In just over a month, Syfy finally unveils their serialized adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s 1995 time travel mind-bender 12 Monkeys, and though we’re still a ways out, the network is pushing their new series hard. Just the other day we saw a featurette that digs into the relationship between the two main characters, and now they’re back with another that explores the idea of fate, morality, sacrifice, and shows off a bunch of new footage.
On the surface, the series resembles Gilliam’s film, at least in the details. After a vicious plague wipes out most of the human population, James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is sent back in time from the year 2043 using an untested method of time travel to try to put a stop to this disaster. Once there, he enlists the help of Doctor Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) in his quest, and goes about trying to save humanity as well as redeem himself.
This video really drives home the biggest difference between this new version and the source. In the original, Cole (played by a drooling Bruce Willis) is trapped in a fixed time loop, one where everything is preordained and set and there’s no hope of changing it. This time around, however, it appears that tinkering with the past can most certainly impact the future and change things. That’s a big shift, and though probably necessary in order to squeeze a continuing series out of this, it will have a wide reaching impact on the narrative.
Though the show looks much more serious and straightforward than the film, lacking Gilliam’s trademark weirdness and strange flourishes—is the Goines character, Jennifer not Jeffrey this time around, going to have the same manic, twitchy energy and persona as Brad Pitt’s version?—the more we see from 12 Monkeys the more it looks like there’s potential. They play with tricky morality problems, like is it truly murder if the victim is already dead in your reality? And while Cole wants to save the human race, he also wants to change his own past and erase some of the bad choices he’s made. There’s also the question raised that if everything happens for a reason, why try to undo it at all? You have interesting themes and ideas to play around with, and hopefully they’ll get into them in some depth.
12 Monkeys ranks pretty high on my list of all time favorite movies, so I’m really curious to see what Syfy does with this source material, and I really, really hope they don’t royally fuck it up. We’ll see on Friday, January 16, 2015 at 9:00pm when the first episode hits.