Review Detail

8.4 7 10
FanMix December 26, 2010 2829
Overall rating
Audio/Video Quality
Audio Editing
Visual Editing
12 Monkeys is what I would call a signature film. If someone who’d never seen a Terry Gilliam film asked me what movie most defines him, I’d point this person to 12 Monkeys. It takes all of his artistic madness and varied story-telling instincts and combines it into a single work of art. (however, if this person asked me for my favorite Gilliam film, or what I thought was his best work, I would point them to Time Bandits).

While I feel 12 Monkeys most singularly captures Gilliam as a director and creative spirit, for me the film has always succeeded while simultaneously failing for me. The basic story and structure is fantastic, but the two worlds make the film difficult for me to accept. Outside of the absurdly cliché asylum, the ‘present’ of 1990 and 1996 are established firmly within our reality. This is to say there is no confusing these segments as being whimsical, or of some alternate reality. Yet the future is completely insane and over-the-top. It is obnoxious and absurd in Gilliams most classic style, and while this style works brilliantly for movies like Time Bandits, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, they have always struck me as false and distracting in a film like 12 Monkeys. I simply cannot believe that future world is in any way tied to the reality of our world. I cannot see ‘us’ turning into that, no matter what apocalyptic event may happen. Nor can I believe that those insane scientists can figure out time travel. Essentially, the “future” in 12 Monkeys always ruined the movie for me, so it was with great anticipation that I went into Jorge’s latest edit. The cut-list showed a film devoid of Gilliam’s signature style, which suited me just fine. So with my thoughts on the original for comparison, here is my review.

As with all of my reviews, they are intended as constructive evaluations of the edit and no offense is intended to the editor.

As I’ve come to expect from Jorge the audio editing was flawless. Absolutely nothing came across as a mistake, unintentional or overpowering. One of my tests on any fanedit is if I need to clutch my remote. I put it down and never needed it. Great work.

From pure editing perspective, this is Jorge’s typical excellent quality and is nearly good enough for release. Only one transition felt out of place/forced, which was when Railly is talking to Dr. Fletcher and has come to realize that Cole may have been telling the truth. The phone rings and rings and rings, and I kept waiting for Flether to pick it up or acknowledge it, only to have a very very sudden transition to Railly sleeping and waking to answer the phone. This transition really threw me off and pulled me out of the edit. It was the only thing I can complain about, but it was really drastic and worth mentioning.

From a Video quality perspective, this took a major hit. While I respect the color palette choice, the result was a really poor image. My 50″ plasma had major pixelation, and in one particular transition the circular banding was off the chart.

And lastly, the reformatting almost worked. For most of the film it was dramatic and beautiful, but when it didn’t work, it stuck out like a sore thumb and called attention to the fact that this was very much a fanedit. Scenes that were most striking are when Goines Sr is in the lab talking to Railly on the phone, the matting cut into his head very awkwardly, and then also when the animals are freed, it is obvious that elements are cut-off/out and makes it look like it was poorly formatted for TV, only to remember that it’s “wide-screen.”

Overall the between the heavy pixelation and reformatting I was repeatedly taken out of the flow of the edit.


*Spoilers Abound!*

As my canary in a coal mine, I had my wife watch this with me because she’s never seen the original. Putting the Audio and Video aside, how does the bold new take work? Really really great… right up until the end.

For the first, I’d say 80% of the movie I was absolutely loving this, it was everything I had been hoping it would be. Free of Gilliam’s ‘future’ the movie was now tightly focused on Cole and Dr. Railly. We watch their inverted trajectories with Railly believing Cole’s story more and more, and Cole believing his own story less and less. Brad Pitt’s character takes the biggest hit on the virtual editing room floor. Pitt was brilliant in his role and I was sad to see so many of his scenes go, but the sacrifice was worth it because he is not the focus of the edit and narratively, the story held up without him, both in pace and in structure.

But after Cole shows up outside the “Army’s” headquarters while Railly is spray-painting her message, the narrative began to unravel for me. It started with the small fissure of Railly mentioning the first call Cole made. Cole’s first call was edited out so this reference is odd because it made me wonder why the call was cut to begin with, it seems it would have helped cast doubt on Cole’s sanity. But we move on, and here a viewer not familiar with the original really has to pay close attention because critical things have been cut, clues that were once huge flashing neon signs of understanding are now subtle and easily missed.

We only hear that Goines Sr. was left in a zoo cage via the radio and that only briefly. This is important because it ties to why he was featured on the front page of USA Today, which is where Railly sees an image of Dr. Peters and figures out who really is behind the virus. Technically everything still lines up if you are looking for the dots, but at this point I had to start answering questions from my wife on ‘what just happened?’ and ‘why?’

But what finally threw me was Cole suddenly having a gun in his hand and asking Jose (who comes out of nowhere) who he should be shooting. This is completely without explanation and confusing. I’m guessing that we are to assume that Cole has had an encounter off-screen, but why is this cut? By now we no longer question Cole’s story. Cole knows he’s from the future, Railly knows he’s from the future and the audience knows that Dr. Peters is the ground zero for the virus. There is no need to hide visitors from the future at this point because the guessing game portion of the film is over. Withholding Jose’s conversation created a glaring hole which made the action-climax rushed and without cause.

And lastly as others have commented, the concluding footage of the future is really out of place. While the closing image of the sign is thematically nice, the coda itself was confusing. I would have been very happy with a single short scene of Cole being woken and taken from his cell, being told he’d been selected for a very important mission, which is where our movie started.

I know Jorge never revisits his work. Once it’s in the can he doesn’t look back, but this is one film where I hope he makes an exception. I loved this edit for most of the film and structurally, the end is all there for it to make sense. If the WTF moments of the final act were cleared up, this would be my go-to version of the film, superior to the original, but even without changes I would definitely recommend this as a great edit to watch and yet another example of thinking outside the conventional box.

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