Dystopian show reaches out to new audiences

Photo courtesy of Syfy

In the last 20 years of film and television production, not much has changed, at least with regard to the story of “12 Monkeys.” The new Syfy series, based off the 1995 movie of the same name, follows James Cole (Aaron Stanford, X-Men 2) and Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull, Center Stage) as they attempt to stop a deadly futuristic virus that will destroy mankind. Funnily enough, the movie itself is based off a French short film entitled La Jetée, making “12 Monkeys” a show based off a movie that is also based off a movie.

The first episode revolves around Cole, a time traveller from the dystopian year 2043, who is sent back to 2013 to find Leland Goines (Zeljko Ivanek, Argo) and kill him. With an already unique story, the show sets up the viewer for something that combines both similar and different storylines to what was shown in theaters twenty years ago.

The show even provides an experience unlike anything on television before. If the viewer owns a Philips Hue light bulb, they can use the SyFy Sync app to make their lights correspond to the show, something only seen in Sharknado and Sharknado 2: The Second One, both Syfy TV movies. This adds a 4-D element that brings the viewer right into the action and compliments the suspense that has become so characteristic of a Syfy show.

It is certainly evident that the 2015 “12 Monkeys” is an updated version of its 1995 film counterpart, and not only in terms of technology. However, while the actors in the show and the movie are different, the show retains a familiar cast of characters. The movie stars Bruce Willis as James Cole whereas the show has the relatively unknown Stanford in the role. Additionally, names of characters are changed slightly between both versions, and in some cases genders are switched as well. However, the changes are so slight that even avid fans of the movie will not be upset.

With similar characters comes a similar story as well. Watching the show definitely brings a sense of déjà vu for those who have seen the movie. However, there are still scenes and plot points that are unique to the show that are not found in the movie. After all, the show has to run for at least a season with 42-minute episodes, not a single sitting of 129 minutes.

Since only one episode has been released so far, it is hard to tell if the differences between the show and movie will persist. Will the ending of the show be the same as the movie? Even if it is, the show is stimulating enough to entice people to continue watching. There was always a sense of suspense after every commercial break that kept it fresh, even for someone who has already seen the movie.

“12 Monkeys” definitely is an attention-grabber. With time travel being an integral part to the story, there are definitely moments that will make viewers stare at the screen and think, “What just happened?” The show incorporates everything from time paradoxes to splintering (something viewers have to watch to find out about) that will definitely keep watchers glued to the screen until the very last minute.

There is also death and fighting to satisfy fans of action movies as well. In fact, there was rarely ever a dull moment in the show. The writers seamlessly transferred the movie to the small screen and, in fact, added the element of suspense at the end of each episode, something that works differently in a movie.

There are multiple groups of people who would enjoy this show. First, and most obvious, would be those who enjoyed the movie itself. If you wanted to see Cole again, this is definitely the way to watch. With so little known about the season, there will definitely be some welcome additions sprinkled in to make the story fresh. For those who also enjoy sci-fi, this is series presents a unique perspective on time travel that has familiar elements, but when blended, creates something you have never seen before. Even people who are not fans of Syfy should try the show out. The action makes it appealing for a wide variety of people. “12 Monkeys” airs on Fridays at 9 on Syfy.

Our Take: 4/5