12 Monkeys logo 12 MONKEYS FAQ



  1. Who is maintaining this FAQ?

    Uh, I guess that would be me . My name's Demetri, and I wanted to get a FAQ started, so I started one.

  2. Where is this FAQ located?

    For right now, this FAQ is only at http://miso.wwa.com/~mouratis/12m. As it begins to come together, and after many more contributions (hopefully), it will start getting posted.

  3. Are there any other 12 Monkeys resources?

    There is one excellent one that I know of. The MCA home page for Twelve Monkeys has lots of neat stuff, even a FAQ with four questions answered by David and Janet Peoples. The two entry points that I find interesting are the Main Page , and a lower-level page with an animated picture at the top.


Basic Plot Elements

  1. This Plot seems sort of familiar...Could I have seen it before?

    Maybe. Twelve Monkeys was inspired by a short film called "La Jetee". This film was about 30 minutes long, and with a small exception, was shot entirely in stills.

  2. Isn't Cole sent back to save the future?

    No. It is stated at several points along the way that his job is to simply locate the virus so that a pure sample can be collected. It's even pretty much stated that he cannot change the future anyway; the pure sample will only help the future people vaccinate who is left.

    Every once in a while, someone on usenet suggests that the scientists actually are trying to maintain their own powerfull positions, but it seems that given all the attention to sterile procedures, this doesn't seem right to me. No-one can give me evidence in the film to support this theory.

  3. Wait a minute! Was James cole from the future or was he just insane?

    Exactly. The theme of insanity is smeared all over this movie, so it is pretty clear that Gilliam is trying to get us to ask that very question.

  4. Did Jeffrey Goines ever intend to release the virus?

    Probably not. The poster with the "We Did It" scrawled on it was just referring to releasing the animals from the Zoo.

  5. After James Cole locks Railly in the trunk of the car, we hear that a woman was found strangled and mutilated, but it wasn't her?

    Yeah, I don't get this. Maybe a bad device to keep things exciting? Perhaps some scenes didn't make the final cut, leaving this thread hanging. Anyone have other theories?

  6. What happened in the tooth scene?

    Cole locks himself in the bathroom with the pimp. He removes his own teeth and pretty much leaves the pimp alone. The blood all over his own mouth suggests this, and he holds out the teeth for Railly to see.

  7. What are some examples of parallels in the movie?

    There is a parallel between the Monkey send down the hole to find the kid who fell down and Bruce willis being send back to the past. There seems to be another parallel between the time machine and the CAT scan machine in hospital when he tries to escape in 1990.

    Rhys Southan also offers:

    You mention the parellel of Cole being sent to the past to find the PURE VIRUS and the Monkey with the sandwhich tied to it being sent down the well to find NOTHING, and Jeffrey Goins supports you when he rants "We're all Monkeys", and maybe I'm over analyzing things, but at the party for Jeffrey's scientist father, one of the guests says after watching the news "I bet the monkey will eat the damn sandwhich himself". Could this also be referring to Cole's not following orders and getting to love the "dying world" and succombing to the belief that he is in fact crazy with help from direct input from Dr. Railley and indirect input from the patients(Jeffrey:"You can't turn back time! You can't make it be yesterday!" Black Patient from Planet Ogo:I'm mentally Divergent. Are you mentally divergent too?")?

    Here are some parallels between 12M and Brail from brm@full-service.Stanford.EDU (Brian R. Murphy):

    When Cole awakes in bed and hears music, sees an idyllic scene, which is disrupted by the appearance of the scientists humming, this parallels the final end-of-torture scene in Brazil ("we've lost him").

    Cole and Railley go into the department store running from the police, which is somehow reminiscent of the department store scene in Brazil, followed immediately by

    A van full of men clad in black with a final man pulled into the van wrapped in some sort of bag-like restraining device. In Brazil it is Sam being arrested by the police; in 12 Monkeys it is Goines's father being kidnapped by the animal rights terrorists.


