Over the years I’ve been an on again, off again fan of Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam. His film 12 Monkeys was an interesting adventure, not one of his greatest, but as close to commercial as I guess you can get. That being said it makes sense that Syfy would opt, if they were hypothetically choosing to make a Gilliam film, 12 Monkeys into a television series. It really is the most accessible out of his catalogue.
So jumping into this re-spinning of the 1995 film originally starring Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis I only hoped that we’d be seeing some kind of new spin instead of simply following in the footsteps of the film. Unlike a lot of film to TV adaptations 12 Monkeys broadens the horizon of the original concept knowing full well they have time to build a bigger story around the original 2 hour and 9 minute concept.
James Cole (Aaron Stanford; Nikita) is the time traveling prisoner whose been sent back in time to help thwart an event of apocalyptical proportions. Unsure of what he needs to do he only has a name. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull; Mao’s Last Dancer), a brilliant virologist who Cole only knows runs in the same circle as the man he’s looking for, gets entangled in his plight and the two end up becoming partners who meet sporadically throughout time as Cole can only stay in the past for so long before being pulled back to his own time.
The first episode is, as usual, introduction. We meet the main cast, the supporting players, and we get a glimpse of things to come. Were offered brief glimpses of the future where Cole and his fellow prisoners and jail guards are somewhat helplessly trapped in a world occupied by the normal and some kind of strange mutant (or zombie) type faction of human. Meanwhile we get the flipside where Cassandra is torn from a relationship with her lover (Noah Bean; Damages) and equally as torn from a brilliant career when her dealings with Cole put her in awkward situations with the authorities.
As whole I thought the show had some promise. Syfy does not skimp out on the special effects which makes this an interesting show with some high quality eye candy. The machine which helps Cole travel back and forth in time is pretty cool looking and Cole even has a hat trick that he uses to convince people that he is a time traveler that’s pretty cool to absolutely awesome looking.
My only really quirks with the show is both the casting and spots of acting. Aaron Stanford, who to me looks like a cross between Robert Carlyle and Paul Dinello, seems like the least likely choice for a tough anti-hero type. Mind you in the whole scheme of things his character isn’t chosen because he’s capable but because he’s the only test subject that can handle the time leap. Still, it’s a hard pill to swallow. It also doesn’t help that Emily Hampshire looks so much like a Breakfast Club era Ally Sheedy.
As far as the acting is concerned, I know it’s still early days, but some scenes come off as a bit more then wooden. There’s enough potential in the first two episodes to merit a continued exploration of both the story and the acting, but suspension of disbelief is a requirement. Still, worth checking out. Enjoy.