HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: 12 Monkeys: Season 1
HTS Overall Score:79
It seems that making TV show remakes of older (or olderISH) movies is now quite the fad in Hollywood. We’ve got “Bates Motel” to take care of “Psycho”, “Hannibal” to deal with the whole “Silence of the Lamb” series of movies, or “Stargate SG-1”, which absolutely became the gold standard over the self-titled movie starring Kurt Russel. Now the SyFy channel has decided to go the same direction as so many other channels and remake a cult classic movie into a bigger and more complex TV series with “12 Monkeys”. Originally an odd little film directed by Terry Gilliam, “Twelve Monkeys” deals with the fun of time and time travel paradoxes with a core group of people trying to save the planet. While the movie ends rather bleakly, with a message of “fate”, the TV series takes the original screenplay from back in the 90’s and makes it incredibly expansive, complete with the issues of fate as well as a complex (or at least semi-confusing due to all the paradoxes and double backing of time) storyline that opens up the world of “12 Monkeys” into something much more than the original screenplay ever intended.
The series premise is VERY similar to the movie of the same title, complete an unstoppable super virus being unleased on the world in the near future, completely obliterating most of the world’s population. Almost 30 years later humanity is on their last legs. The virus is mutating and soon not even the few people who survived the plague due to a natural immunity will be able to survive the onslaught. Desperate for a hero, humanity has one last hope in the form of James Cole, a scavenger of society, who is told in a cryptic message that his fate is to go back in time and stop the virus. Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) has spent her entire life creating a time machine that will send someone back into the past to fix the problems of the future. Pressed into service, Cole is sent back to kill Leland Goines (Zeljko Ivanek), the man who supposedly unleashed the virus on the world.
Arriving in 2013, Cole finds out that his mission is a bit harder than he expected, as Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), the person who sent the message through time to him, has NO idea of who he is, which ends up with Cole jumping forward a couple years to try and get closer to the intended target. Soon he finds out that that Goines is not the ONLY perpetrator of the virus, as hints of a mysterious organization called the Army of the 12 Monkeys is trying their best to intercept the virus before Cole does. Complete with a dozen different time paradoxes, Cole and Dr. Railly have to try and hunt down the virus before it’s too late, and before elements in 2043 become so bad that his mission becomes rendered obsolete.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63185[/img]“12 Monkeys” is an incredibly fun show that almost borders on being as addictive and entertaining as the early seasons of “Fringe”. What I’ve described above is really just a fraction of the surprises in store for you over the season, as the show is so intricately woven within itself that if I give away any more plot points it could spoil the whole series. In fact, there are so many plot points that seem to make sense early on, but then go to confusing and convoluted only to be completely undone and explained near the end that even the surprises have surprises by the end of the season.
There’s some flaws within the storytelling that cause me to drop the rating from a 4.5/5 down to a 4/5. Mainly to do with certain motivations that happen mid season. I can’t say EXACTLY who does what, but there will be a revelation about a hero turning into a treacherous villain that feels VERY rushed and forced when you actually find out his/her motivation. Especially when that person’s character and motivations have been very clear for the majority of the series. That and Aaron Stanford as Cole is a bit stiff compared to say Bruce Willis. He was ok as Pyro in the “X-Men” series, and fantastic in “Nikita”, but here you have to warm up to his gruff and slightly bland voice. However, once the series really gets going he and Amanda Schull have some great chemistry as their pre-told romance starts to ever so slightly come to fruition (although this is in NO WAY a romantic show).
The show really shines when it’s dealing more with the introspective points of the show. Points that discuss some of the paradoxes of time travel, as well as the consequences of trying to change something that has already happened. The burden that one must bear when they have become a monster to take care of monsters, and even just how many lives are worth risk. Do you risk everything for the good of the people, or is one person’s life worth sacrificing everyone else to save? These are usually not the main themes of the series, but the show pokes around with them in a very satisfactory way while keeping the main plot the focus as Cole and Dr. Railly frantically try to search for the virus before the world ends. I will admit that there is one part of the storytelling that kind of irritates me, and that is the constant switching between timelines every 2-3 minutes sometimes. About half the time we have whole 10 minute chunks of time where Cole is in 2015/17 etc, and then we switch back to 1-2 minute bits where the show is alternating past and future at a rapid fire pace and leaves you feeling just a little bit like the show has to deal with some ADD issues.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63193[/img]The standard TV aspect ratio encode of 1.78:1 in the AVC codec for “12 Monkeys” looks superb, with fantastic detail even among a bleak and dark looking picture. The future bits tend to look very dim and dark as the majority of their stay is in a darkened science compound that is low on power and slim on lighting. Colors are heavily blue influenced with shades of green and grey to offsite the deep teal grading. The past alternates between lots and lots of darkness (as Cole and Dr. Railly tend to do a lot of their skulking during the night) and brightly lit daylight scenes. Skin tones are rather natural, leaning towards the cool end of the spectrum and colors look appropriately rich. Blacks are the most important part of the encode and seem to be free of any major artifacting or nastiness like obscured shadow detail. The fine detailing along clothing is impressive, showing off every fiber and stray hair on the unkempt form of Cole, or the immaculately dressed Aaron or Cassie.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=63201[/img]Coming with a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in both English and French, “12 Monkeys” is a pleasing listening experience for all. Dialog is always strong and precise throughout the series, never distorting or hard to hear no matter what time period the show is focusing on. The “future” segments tend to feel very raw and aggressive, with all sorts of pinging and creaking and sounds of worn out machinery, punctuated with gunfire and the screaming of raiders to give the time period a very wild feel. The past (or our present really) is a lot more precise and natural, with moments of chaos as the Pallid man and the 12 Monkeys crew adding some craziness to the mix. The score is intense and electronically chaotic, adding to the convoluted and wild feel of the series. LFE is powerful and well placed throughout the series, giving nice basslines to the score as well as add umph to the gunshots and other random explosions that take place during the series. The chaotic tone of the series translates to the surrounds as well, which can be either wildly active with all sorts of craziness, or whisper quiet depending on the scenario at hand.
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Emily Hampshire -- Markridge Improv Speech
• Cast Auditions
“12 Monkeys” starts out a bit rocky during the first 3-4 episodes, but once it hits its stride, the series really takes off. Plots double back on themselves so much that you have to pay VERY close attention to everything that’s going on as what has happened in the past episodes weigh heavily on the future episodes. There’s a few things that I would like to see fixed before season 2 starts, but those fixes are very small things that do not keep me from enjoying convoluted SyFy show immensely. Audio and video are fantastic, but the series is definitely lacking any substantial extras on this disc, which along with a few other small issues cause me to give this a solid recommended status.
Starring: Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Noah Bean
Created by: Terry Matalas, Travis Fickett
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 560 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 19th 2016
Buy 12 Monkeys: Season 1 On Blu-ray at Amazon
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