Study Guide

Time Bandits Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm)

Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm)

There are short men, there are really short men, and then there's Napoleon Bonaparte. Historically speaking, the dude wasn't actually that short—British propaganda played up his small stature way beyond the reality—but Time Bandits plays pretty fast and loose with history and never lets the facts get in the way of a good joke.

Napoleon is the first in a series of historical figures in the film, famous people who are visited by heroes, robbed by them in some cases, and then are never to be seen again. In that sense, Napoleon makes for colorful scenery—he's a guy who livens up this period of history but who doesn't have much to do beyond that.

What we do know about him, however, says an awful lot. As we said, he's short. And as the originator of the Napoleon complex, the man is bothered a lot by his height, causing friction between him and his very tall generals, for starters:

NAPOLEON: Don't stand so close to me, Neguy! I've told you about that before. You on one side and him on the other, it's like being on the bottom of a bloody well!

As it turns out, that's the only thing the dude really cares about. It's probably even why he's engaged in the conquest of Italy in the first place:

NAPOLEON: You know, I come to conquer Italy...because I thought they were all small, you know? I heard they was really tiny guys.

Which leads us to our second point: Napoleon is an instigator of chaos and maker of an incredibly large mess. This part of the movie is characterized by explosions and gunfire, all of it orchestrated by Napoleon, and he shows no intention of slowing down. His generals say as much during the puppet show:

NEGUY: Monsieur Commander...I think that the mayor of Castiglione and his council...would like very much to surrender now, please…Mon Commander, they are very keen to surrender. They have been here eight hours.

So nothing's gonna give...at least until the Punch and Judy show is done.

It's an absurd and rather dark detail, but it also sets the stage for one of the big themes of the movie: chaos is a part of life, and while it might be messy (even lethal), it definitely beats the alternative that Evil has in mind. Napoleon is just the first object lesson of that. You'd better believe he won't be the last.

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