Sunday, January 18, 2015

(Spoilers) 12 Monkeys: Movie vs TV Pilot

***SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers may be found in the post below about VARIOUS ITEMS. And I'm going to add in a bit of filler text here to limit how much of the main article gets shown in a preview. That should take care of most of it. Hopefully. And away we go. SPOILER WARNING. ***

Before I get into anything, I'm going to put it out there that the original Twelve Monkeys movie with Madeleine Stowe, Bruce Willis, and Brad Pitt is one of my favorite movies of all time. It should be no surprise then that I was very curious about the 12 Monkeys television show, and comparisons had to be made.

Thoughts: As an independent-ish observer
The television show premiered a few days ago here on January 16, 2015. As a completely separate entity, I found the show to be entertaining with some long-term potential. The pilot seemed to do its work and set up a playground for future stories based on time-travel with an underlying arc. It wasn't an instant hit with me, but my plan was to give it at least another episode.
Random Photo
Thoughts: As a huge movie fan
As a person who loved the movie and had probably watched it over a dozen times, often staying up to 3:00 am, I thought the pilot was very rushed. The television show appeared to try to fit large and important parts of the movie into a one hour time slot -- even less without commercials. To be fair, this wasn't the first densely packed pilot I had seen.

Differences between TV Show and Movie
Again, having seen the movie so many times, it was difficult not to compare the show to the original movie while watching the pilot episode. These were some of the major difference I noticed between the two. Note that it had been a while since I saw the movie, so some details may be off.

1. Dr. Cassandra Railly, MD versus Dr Kathryn Railly, MD
The TV pilot borrowed the lecture scene of Dr. Kathryn Railly's book signing from the movie as the show's main first act -- ignoring the initial monologue. There was a change of tone from the start because while both doctors were named Dr. Railly, Cassandra Railly was a virologist while Kathryn Railly was a psychiatrist. The movie was filled with questions about sanity and mental health, and if the virus was even real or not all the way to the final scenes. A major part of the story even took place in a mental institution. Kathryn felt like a bridge into that world. Questions of mental health seemed to only arise in passing regarding Cassandra's breakdown and at the end in the psychiatric facility. In short, I thought the show was a lot more direct and made a point to say that the virus was real and the purpose of the show. A psychiatrist would not have been that useful in this case.

2. Building Cole's relationship with Dr. Railly
In the movie, Cole ended up getting institutionalized where he came under the care of a younger Dr. Kathryn Railly. Cole then came back and kidnapped her years later for about a day. During this, she had a chance to escape but chose to stay. He even took a life while saving hers. This entire sequence was pretty long, at least half an hour in the movie, and spanned a period of years -- the two spent at least a day or two together in total. Still, it took a forensically confirmed World War I era bullet and photo to finally convince Kathryn to start believing Cole. Before that, he was "mentally divergent."

Cole kidnapped Dr. Railly for about 10 minutes in the show, real-time, showed her a watch getting scratched with some flash, and disappeared in her face. This was, supposedly, enough to give her a breakdown where she lost her job and boyfriend, and convinced her to meet up with him again years later.

I just didn't completely buy it. Those were nice special effects in the TV show and Cole looked a lot saner, but it felt very rushed and too big a leap. The movie seemed to make a point that Dr. Railly was a scientist and a skeptic who needed evidence. It took a photo, forensics, days of being with each other, and days or maybe years of personal research (her book) for this relationship to develop. But all it took was about 10 minutes and a few magic tricks for a virologist to believe a kidnapper's story? Enough to throw away a career and relationship, and also meet him as directed? After meeting up, the relationship would have been more convincing, but it just felt too strong too soon. Yes, she spent days looking after him after he came back, but he was supposedly unconscious.

Speaking of the meet up, how could Cole's superiors send him back in time to save the world by "removing" a target while potentially bleeding to death? I wasn't aware of a point to point instant time travel device he had that didn't require returning to the future first. Not to mention, how could the hotel staff let a gunshot victim stay at a hotel? Security was all over him before Cassandra intervened, so they probably saw the wound and got blood all over them. Or was the wound covered?

3. Showdown at the Airport and the Party
Whereas the airport showdown ended with Bruce Willis' Cole dying, the show's Cole succeeded with the elimination of a target and he survived to return to the future. Also, the target in the movie was Goines Sr.'s employee while the one in the show was Goines Sr. himself.

4. Army of the 12 Monkeys
The movie made it pretty clear that the Army of the 12 Monkeys and Goines Jr. were responsible for releasing the zoo animals, not the virus. It was a worker of Goine's Sr. that was the perpetrator. The show left it open at the end of the first episode, but Goines Sr.'s death didn't change the future. My impression was that Goines Jr. and the Army of the 12 Monkeys were being played up as the actual villains -- maybe the other guy, whom I think was already introduced, will be revealed to be responsible later. Oh, and Goines Jr. in the show was a woman named Jennifer, not Brad Pitt.

5. Time Travel: Predestination versus "Time Can be Rewritten"
Thank you, Doctor Who for that line. Twelve Monkeys, the movie, ended tragically beautiful with Cole's death finishing a loop where he saw his own death and Kathryn as a child. Everything that will happen has happened were essentially the rules of time. The television show looked to be all about changing the past with the watch thing right from the start -- a paradox?

Final Thoughts
Living up to a classic is hard. Living up to a classic with two incredible actors at the top of their careers, a rising superstar, a huge budget, and a very talented director just isn't fair?

I think 12 Monkeys, the show, did a reasonable job of trying to separate itself from the movie. There was probably no way for it to live up to a movie with Madeleine Stowe, Bruce Willis, and Brad Pitt directed by Terry Gilliam and financed with millions upon millions of dollars. This was the movie that made "batshit crazy" a fixture in my vocabulary. It also gave me, "buy, sell, no more monkey business!" Trying to compare the two left me disappointed. I will try to keep an open mind in future episodes, but it will be hard to do so.

Edit: February 6, 2014
So, a couple episodes in and I'm finding this show really watchable with interesting storylines. There also seems to be a lot of future potential. Going to keep at it.

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