Syfy’s 12 Monkeys reboots Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film about a time traveler struggling to prevent a plague apocalypse. But expect some changes. (Syfy’s version stars an intense Aaron Stanford instead of a creepy spider-eating Bruce Willis, for starters.) Below, showrunner Natalie Chaidez helps us keep our Monkeys straight:

Major setting: SAME. There’s dystopian future where a man named Cole is kept in confinement by mysterious leadership and also a modern-day big city.

Hero’s mission: SAME. Cole is sent back in time to stop a plague that decimates humanity: “It’s taking on grand questions like fate and destiny and free will,” Chaidez says.

Cole’s character: DIFFERENT. In the movie, Cole’s past is a mystery, and he’s a pretty odd guy; now he’s wracked with guilt and seeking redemption for killing people to survive the apocalypse (also, he has hair).

Time-travel glitches: SAME. In both stories, time travel is untested and not entirely reliable.

Future storyline: DIFFERENT. The future was only glimpsed in the film, but in the series there’s a whole storyline and significant characters in the future. Specifically, there are other factions who are interested in the time machine who pose a threat to Cole’s mission. Plus you get a strong sense of Cole’s past. “The series really opens up that post-apocalyptic world, which was only glimpsed during the movie, to see what he’s really done.”

12 Monkeys mystery: DIFFERENT. In the film, the mysterious 12 Monkeys group turned out to be a red herring. Here its more important and its purpose will be explored gradually during the series.

Supporting cast: DIFFERENT. Cole still abducts a doctor named Railly and meets an insane person named Goines. But Railly (Amanda Schull) is virologist in the series instead of a psychiatrist love interest and she more actively helps Cole. While Goines is a female math wiz (Emily Hampshire) instead of a googly-eyed male animal activist (Brad Pitt). “Pitt’s performance was so iconic, the series had to do its own twist. She’s a bit of mercury on screen that wiggles and waggles and you can’t figure out what she’s going to do next.”

12 Monkeys the series debuts Jan. 16 on Syfy.

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12 Monkeys (Movie)
  • Movie
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  • Terry Gilliam