Great new transfer with nice extras makes this worthwhile
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 02/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, I have to note that most of these reviews are for the somewhat disappointing Criterion Edition released in 1999. The version I'll be reviewing is the much improved Divimax (high definition digital transfer)from Anchor Bay. The two DVD edition of Time Bandits from Anchor Bay has isn't perfect but it's a stark improvement on the previous no frills version they issued in 1999 and the Criterion Edition from the same time frame. The high definition transfer and the fact that the film has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions are definitive improvements on the previous edition. The picture is sharper although I did note some minor edge enhancement and digital compression issues. On the whole, though, the picture looks marvelous. The first disc features only the film and it doesn't have the great audio commentary compilation by Gilliam, Michael Palin, David Warner, John Cleese and Craig Warnock. That's a pity because that would have made this the ultimate edition of the film.Now the major complaint from some folks regarding the image size. Gilliam shot Time Bandits to be shown theatrically in a 1.85:1 ratio. Time Bandits was probably shot full screen (like Kubrick's films so that they wouldn't be badly "cropped" when released). More than likely Gilliam matted the image AFTER the film was shot. The widescreen image IS the way Gilliam intended the film to be seen). The worst looking DVD was the one put out by the highly regarded Criterion Company. It featured interlace problems, an unstable picture (perhaps due to a flaw during the telecine transfer)and sound that sound left much to be desired. The aspect ratio (the dimension of the width and heighth of the film on screen)is correct here and the beautifully detailed transfer is so sharp that, on occasion, you can even see the limitations (there's a hint of wires in some scenes)of Terry Gilliam's optical effects.The soundtrack has been remixed for the Dolby Digital EX track although I much preferred the more natural sounding 5.1 mix. Since the original source material was designed for stereo and there were some recording limitations at the time the film was made, the tinny sound is still a bit of a problem. That's not a problem that can be easily solved unfortunately. Still, Anchor Bay does the best they can with the materials at hand. The second disc contains all the extras. The feaurettes include the marvelous The Directors: The films of Terry Gilliam with interviews featuring Gilliam, Shelly Duvall, Brad Pitt, Amanda Plummer, Mercedes Ruehl, Madeleine Stowe and David Warner. There's also an interview with Gilliam and Palin as well as the original theatrical trailers for the film. Some of these features duplicate comments heard on the commentary track for the film from Criterion.There's also a Terry Gilliam bio and, most importantly, a DVD-Rom version of the original screenplay. Both these features are no where else to be found. Anchor Bay includes a fold out Map of the Universe which also has a background on the film production."
More Little People Hitting Each Other!
Robert Seulowitz | New York, NY | 06/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As one would expect of a Criterion release, the DVD of "Time Bandits" is an absolute pleasure, from the clean film transfer to the many delightful added features.The production scrapbook is a treasure, along with the commentary by Gilliam and Palin. These features truly enrich one's appreciation for the film; not only do they lavish praise on the actors playing the "dwarves" (who, in retrospect, did nothing less than a heroic job), but also reveal many of the clever tricks that allowed them to create such a sumptuously beautiful film for the cost of Speilberg's monthly catering bill. Compare this film to expensive clunkers like "Tron" (which came out a year later!) to appreciate the extent of Gilliam's craft. Cleese's description of his day's work is howlingly funny, and David Warner is generous and wryly amusing. The now-grown Craig Warnock is not particularly eloquent, however, and it's hard to tell if he's joking about the film scarring him psychologically!The trailer is simply awful, after a promising start, but it's indicative of AVCO's cluelessness about how to market such a fresh and original film. They tried to pass it off as Python style comedy, safe for kiddies and fun for grow-ups. In fact, it's nothing of the kind - it's a dangerous and rigorous film that one may wish to keep out of the hands of small children. Despite it's vague resemblance to "The Wizard of Oz" told upside down (or inside out?), "Time Bandits" is not a typical (modern) children's film. It has an old-fashioned Grimm-ness, with creatures dying nasty, sweaty deaths and even "good" characters behaving quite badly at times. In short, it is more utterly honest than any fantasy film made since Disney bowdlerized "Snow White."Understanding that young people like to be frightened, and taking peculiar delight in how "awful" his band of dwarf thieves are, Gilliam places a very real boy (so real, he's almost dull) in an amazing series of situations, exposing