Time Bandits is, like many, many stories, concerned with the struggle of good against evil. Evil of course loses because good is right, true, honourable, and backed with superior firepower.
But the question arises: Why does evil even exist in the first place?
I mean, given that good's calling all the shots, why does evil exist?
In Terry Gilliam's extraordinarly bleak world (even if it is rather droll and amusing) the answer (from the mouth of the Supreme Being himself) is, "Something to do with free will, I think." The comedy of Time Bandits is sort of recursive -- it keeps undercutting itself, until there's practically nothing left for it to stand on. I've tried to analyze this film about four times now, and each time gotten to a point where the film denies the thoughts I'm having about it, and I have to give up on that line of reasoning.
Time Bandits doesn't want to give us anything to take seriously. It wants to tear away the importance of EVERYTHING, in a gleeful, giggling disregard for authority. Even its own.
"Something to do with free will."
The movie resists the urge to make any statements, to support any point of view, even one of tolerance for any point of view. EVERYTHING is flawed, it seems to be saying, EVERYTHING is a waste of time, EVERYTHING is suspect and unworthy of regard.
Except, maybe, for courage.
Kevin, our young hero, never gives way to cowardice, and he inspires his diminutive friends to the same heights. When he gives up himself so that the others can rally help, he's manifesting the one principle that it seems Time Bandits won't attack. And Sean Connery's friendly grin at the end of the picture promises that for those of us who are willing to take on onerous tasks, face danger and work for the common good, get to um...
Be firemen! Yay!
And live forever, apparently, which isn't so bad. Especially when you're on the side with superior firepower.