It seems like the successful small screen adaptation of the Coen Brothers film Fargo has left the door wide open for other big screen classics to be remade on a smaller scale, the latest is Terry Gilliam’s time travel tale Twelve Monkeys and it will be Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt versus 12 Monkeys, SyFy and Noah Bean. This move could be just as well received as FX’s Fargo although to be honest, the cast list was pretty impressive in the TV version of the Coen Brothers downsized film.
The FX series utilized Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine and Oliver Platt in the heavy hitter category and wisely used Alison Tolman as the female lead Molly Solverson. The SyFy series has Tom Noonan, Kirk Acevedo for the bigger names and Noah Bean as a male version of Tolman apparently. So in terms of acting chops alone, with names that would normally appear above the production title, Fargo wins hands down.
The show also had the benefit of both Ethan and Joel Coen as executive producers on all 20 episodes. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the show also had a cracking network behind it. SyFy has a certain reputation for schlock and cheesiness, two titles pretty much explains the network’s output: Sharknado and Sharknado 2. Of course on the bright side, 12 Monkeys is being produced by Atlas Entertainment and not The Asylum which was responsible for both Sharknados and the, surprisingly, better Z Nation. The fact that these two series, Fargo and 12 Monkeys, will be very different from one another in terms of production values, if nothing else, means that the downsizing of the cinematic classic will be Twelve Monkeys versus 12 Monkeys instead of SyFy vs FX.
While Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and the exceptional beauty and talented actress Madeleine Stowe helped to make the film version of Gilliam’s vision unforgettable, not to mention the presence of Christopher Plummer and David Morse in the small, but pivotal role of Dr. Peters it remains to be seen just how well the scaled down story will be received. It can be argued that if the script is good enough that the lack of big names will make no real difference between “12” and “twelve.”
After all, Pitt was not a household name when he worked in the 1995 production of Twelve Monkeys, but Stowe and Willis were very hot property in the 1990s. Christopher Plummer was “old Hollywood” as was veteran actor and impressionist Frank Gorshin. Certainly the film would still have been just as powerful with lesser known performers in the lead roles, but it most likely would not have enjoyed the cult status that has endured since its release in 1995.
At this point it is not known if the 12 Monkeys television version will be a direct remake of the Twelve Monkeys cinematic version. For instance, the Fargo TV adaptation versus the big screen film with its story of smalltown America with a heavily pregnant police chief was not a frame by frame remake of the original. This could be the case in “Monkeys.” Looking at the scenario in IMDb it does look like a straightforward remake instead of a variation on the original theme. 12 Monkeys will air in January 2015 and only time and several episodes will prove whether the new TV version is a good as the original Terry Gilliam classic Twelve Monkeys.
By Michael Smith