him to terrible ordeals with only a shifty gang of unreliable and occasionally stupid companions to guide and protect him - though mostly they ignore him or egg him on to be more like them (being dwarves, he towers over them, both physically and morally). At the very moment he feels he's found the right place to be, they tear him away with no regard for his wishes or feelings, and ultimately thrust him into conflict with forces neither he nor they can comprehend, let alone master.Sounds a bit like growing up, doesn't it?Along the way, Gilliam tweaks various legendary Great and Powerful Figures (Napoleon, Agamemnon, Robin Hood - even Satan [referred to exclusively as "The Evil Genius"]), not to mention technology and consumerism, to reveal the narrow-minded, clumsy, grasping people we grown-ups really are. The ending remains controversial, although I can remember seeing it in my late teens and feeling utterly liberated by it (what teenage boy doesn't want his parents to evaporate, at least once in a while?). There's more honesty and meaning in the last five minutes than any patently false "happy ending" could hope to achieve, although young children conditioned to expect Pocahontas to live happily ever after with John Smith (which, of course, she didn't) may find it too disturbing."Time Bandits" is a triumphant use of fantasy to articulate truth, of the power of the imagination to find the reality hidden in plain sight (the figures in the final conflict can all be found in the boy's room in the early scenes). It's an unforgettable film, with images and characters that will stay with you for a lifetime, even if you aren't an impressionable, disaffected, precocious brat (like I was when I first saw it), but especially if you are!"
Why don't they make fairy tales like this anymore?
Paul MacKinnon | Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | 10/26/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like the Princess Bride (and perhaps as a precursor to the "Scream"/horror phenomenon), Time Bandits is an honest homage to its genre, while at the same time being very aware of itself. This film is LOADED with imagination, magic, special effects, and great character vignettes. And it's also a great history lesson.Despite the fact that it's a Gilliam/Palin collaboration, it's not Monty Python (with the possible exception of the Robin Hood bit - worth the price of the film alone), but once you get past the expectation that it will be side-splittingly funny, you can easily get carried away with this tale.If you get the Criterion DVD do what I did and devote an entire weekend to it: Watch the film, then listen to the commentary, which will make you want to watch the film again.Take heed though of the quality warnings: I thought the picture was wonderful (as every other video version around seems to be in rough shape), but the sound is lacking in parts. Those downfalls and the overblown ending climax (I know it's an epic battle of good vs. evil, but it's still too long!) are what cost this film all 5 stars."
HOW COULD SO MUCH ENTERTAINMENT FIT IN JUST ONE MOVIE?
Saki | ROCHESTER, NY | 06/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who think that they haven't seen "Time Bandits": you're probably wrong. I was surprised at how many of the scenes I remembered and remembered loving: Robin Hood misenterpreting the gang's spoils as a gift for the poor, teaching the monster that stretching can help his bad back, little people and a small child hanging in cages over infinite blackness in the dungeon of Evil, and the final military confrontation with Evil in his weird red outfit and hat/helmet. Terry Gilliam has a way with fantasy and a way with humor not to be matched. Nothing that happens is ever expected, the humor's always a bit odd, and all the while the magic of the story and its varied fantastic settings leaves the viewer spellbound. "Time Bandits" is fun for kids and even more fun for twisted, cynical adults.Follow "Time Bandits" with a quick hit of "Brazil" and then a viewing of "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen." Terry Gilliam calls the three his dream trilogy, and I must say that those three films are better than any trilogy that George Lucas has yet made or plans to make. The movies leave a person with the feeling of being in an off-center waking dream, and when the ending credits are reached the disappointment of losing that little fantasy world is palpable. Gilliam is a master of the craft of film-making."
Best Children's Movie
Tootie The Cat | Chicago | 08/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have very fond memories of this film; it came out when I was about 12 years old. I grew up in a very small town in Kentucky, and we had one movie theater, which (for financial reasons I assume) would usually play one second-run film for several weeks at a time.
I loved this movie the first time I saw it. I rode my bicycle to the theater several times to watch this film (a child's matinee price was only $2.00). I must have seen it six times on the screen.
And as I got older, I began to see so much more about this film. Imagine.... a children's film that approaches such existential topics as the nature of God and the existence of evil. Really, really, magical. "