't fly with today's family fare. Mix in some dry British wit and I'm glad that Time Bandits exists.

It also maintains my belief in Gilliam. He hasn't had a great run of late. The Brothers Grimm was disowned by him after the studio kept meddling and re-editing. Then came Tideland. A movie I actually didn't mind, but was generally met with a loathing I've seldom seen. But soon to come is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which looks, frankly, amazing. For those with only recent Gilliam on the mind, I suggest you take a look back a decade or two to remind yourself what's possible with such a fertile imagination behind the scenes.

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