From The Future?

  1. Is the Medieval preacher from the future?

    David Mastroianni speculates:

    People have also suggested that the medieval-looking preacher is a time-traveler, which might be true. He might be the Medieval prophet Railley mentions in her lecture.
  2. Is the "insurance" woman on the plane from the future?

    Most Likely. For one thing, she is the same age as the woman on the panel of scientists; otherwise she would appear nearly 40 years younger on the plane.


Hey! Wait A Minute

  1. Why doesn't the young James Cole contract the virus at the Airport?

    From what I've learned of viruses (and from my wife who majored in Molecular Biology), exposure is not binary; there are various levels of exposure to a virus, and infection is not guaranteed at all levels.

    David Mastroianni speculates:

    A lot of people have figured that everyone in the airport contracts the virus, so Cole must contract it as a little kid, but his survival means he's immune, so then the other survivors are probably immune. I don't buy this though. We don't know that the virus is that easy to catch, I mean, if it was a cold virus I would be very surprised if everyone in the airport had contact with it, I just don't think colds move that fast.
  2. When Railly finds the toothless bum and tries to get information about James, why does he act like he doesn't know what she is talking about?

    Chris Erickson offers:

    When Railly shakes the man trying to get him to tell something about the wherabouts of James, he doesn't understand at all. This is probably just because the guy has never heard of anyone named James, he just thinks he knows "Bob."
  3. The young James Cole sees himself as an older man at the Airport; isn't this a continuum loop?

    Steve van der Burg offers:

    Think of it from Cole's point of view:

    He's born; at 8 years old he goes to an airport and sees a man killed there; a virus kills most of the population, but he survives and becomes part of the messed-up society that lives underground; at 40+ he travels back to the airport at the moment when his 8-year-old self is there, and is killed.

    Cole's life looks pretty linear to me.

    On the other hand, *we* start to see a loop because we see Cole at 8 and Cole at 40+ at the same time, so we run through his life over and over in our minds.

  4. Why does Jose force Cole to go after the virus culprit?

    It may be that the scientists need him to go after the red-haired nut so that they can positively identify him as the culprit.

  5. Why didn't Jose go after the red-haired apocalyptic nut himself?

    Because Jose didn't really know who spread the virus. In fact, it is only after Kathryn Railly tells James that he knows.

  6. What's with the old gun that Jose gives to Cole?

    According to some folks on Usenet, it is a WWI-era revolver. Then again, where did he get it? Most of us certainly appreciate the irony of it being from one of the places that James visited.

  7. Why did Railly say that James Cole looked familiar?

    Because he appears in a WWI picture that she used in her research. After she is told that the bullet from his leg is circa 1917, she finds the picture on her wall and begins to go insane.

    Then again, when Railly looks at Cole with the fake wig and moustache, she says "This is how I remember you," which seems to indicate a deeper explanation.

  8. How could the Lion and Bear still be around the city in the year 2025?

    Good question. The narrative pretty much spoon-feeds us the fact that the animals have taken back the earth, implying that the virus only affects humans. The animals may be decendents of the animals released from the zoo, unless you think that there was plenty of time to recapture the released animals before widespread infection...

    Another perspective is that Cole only imagined them. Remember when he is waiting in front of the department store for Railly? He sees those exact two animals (only stuffed) in the windows.

  9. In one of James Cole's Dreams, didn't the guy running in the airport have the face of Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt)?

    Yes. This is assuredly Cole incorporating things he's learned (in this case from Railly) into his ever-changing dream. Theories have been posted to usenet indicating that perhaps he changes small instances of time, and the dreams reflect this. However, a mini-FAQ by David and Janet Peoples supports the first theory, and I consider that the canonical answer.

  10. How did Railly have time to change her hair color when they go to the Theatre?

    Some have suggested that she just had a wig. However, I think the wig that she bought at the department store was for James, not herself.

