Back in the 1990s, when superhero movies were mostly a punchline, Quentin Tarantino had really only two movies under his belt and the idea of Tom Hanks winning back-to-back Oscars seemed insane, the great Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam was still struggling to get his films made within the Hollywood studio system. Then came the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys.
Based very loosely on a 1962 French short film called La Jetée, Twelve Monkeys followed an emotionally disturbed inmate from a grim, post-apoclayptic future, James Cole (Bruce Willis), who is sent back in time to identify the parties responsible for unleashing a world-killing plague.
Co-starring Madeleine Stowe as a psychiatrist who comes to believe him and a jittery Brad Pitt as a psycho rich kid who masterminds an underground eco-terrorist group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, Gilliam’s chilly sci-fi masterpiece may still be his most accessible movie, not to mention his last great film.
About a year ago, we first heard that SyFy was going ahead with a TV series adaptation of 12 Monkeys in the form of a 90-minute backdoor pilot. The show was then ordered to series, and now we have the first trailer for 12 Monkeys, which you can watch above.
This new take on 12 Monkeys stars Aaron Stanford (Pyro in X-Men: The Last Stand) as Cole, Amanda Schull (Suits) as Stowe’s character Dr. Railly and Kirk Acevedo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as an apparent friend of Cole’s. From what we can make out in the trailer, Cole looks to be more of a volunteer this time around, and was evidently sent back in time by Railly herself.
Fans of the ’95 film may miss Gilliam’s signature surrealism and warped worldview, but this 12 Monkeys is being guided by sure-handed TV veterans in the form of Nikita and Terra Nova alumni Travis Fickett and Terry Matalas and appears to deviate significantly from its source material. Not only does Cole seem far more mentally coherent, but his larger mission seems to be to locate one Leland Frost, played here by character actor extraordinaire Zeljko Ivanek (True Blood), with plenty of mystery still untouched.
For instance, the Army of the Twelve Monkeys is only teased visually, and the whole trailer suggests that there’s at least one whole level of conspiracy still yet to be revealed. While the evident production values and tone seem to tip into cornball territory here and there, there should be enough intrigue here to lure fans of the movie – out of curiosity, if nothing else.
12 Monkeys premieres on SyFy in January of 2015.