Like many fans of Terry Gilliam, I grew up with the hilarious madness of Monty Python on TV, as well as on the big screen. Gilliam launched his movie career directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I’ve loved the best of his work, including Time Bandits (one of my absolute faves growing up), Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and more.
It’s been some time since Gilliam’s made a truly great film, and now he’s back with The Zero Theorem, which just debuted at the Venice Film Festival. Like a lot of modern sci-fi, it’s a dystopian story, and it looks for the meaning of life, but in a much more humorous way, like the Monty Python movie of the same title.
The film stars Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon in his second dystopian film of the year, and Tilda Swinton. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “unmistakably a film by Terry Gilliam,” but while it looks terrific visually, it’s also “something of a roller coaster, and fairly bumpy…It doesn’t really add up to much, beyond a timely reminder that it would be better for everyone to stop uploading and downloading and just unplug and be human.”
Variety was even less kind in their review, calling it “a muddle of unfunny jokes and half-baked ideas,” while Indiewire feels that this movie at least “restores some of the faith” for Gilliam fans. “It’s not an unreserved return to form, but it’s an admirably ambitious and thoughtful sci-fi mindbender that movingly takes stock as the director enters his 70s.”
If the Zero Theorem is indeed uneven, we’re hoping it’s more good than bad. If it ultimately doesn’t cut it, never forget this is the man that gave us Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, and Twelve Monkeys. If we never get another good movie out of him, he’s already given us enough great work to keep us happy, and keep him in the pantheon of great directors.