Time Bandits is Terry Gilliam’s wildly imaginative tale concerning a young boy as he hops through time, on a journey with a band of dwarfs. Combining a Monty Pythonesque comic sensibility with a completely original fantasy adventure, the thoroughly British movie remains a childhood classic. What the 1981 film lacks in visceral FX is made up for with heart and creativity.
Kevin (Craig Warnock) is a normal boy in a normal family, until he goes to sleep one day and a man on a horse jumps out of his bedroom closet. Kevin’s bedroom has a time-hole, a point in space that allows travel between different times and places. Soon he comes across a band of jovial, bickering dwarfs, led by Randall (David Rappaport). We soon learn the dwarfs have stolen a map that gives the exact locations of every time-hole, enabling them to travel across time and plunder historical riches.
Kevin soon joins up with these “time bandits” on their quest for stolen loot. Meanwhile the dwarfs are on the run from an entity they call “The Supreme Being,” owner of their stolen map. Kevin and the dwarfs get themselves into various bits of trouble as the map enables them to visit both historical and mythical characters, such as Napoleon, Robin Hood (John Cleese) and King Agamemnon of ancient Greece (Sean Connery). Their encounters with these figures are a series of hilarious misunderstandings and incidents, often barely escaping with their lives.
In such broad fantasy as Time Bandits, there always has to be an obvious villain. This movie does not dance around the identity of the Time Bandits’ ultimate antagonist, calling him “Evil.” Evil is a thinly-disguised spoof of the Devil, played with delight by David Warner. Evil wants the dwarfs’ time map and will do anything in his power to obtain it, hoping to re-shape the universe with his own ideas.
In a bit of irony, the young Kevin proves the moral voice of reason within the group of adult dwarfs. Kevin is mostly along for the adventure with his new friends, while the dwarfs mainly seem concerned about stealing treasures and living it up. Will Kevin’s unselfish attitude save them from the clutches of Evil?
Time Bandits has stood the test of time since it was first released and remains a classic fantasy movie for children, particularly boys. Its classic tale of good versus evil is an unpredictable and imaginative ride through history and legend. The simple dwarfs are lovable in their antics as bungling thieves. I doubt Time Bandits would be made in the same manner today; its total lack of female characters would be a tough sell for today’s progressive box office.
British distributor Arrow Video has given Time Bandits an extensive restoration from the original film elements. Locked to Region B, this BD looks nothing short of fantastic given the movie’s particular 35mm film stock and cinematography. Some minor contrast issues rear their head on occasion but this is a completely authentic, filmic transfer handled with care by people that know what they are doing.
This newly remastered edition now has the best extant transfer for Time Bandits, easily surpassing all prior versions on home video. It wipes the floor with the ugly, processed American BD released by Image Entertainment. Personally approved by director Terry Gilliam, the transfer and color correction has been performed at 2K. The included booklet has this to say about the restoration:
“The original 35mm Time Bandits negative was scanned at 2K resolution on a pin-registered ARRISCAN, and the film was fully graded using the Nucoda Film Master color grading system. Restoration work was carried out using a combination of software tools and techniques. Thousands of instances of dirt, scratches, and debris were carefully removed frame by frame. Damaged frames were repaired, and density and stability issues were significantly improved.”
No one will confuse Time Bandits as a videophile’s delight, the cinematography is often flat and soft. Its grain structure is nicely reproduced by the top-notch AVC video encode, which averages a stellar 34.82 Mbps on a BD-50. Despite occasional softness, the picture retains an excellent amount of fine detail in facial features and other small details. There is not a trace of sharpening evident, giving Time Bandits a healthy filmic look to its moderate grain structure. The new color correction is a little more erratic, though most scenes have strong contrast and appropriate colors.
The restoration’s biggest success is evening out the film’s print quality. There were always sections of this movie that looked ragged and dilapidated on home video, due to faded colors and major film damage. That has been entirely fixed by Arrow Video, using a high-quality scan of the best possible elements. This restoration is an unqualified success and will be quite stunning for long-time fans of the fantasy adventure.
Arrow Video went back and also restored Time Bandit’s audio for this release. The soundtrack was transferred from the original magnetic tracks and underwent audio restoration to repair bumps, clicks and other instances of audible damage. There is a 5.1 DTS-HD MA option for those wanting a modern surround experience from the film. A few limitations remain since Time Bandits was originally created as a stereo mix but this is a surprisingly robust presentation in 5.1 surround, filling the soundstage with a solid bass presence and occasional directionality.
Also included for purists is the original soundtrack in 2.0 PCM. There is nothing wrong with the stereo mix’s fidelity but the newer 5.1 soundtrack has more energy. Most newer fans will likely prefer the surround presentation’s more active approach. Optional English subtitles are included in a white font.
Arrow Video has included a plethora of strong supplements for this remastered edition, available in two different configurations: a regular edition and a steelbook release. Both feature Arrow’s trademark stunning artwork, popular amongst Blu-ray collectors. A collector’s booklet features new writing on the film by critic James Oliver.
Chasing Time Bandits: An Interview With Terry Gilliam (20:07 in HD)
Writing The Film That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Michael Palin On Writing Time Bandits (16:05 in HD)
The Effects of Time Bandits: An Interview With Kent Houston (15:28 in HD)
Playing Evil: David Warner (08:43 in HD)
The Costumes of Time Bandits (13:21 in HD)
The Look of Time Bandits (10:43 in HD)
From Script To Screen (08:33 in HD) – A fascinating view into the process in which a script moves from the page to reality.
Trailer – The incredibly humorous trailer for Time Bandits
Restoring Time Bandits (02:43 in HD)
The only supplement a fan will miss on this edition is the audio commentary found on the Criterion DVD. This is a strong batch of special features, as the featurettes are all tightly packed with information on the production behind Time Bandits. All of the interviewees are generous with revealing their experience working on Time Bandits.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.