Time Bandits, Evil, and Nuclear Mastery

time bandits poster

1981, AVCO Embassy

For some reason sometimes I get into a streak of 1980s movies. I watched Back to the Future (1985) , The Goonies(1985), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1985), and Time Bandits (1981) all in pretty quick succession.

Time Bandits is one of those hard to define classics.  It wasn’t as funny this time as the last time I watched it a few decades ago, but it made me laugh because the out-of-date antics and political incorrectness (clumsy dwarves, for example) are so cringe-worthy. I made my kids watch it with one of those “Trust me, it’s good!” pledges that feels pretty hollow in retrospect.

About three-fourths the way through the movie, I discovered it’s a nuclear movie, justifying the viewing.

A gang of six dwarves uses a map of the  space-time continuum to travel through place and time to steal riches from various public figures.  A malevolent sorcerer named Evil wants the map so that he can rule the universe. After he obtains the map, one of the first things he seeks to learn from his assistant is about “fast breeder reactors.” His assistant dutifully explains that fast breeder reactors use a fast fission process for the generation of fissile isotopes.”

This brief snippet stands out for two reasons. First, understanding nuclear energy is used to represent technical mastery. In many ways that’s true, as nuclear weapons are considered the vanguard of the elite.  Second, the idea that an evil mastermind would want to understand nuclear energy is consistent with past and current fears about terrorists gaining control of nuclear materials for the purposes of making weapons.

Who knew that Time Bandits remains so relevant today?

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