Trends in Literature
Monkeys Food for Thought: After the Movie
from: Bucephelus. “Twelve Monkeys.” <http://members.tripod.com/~Bucephalus/index2.html>
The plot of 12 Monkeys can be quite intimidating to
one who is not too used to the plot complexities in some films and novels
(especially science-fiction). There are still some unanswered questions to mull
over. Work in small groups to analyze the film. You will receive a discussion
grade for your smart analysis.
- Characters. Choose one to discuss. If time permits, move on
to discuss others.
- What is Jeffrey Goines’
role (if any) in causing the end of the world?
- A real question could be brought up regarding
Doctor Railly's past. When she first meets
Cole, she keeps wondering if she has met him somewhere before. In the
scene where James and her go to the movie
theater to put on their disguises, he awakens and leaves to find her.
When they meet, she looks at him and says, "This is how I remember
you." At what point in the movie or time continuum would she see
James like that (other than the end scene which occurs later)?
- The bums Cole and Railly
encounter when searching for the Army of the Twelve Monkeys support
either theory. Cole hears a man talking to him from one of the stalls in
the “present.” The man's voice is the one he later hears on the street
from the bum. In both cases he calls him “Bob.” He lets him know that he
fooled the scientists’ plans to monitor him by pulling his teeth, which
held trackers. Cole walks away mumbling, "They don't have to spy on
me. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing." In the same scene, an end-of-the-world street-preacher/bum calls after
him, “You’re one of us!” Was Cole really a man from the future, or was he
insane? Explain how each supported by his encounter with the bums. Also note how the
teeth appear again at the end when we learn that James already had his
- Some critics say that there is religious symbolism
at work in Twelve Monkeys. Some say James Cole (or J.C) is sent to save
the world from the apocalypse, and others say Jeffrey is the Christ
figure as a savior of the animals, and his father is God. According to
other sites on religious connections within 12 Monkeys, James Cole
is Jesus Christ, Jeffrey Goines is Judas
Iscariot, Kathryn Railly is Mary (Jesus'
Mother), the Apocalyptic Street Prophet is John the Baptist, and Dr.
Leland Goines, Jeffrey's father, is Satan…
Analyze the characters through this lens, finding proof that supports
- The virus carrier with the red hair gets his
tickets checked out at the airport desk. The teller says, "This is
some trip you're taking," and he responds smoothly,
"Business." Railly says, "Dr. Goines’ assistant, he's an apocalypse nut." Why
does she say this? Does he intend to end the world? Why or why
- Other points?
- Themes. Choose one to discuss. If time permits, move on
to discuss others.
- Discuss how the film makes us contemplate
dreams/insanity vs. reality/sanity. It is possible to say that Cole was
insane the whole film. Using that idea, nothing is what it
seems; Cole's insanity could have bred delusions, these delusions
composing the entire film. Or, Cole could have been a time-traveler and a
- As far as we know, time is linear, and nothing
can change that. Yet, James Cole sees himself die. Is his life linear or
is he stuck in a time loop? Decide as a group and provide reasons for
your answer. Examine his life, death, travels, reoccurring dream and
other elements to help you formulate a thesis.
- Examine the phone calls made. One James makes is
a wrong number. James makes a phone call, using
the number he was given in case he had to contact the people of the
present/future. He leaves a message telling them that the Army of the 12
Monkeys is just "a bunch of dumb kids playing revolutionaries."
He also says that he did his job (debunked the 12 Monkeys myth), and he
"won't be coming back [to the future]." Railly
also makes one. What is significant about these calls and how do they
play into the overall themes of the movie?
- Analyze the apocalypse nature of this film. For
instance, the final scene shows the Apocalyptic Nut on the plane, seated
next to none other than the female scientist of the future. She
introduces herself as Jones, who's "in insurance." The meaning
of this could be that she is here as an "insurance policy" just
in case Cole didn't manage to locate the virus. One might speculate that
she steals one of the vials to obtain a pure sample of the deadly virus.
Or, is she part of the end of the world? Or an ignorant bystander?
presents a talk on the Cassandra Disease, which is based on the Greek
mythological character Cassandra who was given the gift of prophecy but was
also cursed to never be believed. How does this relate to the movie?
- Other points?