The fictional worlds of director Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King, Brazil, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) are beautifuilly profound and gorgeously bizarre to say the least, always combining the harsh grit of reality with the sublime wonders of the imagination. The famed director’s 1995-outing 12 Monkeys was no exception.
Set in a distant future, 12 Monkeys saw Bruce Willis in the role of convict protagonist Cole, who is (messily) sent into the past by a shady government group with the task of seeking out and stopping the cause of mankind’s current dilemna: a life underground in the dark to escape a worldwide pandemic that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction.
With his unique directorial style, Gilliam brought forth a haunting story that weaved through the amorphus detritus of human perceptions like a fever dream of the borderline psychotic. But underlying the entirety of the story, was a message of human failing, frailty, and spirit. That in spite of everything, of all the atrocities we commit upon ourselves as a species, ultimately, we will always choose to try and make things right. It was a powerful little film that, often due to Gilliams’ unique approach to filmmaking, flew very under the radar for many, many years.
At this past Monday’s SyFy TCA Panel, the new trailer for their “reimagining” of Gilliam’s tale debuted, showcasing Amanda Schull in the role of Dr. Kathryn Railly (originally played by Madeleine Stowe) and Aaron Sanford in the role of the time-traveler Cole. From the look of the trailer, the storyline seems to be fairly intact, so “retelling” or flat-out “remake” make actually be more descriptive of what Syfy has intended.
Known for it’s bad original films (Mega Piranha, Sharknado) and it’s superb original series (Being Human, Defiance, Helix, Warehouse 13), I for one am glad that this outing is getting the serial treatment as Syfy has avery strong track record of showing it’s series’ a great amount of love in the form of production quality, writing material, and advertising.
However, the density of Terry Gilliam’s work cannot simply be relegated to a 1-hour time-slot as pacing (especially in this story) is so vital to conveying it’s overall messages. The entire purpose of the film could be lost in the noble attempt to bring an incredible story to its’ audiences. I’m certain on paper it looked incredible, but in application, I’m hesitant to toe that water.
Will Syfy’s attempt to recapture Gilliam’s imaginative and visual style be a success? Or will it lack substance and crumble under the weight of it’s own pretense? It’s dark territory to be sure when everybody’s already dead.
While no specific date has been set, 12 Monkeys will premiere on Syfy Channel January 2015.