The 12 Monkeys TV Show Is Even Better Than the Movie

I consider Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys to be one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s.  It was one of my favorites, even better, in my humble opinion, than the great short French flick that inspired it, La Jetee. I was pleasantly surprised to see Syfy's TV series remake, which surpassed both.  (Beware, some spoilers ahead.)

Unlike the Gilliam film, which neatly kept the audience guessing until the end whether or not the lead character Cole was a time traveler or just insane, the television reboot is upfront about the time-hopping. From the opening scene, we see that Cole is sent back to change history, and we're presented with enough cool scenarios that set up the stakes and establish how paradoxes will be played out. Aaron Stanford may not be as engaging as Willis was when he was doubting his own sanity, but he's still fun to watch.

The first episode ends with a nice surprise as we meet the young institutionalized Goines, played in the movie by Brad Pitt, and here by Emily Hampshire. A character gender flip worked wonders for Starbuck in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, and I have high anticipation of it being handled well here too.

In the movie, Madeleine Stowe was the wonderful female lead Kathryn Railly. Here we have Amanda Schull portraying Cassandra Railly. Despite the heavy-handed first-name change, evoking the tragic prophetess from Greek mythology, Schull does a fine job of making the audience relate to her.

I was especially impressed with Zeljko Ivanek as the elder Leland Goines.  (I think Christopher Plummer played Dr. Goines in the movie.) The good news with a time travel story is that we might see more of him one way or another, despite his seemingly permanent end at the climax of the pilot episode.

If you're looking for an entertaining science fiction adventure, give 12 Monkeys a chance.