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It’s said that every great filmmaker, at one time or another in their career, will make a war movie. Coppola made Apocalypse Now, Stone made Platoon, Kubrick made Full Metal Jacket, Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan. Hell, even Robert Zemeckis got in on the fun when he made Forrest Gump.
Why do I bring this up? Because I’m pretty sure this is Terry Gilliam’s “war movie.” (Or at least one of them. I haven’t enough of Gilliam’s films) It has the battle scenes that the movie opens with, dragon cannons and all, as well as some typical Gilliam insanity. We have Robin Williams as the King of the Universe who detaches his head from his body for more intellectual matters; Eric Idle as Berthold who runs really fast but forgot how while imprisoned on the moon; Uma Thurman as the goddess Venus; and then some random actors as a guy who is really strong, a guy who can see really far and a guy who can blow wind really well and hear really well.
But at the heart of the story is a little girl’s desire to save the city and the Baron’s desire to die. See, the Baron is an old-ass motherfucker by the time the movie begins, and so he just wants out of the world’s bullshit. He’s tired of having no one believe him. And the little girl just wants all the fighting to stop.
This movie is kind a crazy, beautiful, mess. In typical Gilliam fashion, everything is done on an epic scale. But it doesn’t always seem to work out. Throughout the movie, we encounter enormous set pieces, but they all seem too overblown and too insane.
But then that is Baron von Munchhausen. A crazy mess. The way everything is filmed is exactly as Munchausen stated it as he tells the tale because he’s fed up with the bullshit play that’s being put on in some random town that the turks are attacking. The vision outweighed ability, it seemed. I don’t know if it could’ve been done better now since everything looks just as fake but it moves smoother and is a little shinier, but it just feels like this film has no center. I wanted to stay in the first story of him robbing the sultan but I was thrust back into the age of Enlightenment in the town of Oren (seriously, this town is exactly how I envisioned Oren when I read Camus’ the Plague) where we go to the moon and back again.
This movie is definitely family friendly, but it’s also definitely a gauntlet–challenging to get through if only because of what Gilliam has put on the screen for you to comprehend.