    James Pavlovich (pavlovich@sbmm1.ucsb.edu) also offers this:

    I thought it was just a wig also, but my SO just pointed out that she did have the time since Cole had fallen asleep and did not wake up until near the end of another movie, "The Birds". Note that they were watching "Vertigo" originally.
  11. Does the virologist go to seven cities to correspond to the seven golden vials in religous history?

    No. I don't remember them all, but the second time I saw the movie, I deliberately counted when the ticket agent listed them all. There were something like eleven.

  12. What about the teeth? Were they really using the teeth to track people?

    It certainly seems that way. The biggest evidence is that Jose says something like "And you took out your teeth! Why'd you do that, man? You had a full pardon!"

  13. Why does JC still try to kill the guy with red hair if he cannot change the future?

    Well, for one thing, Jose tells Cole that if he doesn't do it, then Jose will kill Railly. Besides, I sort of like the way that even as the wheels of destiny are closing in on him, he still throws himself in front of them.

  14. Does the Insurance lady know she's sitting next to the apocalyptic nut?

    Most likely. For one thing, you can really see the look of distaste on her face. Also, she probably said she was "in insurance" as a pun; most people in the newsgroups think she was there as insurance against James' failing to collect a pure sample of the virus.

    Here is some more detail from Eric M. Bram (gradivus@dreamscape.com):

    About the woman on the plane at the end -- the "insurance" comment probably didn't refer to "in case Cole fails," but in the larger sense of insurance for the future to overcome the plague. The future scientists probably only learned for sure who the carrier was after seeing what happened to Cole (whom he was chasing when he died), and must have arranged her visit afterward.

    Also, I believe that she succeeded in her task by stealing one or two of the virus cannisters from the uniplaguer's carry-on luggage during the flight. My evidence is that the list of places the uniplaguer was planning to visit during the 1-week virus incubation period (as listed by the airline ticket agent) was about 2 cities longer than the list of "places the plague broke out" memorized by Cole.

  15. How does Railly look at the USA Today newspaper and know who the red-haired guy is?

    For one thing, the newspaper picture showed him with Goines Sr, whom she knows to be a virologist, since she called him to warn about the potential danger. Besides, she signed her book at her talk, and he was babbling about how the human race was doomed anyway, and how a virus wouln't be all that bad. Truly an apocalypic nut.


Miscelaneous Elements

  1. Where is the voice coming from, and why does it keep calling him Bob?

    not@work.org (Kilgore Trout) offers the following:

    This movie is deeply involved with psychology -- abnormal, behavioural or whatever. So keep that in mind when you try to understand it.

    My guess is that James (Cole) is standing near the street preacher who is shouting about the biblical wrathe of JHVH against the city of Nineveh or something. The toothless bum notices Cole's distress at hearing about Jonah. The bum is just a typical street person. He just says to Cole "You can't get away from them. No sir ree Bob." and then he smiles his meaningless toothless grin. The rest is auditory hallucination on Cole's part. He incorporates the voice and the name into his nightmare existence. He is stressed out beyond his limits. He was probably borderline schizo in the first place. Later on, the voice is the voice of his thoughts.

    James Cole: Mad Man or Man of the Future???

    saddly, probably both...

    However, Eamonn McManus points out some problems with that argument:

    As I recall, the first time Cole hears the voice is after his first return to the future. He is strapped down after trying to break out of the asylum, and the next time we see him he is also in a cell, but in the future. The voice speaks to him there. This is before he meets the bum.
  2. Goines refers to Cole as Arnold Pettybone at one point.

    Well, a Web search on the name Arnold Pettybone turned up nothing, and neither did my (admitedly weak) CDROM encyclopedia.

  3. Did Siskel change his mind about 12 Monkeys?

    Eric Johnson says:

    In his original review Siskel gave the film ** 1/2 stars (thumbs down) and, in fact, seemed even more negative than that rating might imply. However, last week he changed his capsule review saying that he had seen the film a second time and changed his mind about it. The new rating was *** (thumbs up). The new rating also applies to the most recent episode of S&E television program. (Oh, and the original ratings were from the _Chicago Tribune_, of course.)
  4. Why all the references to the Florida Keys?

