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Time Bandits (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A young boy is drawn into the journeys of a group of renegades using a magical map to time travel and steal historical treasures.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Terry Gilliam’s second feature film as sole director, Time Bandits, is a time-traveling adventure set in the usual off-kilter world that is Gilliam’s signature. A young boy is taken on a journey by a group of renegade dwarves using a time travel map to jump to different eras and steal treasures, like the Mona Lisa, for example. Chasing the ‘time bandits’ is the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson), whose map they have stolen. The group finds themselves dining with Napoleon (Ian Holm) who is suffering ennui, crossing paths with Robin Hood (fellow Monty Python member John Cleese) and the powerful King Agamemnon (Sean Connery).

Gilliam’s film is successful in its visual detail and, world building, and witty dialogue courtesy of a screenplay he co-wrote with another Monty Python member Michael Palin. The film’s undertone of sarcasm, which is makes fun of the bourgeoisie, is entertaining, but the disjointed narrative and main story arc involving the Supreme Being chasing the dwarves to recover the map goes by the wayside.

Where the underlying social commentary in Time Bandits is stronger, the film still runs like a pilot for the 1988 Gilliam film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen which has a similar frenzied energy, quirky production design, and runs in de facto vignettes that are not necessarily interconnected, but also excises the time hopping.

  • John Cleese in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Sean Connery in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • David Rappaport and Craig Warnock in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Catherine Helmond in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • David Warner in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Shelley Duvall and Michael Palin in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Ian Holm in Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Time Bandits (1981). Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
  • Time Bandits 4K Ultra HD Combo (Criterion Collection)

The Video

This restoration of Time Bandits was overseen by director Terry Gilliam and was scanned in 4K from its original 35mm camera negative on an ARRISCAN XT film scanner. On the 4K Ultra HD disc the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in an HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision HDR encodement. It looks exceptional with a thin layer of grain, superb contrast, and inky blacks. There is no noise to be seen and colors are very vibrant, perhaps a little too much in some of the reddish-looking flesh tones, but ultimately natural. The specular highlights provide excellent, three-dimensional ‘pop’ in fire and more sheen on reflections such as on Napoleon’s uniform.

The Audio

The stereo soundtrack was remastered in 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic track. It is included on 4K Ultra HD in LPCM 2.0. This is the weakest link for this presentation of Time Bandits. While one cannot expect the most spectacular aural presentation for a stereo audio mix from a 1981 film, this one sounds particularly weak. The high frequencies are a bit shrill, the midrange and low-end is anemic, and the mastered volume is very low; I had to listen at 8db over my usual listening levels. These issues aside, there is very good stereo imaging and once you bump the sound up the dialogue is intelligible.

The Supplements

Criterion Collection provides nothing new for this 4K release, but what is included is compelling, especially for anyone who does not have the previous release.

Bonus Features:

  • Essay by critic David Sterritt on reverse side of fold-out map poster
  • Commentary recorded in 1997 for the Criterion Collection featuring director Terry Gilliam, co-screenwriter and actor Michael Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner, and Craig Warnock.

Bonus Features on Blu-ray:

  • Commentary recorded in 1997 for the Criterion Collection featuring director Terry Gilliam, co-screenwriter and actor Michael Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner, and Craig Warnock.
  • Creating the Worlds of Time Bandits (1080p; 00:23:24) – This piece, narrated by film writer David Morgan, features production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson discussing how they created the various historical periods and fantasy worlds featured in the film.
  • Terry Gilliam and Peter von Bagh (1080i; 01:19:39) – This conversation between director Terry Gilliam and film scholar Peter von Bagh was recorded at the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Finland, in 1998.
  • Shelley Duvall (1080i; 00:08:46) – In this excerpt from a 1981 episode of NBC’s Tomorrow show, actor Shelley Duvall talks to Tom Snyder about her career and her role in Time Bandits.
  • Stills Gallery (1080p)
  • Trailer (1080p; 00:03:10)

The Final Assessment

An entry in Gilliam’s catalogue that has his signature style and humor but does not hit as well as something like Brazil or 12 Monkeys, Time Bandits still offers up a good time made even better by this director approved 4K restoration presented by Criterion Collection.


Time Bandits is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo June 13, 2023, from the Criterion Collection.


  • Rating Certificate: PG
  • Studios & Distributors: HandMade Films | The Criterion Collection
  • Director: Terry Gilliam
  • Written By: Michael Palin | Terry Gilliam
  • Run Time: 116 Mins.
  • Street Date: 13 June 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 1000 nits
    • MaxFALL: 911 nits
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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A young boy is drawn into the journeys of a group of renegades using a magical map to time travel and steal historical treasures. Time Bandits (4K UHD Review)