With Terry Gilliam’s newest film The Zero Theorem set to make its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival soon, the visionary director’s work has been on our mind in recent days. While he doesn’t work exclusively in science fiction, he’s dabbled enough that we consider him ours—not to mention that the rest of his films are pretty damn incredible. While this bit of news doesn’t involve the Monty Python alum himself, it does directly tie into his body of work. It is being reported that Syfy has whipped up a deal for an episodic television program based on Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi joint 12 Monkeys.
Deadline reports that the network, which has mostly been in the news lately for the likes of Sharknado, has ordered a 60-minute pilot from Universal and Atlas Entertainment, the companies who backed Gilliam’s original. The project is based on a spec script written by Terry Matalas and Travis Ficket (Terra Nova). From the description, the story is going to stick close to the source material, following a time traveler as he jumps back from a post-apocalyptic future to the present day in order to stop the spread of a deadly plague that destroys most of the human race.
In the film version of 12 Monkeys, the disease forces the survivors into dingy underground lairs, and the protagonist, James Cole, played by Bruce Willis, winds up in a mental institution, along with rich-kid-gone-nuts Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt in the first role that made me think there might be more to him than a pretty face). There’s no word on how much of those details will remain.
This is a hard one. On one hand, I’d love to have more 12 Monkeys in the world. One of my all-time favorite movies, this is the first Gilliam movie I saw in the theater, so it holds a special place in my heart. On the other hand, there’s no way in hell a TV show will ever live up to the source material. A series on Syfy won’t hold a candle to Gilliam’s artistry and manic madness. Many have tried to imitate it, but none have matched the strange beauty of his films. You also have to fear that they’ll either run out of story, or try to stretch it beyond the natural boundaries of the narrative, and wind up with a bunch of filler and weak episodes. Right now, the pilot is cast-contingent, which means that the network can pass on the drama series.
This is the second recent pilot Syfy has greenlit based on a movie. They gave the go ahead on Dominion, a 90-minute pilot based on Scott Stewart’s 2010 angels and demons fantasy Legion. We’ll have to wait and see how this strategy pays off for them.
12 Monkeys itself based on the 1962 French short La Jetee. Gilliam’s film was actually the first to wear the “inspired by” tag. The source material is told all in still photos, and is a masterpiece in its own right. If you haven’t watched it before, be sure to check it out below. It is well worth the 26-minute investment.