    Good observation! They are mentioned in the insane hospital and on the radio, and on T.V., etc. In a National Public Radio interview, Gilliam said something to the effect of this:

    He was sitting on the beach at sunset with 'his girl' and was having a great time when he started to question whether he was truly enjoying it, or whether he was manipulated by all the advertisements telling him that this is what one should enjoy.

    Dave Cole (dcole@yallara.cs.rmit.EDU.AU) adds:

    Did you notice the song that always accompinied the ad on TV or radio?? "Sleepwalk". Could this allude to something - ie, doing something subconsciously (ie, in JC's case, creating an alternate reality)?
  5. Are there any other clever details in the movie?

    dmac@primenet.com (Duncan McAlester) noticed:

    As Cole is arguing/talking with Jose on the escalator in the airport the announcer on the PA system says "Volunters boarding at Gate 38".

    Also, sokratys@nando.net (walker) points out:

    And isn't it amazing how the board of scientists are mirrored by the board of psychiatrists in the mental institution. The same number of people (same mix of gender too) separated from him in his chair by a single long table? The two prision guards, and the two guards in the institution at the inquiry?
    Rhys J Southan :
    Also, on the PA speaker in the mall, a woman says something about the "UNDERGROUND parking lot".

    Rhys also points out Cole sees a statue of an Angel when he and Railly are shopping for the wig; he has seen this statue when going through the ruins of that mall in the future, and that the Marx Brothers film in the asylum is Monkey Business .

    vhm@columbia.edu (vaibhav mangrulkar) and Ed Geles (egeles@eden.rutgers.edu) found this:

    did you notice: the twelve looney guys sleeping in the circle in the insane asylum refer to the twelve monkeys on the logo?

    Andy Corvin (corvin38@potsdam.edu) says:

    As Cole is escaping from the asylum in 1990 there is a point where guards are approaching him on either side. From that angle there is also a large "DANGER" painted on the wall. Interesting that shortly thereafter Cole assaults the guards, eh?

    Dave Cole (dcole@yallara.cs.rmit.EDU.AU) discovered these:

    Goof: When JC has been shot, and Railly is crouching next to him, he raises his hand to touch her face. In this first shot, there is no blood on his hand or arm, but all subsequent shots have blood showing.

    The only actor that I noticed who had been in a preivous Gilliam film, was Simon Jones (one of the Scientists - the zoologist I think). He was the man in Brazil who gave Mrs Buttle a receipt for her husband, and had a receipt for her receipt.


    Finally, james dinkins notices:

    When Jose is talking to Cole on the escalator, Cole catches a glimpse of a strange-looking man on the opposite escalator. This is the same man who acted as a security guard reading one of those weird tabloids as Cole passes him to escape from the institution.

    ...And trevorm@lingua.cltr.uq.edu.au (Matthew S. Trevor) adds:

    Actually, the "strange-looking man" is in fact one of the prison wardens from the future. The implication here is that Cole is being watched very closely and can't mess up. As Cole says, "This was never about saving the future. It was always about following orders." (paraphrasing here).
  6. What's with the blue underwear that the guard waves?

    No clue. Just a touch of the absurd to throw us off?

  7. Funny how when Gilliam shows the inner city, it doesn't look much better than the underground, post-apocalypse society.

    Yeah, for real.

  8. James Cole seems to be depicted as a Christ figure

    Scott D Hamilton ( hamiltsd@eckerd.edu ) offers the following:

    Of course he was supposed to die. James Cole was a Christ figure at the end of the film. His intitial are JC. He is supposed to follow orders. He is without sin ("They gave you a full pardon..."), and he is given the means of his destruction by Jose (Judas).
  9. Does Terry Gilliam have a cameo in 12 Monkeys?

    Someone pointed out that they thought so. Can anyone confirm?