12 Monkeys

Creating a TV show based on a 20-year-old movie, which is also based on a French short film seems like a risky business model, but 12 Monkeys is pretty solid.

Airing on the Syfy Channel, this new series shares a familiar theme of the 1995 movie, then branches off into a new direction, creating a totally different final product. In a dystopian future, a worldwide plague kills seven billion people and practically wipes out the entire human race. James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is an experimental time traveler, whose primary mission is to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys from releasing the virus that ultimately leads to a worldwide pandemic.

Cole befriends virologist Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), who’s his only hope for saving the world. Together, they hope to save the future.

One of the most intriguing elements of this series is seeing the backstory of 2043 depicted through flashbacks and pieced together by Cole (as well as the audience). He’s tasked with an important role and doesn’t have much information to help his job. He also doesn’t have much time to complete his task, since since he can only be sent from the future for a finite amount of time. Adding complications to the matter, time travel has yet to be perfected, sometimes sending Cole to the wrong year.

By the end of the pilot episode, we’re only given a peek at the series’ main antagonist, Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), who’s been locked away at a psychiatric treatment center and seems a bit kooky, playing the altered role of Brad Pitt’s character from the movie. This version of Cole is no Bruce Willis and looks like a low-budget criminal, although his fish-out-of-water routine is pretty funny at times. Dr. Railly is a decent character that will need to show more vulnerability, since she has supposedly lost her practice, along with her marriage, and now must try to save the world of the future.

Based on the film by Terry Gilliam, as well as the short film, La Jetée, by Chris Marker, 12 Monkeys, the series, feels promising. In this storyline, the worldwide plague will destroy most of humanity in 2017, so that means this show’s timeline is very short. Will the series survive for at least two years before the terrorists release the virus? Or will the heroes end the threat of the Army of the 12 Monkeys before moving onto something else? The future is fluid, always changing.

Upcoming episodes promise to expose the conspiracy, unravel the mystery and unmake history. Hopefully this unfinished future business doesn’t bite off more than it can chew.

Strength: A unique twist on time traveling and saving the world.
Weakness: Will the series stray too far from Gilliam’s sci-fi success?
WTF Moment: How many time paradoxes will get worked into each episode, in order to save the day? Hopefully the series’ writers won’t turn this plot device into an unnecessary McGuffin.

Notable Quotes:
– “Everyone you see is already dead.”
– “You break the past, the future falls.”
– “You want to see what a paradox looks like?”
– “Trust me, there’s nothing there worth saving.”
– “We can’t predict the future… but we can plan for it.”
– “Spirituality is just science, if you don’t understand, yet.”
– “In the rest of the 21st century, scientists will be rockstars.”
– “What do I do, that is so monumental, that the laws of physics are broken, to send you chasing after me?

Review: 3/5