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"What will become of the Baron?",
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This review is from: The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (20th Anniversary Edition) [DVD]  (DVD)
21 years after the off-screen battles are over and unrealistic expectations have all been exorcised, Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen looks really rather wonderful. If anything it's probably too wonder-full to ever appeal to a mainstream audience as Gilliam plays out the eternal conflict between mundane and unexceptional reality and dreams and imagination in the palaces of sultans, the kingdom of the moon, the inside of Mount Etna, the belly of a whale and points inbetween as the teller of tall-tales hitches a ride on a cannonball, flies to the stars in an airship made from women's underwear and dances with Uma Thurman's goddess Venus in the air as waterfalls and cherubim surround them and Oliver Reed's rather wonderful god and munitions manufacturer Vulcan (played like a cross between a Northern mill owner and Gumby from Monty Python's Flying Circus) hops angrily up and down below them as his temperature rises to danger levels. As John Neville's Baron himself says, "This is precisely the sort of thing that people never believe."
Terry Gilliam's `Fellini film' - indeed, many of his collaborators (Giuseppe Rottuno, Dante Ferretti) are Fellini veterans - was much criticised as being all hot air and fantasy with no real foundation, but in fact the script is a lot better than it was ever given credit for. Beautifully structured as a ramshackle but ingenious play gradually becomes the Baron's `reality,' the figure of Death constantly hovering on the sidelines of the Baron's adventures that periodically rejuvenate him, it's end is somewhat disappointing as it paints itself into a fantastic corner, but getting there is a lot of fun. While there's much Pythonic humor along the way, it's not always entirely successful: the scene on the moon fares worst, largely due to a very loud and unfunny cameo by a literally off-his-head Robin Williams, here billed as Ray D. Tuto after his agent allegedly told him the film could be a career-killer (the original conception of the sequence was very different, with Sean Connery taking the role of the King of the Moon only to be dropped to keep the budget down: typically for the film, it cost more to cut it than it would to have shot it!). Yet even here it's a constantly astonishing looking film: where with fantasy films you often see amazing pre-production concept sketches that the film's visuals can never match, here they exceed them. The sheer unique old world craftsmanship the Italian artisans bring to the film is breathtaking, reminding you that this could never have been shot in a Hollywood studio. The effects work is amazing, all the more so for being largely physical effects that have more weight to them than the too often poorly integrated and lighter than air CGI. Even Michael Kamen rallies to the cause with a splendid score that captures the spirit of its vainglorious fantasist hero. Hot air and fantasy it may be, but gloriously heroic nonetheless.
After years of being available with only a trailer as extra (curiously missing from this 2-disc edition), this new special edition finally does the film justice with an audio commentary by Gilliam and co-writer Charles McKeown, deleted scenes and 72-minute documentary The Madness and Misadventures of Munchausen.