Study Guide

Time Bandits Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson)

Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson)

It's always a little dicey getting God involved in a story. After all, stories are based on not knowing what's going to happen next. Will the hero succeed? Will the hero survive? We like that suspense.

God, though, always comes through, and while that might be pretty comforting in a religious context, it tends to suck the excitement out of any story that involves him.

And yet, here he is, either chasing the dwarves to the next time hole or taking on the air of a befuddled British banker who seems to be a little confused about it all.

We're guessing that last part is a bit of a rope-a-dope. The dude is God, after all, and as God, he probably knows exactly, precisely what he's doing. When you're looking at the film for the first time, it can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Why all the chasing? Why the doom-laden voice? Can't the big guy upstairs just nab the map back whenever he likes?

Turns out, it's all part of the master plan: moving the dwarves from historical point A to historical point B is a means for God to test his creation. Said creation is Evil, of course, and the whole movie involves God's elaborate plot to see exactly what Evil can do. God says as much at the end when, having swooped down and called the whole thing quits, he explains in a vague way what exactly he's been doing all this time.

In fact, that vagueness is why we ultimately put God here instead of in the "Symbols and Tropes" section. As long as God is chasing down the dwarves, he's pretty much a plot device, but when he finally drops the hammer on Evil and transforms into a rather elderly banker type, he turns out to be kind of emotionless and easily distracted.

We're not sure if that's an act or not, though it certainly makes it easy for God to dodge those awkward questions we'd all like to ask him:

KEVIN: Yes, why does there have to be Evil?

SUPREME BEING: I think it has something to do with free will.

It also gives God the air of a slightly befuddled university professor, very distracted by all his duties. Even his punishments feel kind of by the numbers, as if he were a middle manager reading from a list. Check him out at the very end, for example, when he's preparing a steaming cup of wrath for the dwarves:

SUPREME BEING: I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly, I'm too tired. So, I think I'll transfer you to the undergrowth department, brackens, more shrubs, that sort of thing...with a 19 percent cut in salary, backdated to the beginning of time.

RANDALL: Oh, thank you, sir.

SUPREME BEING: Yes, well, I am the nice one.

Again, we're not sure if it's an act or not, but the dude is God, and he doesn't have to tell us. At least he's good enough to pay attention sometimes...and to literally deliver us from Evil when we need him to.

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