TV Review: Syfy’s ‘12 Monkeys’

When a virus wipes out most of the world’s population in 2043, James Cole, played by Aaron Stanford, must travel back in time to 2015 to prevent the virus from happening. 12 Monkeys, the science-fiction thriller debuting Friday at 9 p.m., is based on the 1995 Terry Gilliam-directed, Bruce Willis-starring film of the same name. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“The problem, as always, is that the time-travel element can be disorienting from a narrative standpoint, especially with Cole popping back and forth between his reality and ours, squabbling with the physicist who dispatched him (Barbara Sukowa), who is understandably frustrated by her inability to fully control him, given the stakes.”
Brian Lowry, Variety

“It’s too bad SyFy didn’t invest more in a better script and direction. The channel is great at mock films like Sharknado but often takes its sci-fi-loving audience for granted with some of its serious content. In this case, SyFy had the 1995 film as a playbook. They may not have been able to cast Willis or Pitt, but the series could have been better instead of being pretty much a waste of time.”
David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

“The genius of the movie 12 Monkeys is that it pulls apart La Jetée and finds the raw material for a thriller, rooted in the cruelty of fate and the cognitive gaps between different eras. The TV version of 12 Monkeys pulls apart the movie, and finds the ingredients for just another dark, violent genre show.”
Noel Murray, A.V. Club

“Perfectly paced, smartly adapted and studded with moments of philosophy and emotion, 12 Monkeys is a capable and addictive addition to television's doomsday Weltanschauung and SyFy's still-struggling lineup.”
Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

“The series is less cryptic than the movie, more of a straightforward action drama, and that’s probably a good thing. Achieving mind-bendingness is harder today than it was in 1995.”
Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

“This 12 Monkeys is composed of hallways and TV-movie grays, which are smothered over with the incessant thud-thudding of a score that serves as the thriller equivalent of a laugh track. It's all so depressingly cynical and anonymous. Never mind Gilliam or especially Marker; this plodding, humorless time-filler doesn't earn right of comparison to Quantum Leap.”
Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine