It’s been nearly 20 years since the movie version of ’12 Monkeys’ so a lot of people who check out Syfy’s TV reboot of the franchise might not remember (or know about) the original. This is both a good and bad thing as the new remake is a large departure from director Terry Gilliam’s 1995 vision.
The overall plot is similar, though it is presented in a much more straightforward and less purposely vague/complicated manner. James Cole (Aaron Stanford), a mysterious time traveler from thirty years in the future has been sent back to stop the spread of a virus that by his time has wiped out most of humanity. He meets up with Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), a virologist who is somehow involved in the upcoming resistance, but Cole arrives too early and she has no clue of her future. Together the two of them must discover the truth behind those responsible for the upcoming destruction of humanity.
In the original movie there was a large emphasis on themes of insanity, futility, and determinism, but for the most part that all seems to have been largely toned down in the new series. This is a shame because these were some of the things that made the movie so enticing. However, this is not a death knell for the new show. It is very clear from the first few episodes that the plan is to do something new and different with the story. There are still going to be mysteries and dramatic reveals. They are just much more straightforward and easier to follow.
One area that is somewhat disappointing is the lack of character development and depth beyond just the basic plot. Cole is the main protagonist with the potential to be a fascinating character, but in the first couple of episodes he just falls flat. There’s no depth, darkness, or attitude. This is man from a dystopian future where most people are dead and hope is all but lost. He has nothing to lose, but the character rarely comes off that way. His motivations are confused, and whatever backstory he is given is just filled in with dialog from others. This is an area that hopefully future episodes will develop because this is the type of thing that could really make or break the show.
TV shows can need a bit of a learning curve to develop, especially if they have a grand vision planned, which the new ’12 Monkeys’ does seem to have. The first couple episodes of the new show do a good job laying out the particulars and distinguishing the series from the original movie. The intrigue and breadcrumb dropping mysterious plot is enough to keep attention spans primed for now. Hopefully the show is able to eventually add some depth and character development to its repertoire because it has a lot of potential.