There was a memorable line from “Time Bandits” that my big movie friends would chant in college, probably annoyingly, as people approached the microwave in the dorm kitchen: “Mom, Dad. It’s evil. Don’t touch it.”
I had heard of the 1981 movie “Time Bandits” directed by Terry Gilliam, long before that. As a kid who couldn’t sleep, it was one of those late-night shows that confused and delighted my childhood, and likely helped turn me into the weird adult I am today. Time Cutters is a British fantasy about a group of would-be thieves who steal a map that identifies gaps in the space-time continuum. Along the way, they pick up a kid named Kevin, who loves history books and adventure, much to the dismay of his monotonous parents, who live in the world of television. He pushed Kevin and the crew through his bedroom wall, and they fell into a pit that landed them far past. This is followed by two hours of crazy time adventures.
The star-studded film feels like an appeal to British genius from John Cleese as Robin Hood politician to Sir Ian Holm as the loving Napoleon and Judy. Although I was initially drawn to the film by the leader of the Discordant Thieves: the late Magnetic performer David Rappaport, who is pretty cool in “The Wizard,” another star that also stands out: David Warner, who died July 24 at this age. from 80.
Time Bandits came out in the late ’70s because Gilliam was unable to get initial backing for his movie ‘Brazil’. Instead, he suggested a family movie. Do you like your family movies co-written by Gilliam and Michael Palin for “Monty Python,” by Beatle George Harrison, including a horrifying game show, jokes about the Titanic, and insightful notes about technology? I mean, I do.
The best art is sometimes hard to understand, because it defies comprehension. Simply he is.
Critical response to the film has been mostly positive, although Roger Eggbert wrote, “I’m usually pretty sure whether or not I’ve seen a good movie. But my reaction to Time Bandits has been ambiguous.”
The best art is sometimes hard to understand, because it defies comprehension. Simply he is, so strangely. In “Time Bandits,” Warner plays Evil Genius, a malevolent being capable of distorting and distorting reality. He needs the map to be able to escape from the castle of darkness, where he has been imprisoned. But evil has big plans. He considers himself better than any higher being, God included, because God places great emphasis on creating multiple kinds of random animals: “I mean, aren’t we in the hands of a lunatic?”
Evil is different because Evil understands technology, and in its hands (claws): “The world will be different. Because I have an understanding.” What does he understand? digital watches. “And soon I will have an understanding of cassette tape recorders and car telephones.” Rejecting God’s focus on multiple types of parrots, Warner’s character ponders: “I would have started with lasers.”
Warner delivers this line as if he was throwing all the many words of his career, some more ridiculous than others: seriously. His comedy is the most compelling and the funniest because he plays it like a drama, as if on stage performing Shakespeare at the Globe Theater and not looking like a high-collar cyborg David Cronenberg in a red robe with bony shoulder pads. As The Wrap wrote, “the actor couldn’t have had more fun” than he did in that movie.
He brought the same oomph to every role. A meditative, wonderful, and boredom glutton.
Warner was best known for his villains, making treacherous characters from Jack the Ripper to a corrupt executive (and the voice of Master Control Program) on “Tron” not only believable, but understandable, and could be likable. He played three different species in the “Star Trek” franchise, and a monkey—he was a senator—in Tim Burton’s 2001 movie Planet of the Apes.
He was overshadowed by his efficiency only because of his prolific production. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “He rarely turns down a role, as evidenced by over 220 acting credits on IMDb. When others say no, he once said, ‘I say yes.’ Sometimes, he’d get the role because it was ‘the cheapest’.” available, he said.
He brought the same oomph to every role. Warner can take anything and make it his own. A meditative, wonderful, and boredom glutton. This makes him related. “I am all-powerful,” he said to one of his followers in plastic clothes after the man dared to interrogate him, destroying a character like Darth Vader with a gesture from his long hand, and then admitted, “That’s a good question.”
Warner said the role was physically challenging. Lots of yarn included. Despite wearing a bodice and a bony helmet with an “alien-like” spine, Warner rarely moves his face, his voice ranging from the resonant projection of the stage actor he was, to the almost languid and melancholic aspects. “I have to turn you into a dog for a while,” he said with resignation to one of his followers.
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“You feel like he’s having a dream and that he’s able to bring it to the screen,” Warner said when asked in 2019 about working with Gilliam on the film.
But Warner had a dream, too, and he’s brought it to screens and theaters, big and small, for all of us. Warner survived a difficult childhood, including parents who were not together and attended eight different schools. “I became an actor just to get out of the house,” he said on his 2021 podcast.
A verb came out, in our The homes in which he ruled with unquestioned authority were backed by great love. Warner says as a villain, “Nobody created me… I made myself. I can’t get rid of myself.” Nor can the legacy of the many roles played by the great Warner.
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