Childlike wonder on screen rarely gets as childlike and, well, wonderful as Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. The much-loved classic starring the Monty Python troupe and a murderer’s row of popular comedic performers finally arrives in stunning 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Criterion. The new 2160p presentation aided by Dolby Vision HDR trounces on the previous 2K restoration on the 2014 Criterion Blu-ray release. While no new supplements have been added to this upgraded edition, the new transfer alone makes this release Highly Recommended to time travelers everywhere!
Time Bandits is rightfully held up as a classic for a wide variety of reasons. For one, it somehow successfully toes the line between comedy and outright parody thanks to Gilliam’s style, which is not praise that can be similarly given to all of his work. Think of something like The Zero Theorem and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Gilliam is always close to flying right off into flights of fancy that can sometimes play terribly against the main dramatic thrust of his work, but in Time Bandits, it’s always time to be silly and that adds to the enjoyment.
With each passing year, films like Time Bandits become more and more rare. That isn’t to say that there aren’t family films with similar direction and inspiration, but the kind of breathlessly designed set work and clear, exuberant love for all things cinema are rarely imbued in today’s crop of family fare. Plus, the sharp and witty dialogue pays dividends for adult audiences who may pick up on nuances that children cannot. There’s truly something in Time Bandits for the entire family.
Similar to stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, Time Bandits sweeps its central character up in a world of fantasy and danger. Kevin (Craig Warnock) is an eleven-year-old boy fascinated by ancient history, particularly with a love for Ancient Greece and the latest gadgets. One night, six dwarves fall out of his closet and his life is changed forever. You see, the dwarves stole a map from The Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) that gives them the ability to travel back in time and experience some of the greatest discoveries the world has ever seen.
As the film travels breathlessly between different time periods, the star-studded cast picks up all the familiar historical situations while moving Kevin’s journey forward. The progression is always constant in terms of action, but the movie doesn’t have to stop dead in its tracks for character development. The action is the development. John Cleese as Robin Hood and Sean Connery as Agamemnon only add extra height to the flights of fancy at Gilliam’s disposal, and everyone is tuned in to the whimsical mood that this fantasy is supposed to conjure up.
In short, Time Bandits stands the test of time (heh) and continues to entertain thanks to its stunning craftsmanship and mashing of giddy fairy tales and slightly-lewd satire. You’d be remiss not to see Time Bandits. Hell, you’d be remiss not to watch it at least a few times.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
“The poor are going to be absolutely thrilled. Have you met them all?” Traverse throughout time with Time Bandits, presented here as a two-disc 4K and Blu-ray release that comes housed in Criterion’s standard thick, clear case. The 4K disc is a UHD100 and the standard Blu-ray is a BD50. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio and video, explore chapters and browse special features. It’s also worth noting here that a lenticular slipcover comes with this release, similar to how the first run of the 2014 Blu-ray were produced.
The following message from Criterion appears in the booklet: “Supervised by director Terry Gilliam, the new restoration was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN XT film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative at Silver Salt Restoration Ltd. in Slough, England.”
As one might expect with the jump from a 2K restoration to 4K with Dolby Vision HDR, the upgrade in resolution immediately impresses as soon as the opening credits roll. The wider color gamut and high dynamic range bring out a lot of details that I hadn’t previously seen in the old Blu-ray, like the meticulous set design and facial textures in general. I found the Dolby Vision HDR used very well, luckily avoiding just how blown out all those bright primaries may look when mishandled. Film grain is much better resolved in this presentation as well, and various optical effects used definitely have a tighter grain presentation than previously seen. Black levels have gained terrific depth as well. You’ll see that clearly in sequences with the villain, where the darker sets looked much flatter in previous presentations and now don’t anymore.
Note: The standard Blu-ray included offers a 1080p presentation of this new 4K restoration.
The included English LCPM 2.0 track seems to be the same one used on the previous Blu-ray, as I could not tell many differences between the two. With that said, the track balances dialogue and music nicely, as well as the fun special effects. No hiss or source damage could be found, resulting in a very good, clean audio presentation.
Now, for a little bit of disappointment. No new supplements have been added to this release, however, the supplements package included on the 2014 Blu-ray that has been carried over is nothing to balk at. There’re a few interviews to dig through, and the 80-minute talk between Gilliam and film scholar Peter von Bagh is still a good listen. I just wish something else was added to spice up this release.
Disc 1: 4K UHD
Disc 2: Blu-ray
Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, a timeless classic of the highest order, has now arrived in stunning 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Criterion with a two-disc release that easily comes Highly Recommended. Although the supplements package is thin, the transfer blows the doors off of previous releases and deserves your attention.