Terry Gilliam rarely gets to go all-out creatively anymore and that's a real shame because, for a while there, it seemed as if no project was too nutty for him to handle.
Oh who am I kidding? Every single one of his projects is nutty.
Hence why financing them must be so daunting!
The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen was a huge flop but so many masterpieces were, from Night Of The Hunter to Blade Runner. You can't judge a film's quality based on how much money it made, you just can't. Gilliam's film is one I've always considered to be a masterpiece of the fantasy genre. Its epic scale, its surreal visuals, its playful anarchism, I just loved every minute of it as a kid, even if by the end I had no idea what the hell I had just watched. It was an adventure like no other and I was completely taken with all these larger-than-life characters and their crazy odyssey. One second you were inside a volcano speaking to Roman gods, the next you were playing cards with Death inside some kind of giant fish monster!
It was bonkers but completely irresistible.
The awesome cast included Brazil's Jonathan Pryce (sporting the worst accent you'll ever hear), fellow Python Eric Idle, Oliver Reed (as Vulcan), Uma Thurman (as Venus), Robin Williams, Sting (not sure why) and of course John Neville as the Baron himself. Had the film been a box-office success, it's likely that Neville would have received some kind of award for his performance, he more than deserved it. The plot is almost impossible to describe but basically the film is set during a war which, according to old Baron Munchausen, a dude with some of the craziest, most unbelievable stories to tell, he started by stealing all of the Grand Turk's treasure after a wager gone right, too right. After he flies off on a balloon made of knickers to try and bring back help, we go through a bunch of his adventures, which literally make him younger as they happen, as madness and reality soon become one.
Far-fetched enough for ya?
You ain't even heard the half of it!
In Munchausen's world, pretty much nothing is impossible: you can ride cannonballs, fly to the Moon, it's a free-for-all. He's got a team of weirdos who help him in all his adventures, each of them with one of two special abilities and throughout the film he goes from one place to the other trying to uncover these people who may or may not have even ever existed. Idle is particularly memorable as the fast-running goofball Berthold, whom Munchausen finds on the Moon where Robin Williams' king, who can remove his head whenever he pleases, is flying around going ape shit...
Man, describing any scene from this movie is like reliving a wacky dream...
Terry Gilliam was always capable of grand, epic fantasy flicks, just look at Time Bandits, Jabberwocky or even Brazil, but Baron Munchausen is where he really went for it and in the process created one of the most visually creative and impressive kids movies around. It's not perfect, Williams is a bit grating during that whole Moon sequence and the humour doesn't always work in general but nitpicks-aside, this is a stunning achievement and it's one of the most over-the-top, entertaining fantasy films out there. It's just a shame that so many have either not seen it or never heard of it.
An overlooked gem, find it and watch it.
One of Gilliam's best.