Get ready to take an adventure through space and time with Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column to the great science fiction of the past.
‘Time Bandits’ may not be the first movie Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame directed, or his most famous, but it is nonetheless one of his most beloved. It is the start of his imagination trilogy, which focuses on three different people in three different times of their lives escaping their reality. In ‘Time Bandits’, it focuses on Kevin, a little boy who feels largely ignored by his gadget-chasing parents.
One night, a group of “international thieves” (at least, they claim they are going to be) barge into his room through his closet with a map that shows them where and when the best the treasures of all time are. Falling in with them, Kevin adventures to Napoleonic times, Greece, and much much more. And, since it’s Terry Gilliam, arguably the wackiest of the already wacky Monty Python, you are assured fantastic gags, and very odd conversations that one typically would not see in a movie. For example, Napoleon recounting all the other short great people in the world while the thieves cause havoc in his timeline. Or my personal favorite, the thieves being morally offended by the fact Robin Hood thinks you should give things you steal away.
As you might expect, the conflict comes from the thieves mucking things in time about, and an evil creature conveniently known as Evil that wishes to steal their map and create the universe in his own image.
It’s… barely science fiction. The only reason I would quantify it as such is solely because it has time travel and a fairly fluid idea of how space and time works. Also it’s just plain fun, and it speaks to a common core that most of us science fiction nerds feel: the need to escape our reality for something that makes a little more sense, or where we can have more control.
Ironically, the thieves anarchic way of dealing with things, and special talent for making things worse than better automatically would make it feel as if it would rub against the grain, but it doesn’t. Instead, you’re dragged along for the ride with Kevin, and you just enjoy every minute of it because you know it will all work out in the end.
Also, the movie has Micheal Palin, John Cleese, and Sean Connery, so if the plot isn’t to your taste, at least you have them.