Syfy is making a big push to get back into the original content game, or at least the semi-original content game. Either way, it’s nice to see them actually turning out new genre shows. Much of what their producing and developing are based on preexisting properties, including The Expanse, based on James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan novels, the Robert Kirkman-produced adaptation of the comic book Clone, and their series interpretation of Terry Gilliam’s 1995 time travel drama 12 Monkeys. The network has now dropped a full trailer for the show, which will premiere early in 2015, and the results are a rather mixed bag.
Yesterday we talked about the various ways that producers promise that their series will differ from the source material, which in turn differs greatly from short film it is based on, La Jetee. In this two-minute preview, you get to see a lot of that—similar but different is a good way to think about it—and it is both good and bad.
There are, of course, going to be similarities. Aaron Stanford (X-Men 2) plays a character named James Cole, played by Bruce Willis in the original. In the future he inhabits, a vicious mystery plague has decimated the human population, and from the glimpses you get, things are certainly not going well. Whenever guys in securely sealed biohazard suits are blasting mass graves full of corpses with a flamethrower, things are not all roses and sunshine. Cole is sent back in time by doctor Kathryn Railly (Amanda Schull, One Tree Hill) in order to rendezvous with her former self and ideally stop the disease.
One of the biggest alterations from large screen to small, appears to be that he actually can affect change. In the film Cole is locked in a fixed time loop, while here things are more fluid. His actions will actually impact the future, whether or not he’ll be able to stop the plague, remains to be seen, but it’s at least possible this time around. 12 Monkeys has put together a solid cast, which, in addition to Stanford and Schull, also includes Kirk Acevedo (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Zeljko Ivanek (Revolution, among countless others), who plays Leland, who you just know to the very core of your being is an evil bastard.
While there is a similar grimness, Gilliam’s trademark visual quirkiness is noticeably absent, as is the strangeness that he brings to everything he does—though that image of all of the layered posters—and the monkey clock graffiti—covering the wall is straight out of the film. All in all, this 12 Monkeys appears to have a far more straightforward style.
You’ll notice a grubbiness, but everything still looks far cleaner and less scuffed up than the film. That’s something of a concern for me, because it may be indicative of the production value we’re going to see. This is Syfy, and there is obviously going to be some monetary constraints, but there are times in this video that definitely look very, very cheap, and if the world doesn’t look right much of the time, it’s going to be hard to find yourself completely invested. Then again, this footage comes from the pilot, and it is possible that as the show, now officially picked up, could make more of what they have moving forward.
Overall, this trailer probably isn’t going to get you super excited for 12 Monkeys if you weren’t already. We still remain cautiously optimistic—we like to wait and judge for ourselves—but from what we’ve seen here, it could go either way.