In 1995, a thriller directed by Terry Gilliam added a severe twist to the time travel stories of the 80s and 90s. The moviewas 12 Monkeys starring Bruce Willis and was a modest success, grossing over $168 million worldwide on a budget of about $29 million. This film chronicled the story of a prisoner in the future who was selected for a time travel experiment where he was expected to research the source of a terrible plague that decimated the population of the world. With just the right twists and that genius dash of craziness that inhabit every Terry Gilliam film, 12 Monkeys is still one of my favorite movies.
I was very excited when I heard that Syfy was turning this movie into a series. I was also a bit skeptical, since I liked this movie so much and was just not sure that Syfy would do it justice in a series. But, the recent success of such series as Hannibal and Fargo gave me hope.
Aaron Stafford plays the character of James Cole, a man from the future, a prisoner, given the opportunity to earn his freedom through observing the past and finding the source of a massive plague that devastated the world in 2017, killing 7 billion people. One big difference from the original movie is that his mission is not just to observe. He has been directed to find and kill Leland Frost, the one person the scientists in 2043 believe is responsible for this catastrophe. Problem is, there is no one by that name.
The show itself, may not have all the crazy contraptions of a Terry Gilliam adventure, but there are some really great special effects in the pilot that I can only hope are indicative of a cool looking series. I was impressed with the layout and pacing. I felt like the basics of the original film are held to with enough changes to the plot line to really make this a unique story that will hold my attention. The characters are believable and the writing was really engaging. This is one of those shows that you can jump into and immediately connect with the cast and the fundamental ideas, but it also makes you want to dig deeper and see how far this rabbit hole really goes.
As in the original film, James Cole does meet up with Dr. Cassandra Railly, multiple times over the course of a few years, but with his mission being different, the idea that he cannot really change anything is replaced with an understanding that this is a one-way trip, as any change he makes will ultimately result in his future ceasing to exist.
I like Cole’s character, as he is played as cynical enough to not be manic and yet focused enough to get through many of the trials that he faces. Will he get the job done and put the future right? That is yet to be determined. I recommend that you check out 12 Monkeys on Syfy every Friday at 9 Eastern and see for yourself.