What Was the Story of 12 Monkeys Really About?

12 Monkeys, released in 1995, is an incredible science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam. The film is about the predestination paradox (time loop) and time travel, where James Cole goes into the past to stop the Army of Twelve monkeys to save humans from the deadly virus released in 1996.

However, it is still unclear whether the movie is about stopping the guy from spreading the virus or finding the cure to save the remaining humans living in 2035. So, what was the story of 12 Monkeys really about? Let us try to discuss this in this article.

What Was the Story of 12 Monkeys Really About?

In 12 monkeys, a deadly virus released in 1996 wiped out almost all humanity, forcing the survivors to live underground. The film is not, and never was, about stopping the spreading of the virus since no one can and should change the past.

The story of 12 Monkeys is about a mission in which the scientists of the 2030s send a prisoner from the year 2035, James Cole (Bruce Willis), into 1996 to collect a sample of the original pure virus (a nascent plague), which has almost wiped the vast majority of the world’s population.

Scientists and people assume that a group known as the Twelve Monkeys may have released the virus, but the scientists require more evidence and sample to support this theory and create a vaccine to save humans from the life-threatening effects of the deadly virus. 

Some viewers believe that the story of 12 Monkeys is about perception v reality, time travel, and other more-in depth things. Towards the finale, there is a scene where Cole comments about a movie (Vertigo) he knows he has seen before, but it seems somehow different to him.

Still, he concludes that the film is static- it is filmed and cannot be changed, but it does seem different because he (the viewer) has changed, which alters his perception and interpretation of the work.

12 Monkeys is about studying the subjective nature of memories and their effect on perceptions of reality. It is about false memories, including Cole’s recollection of the airport shooting, which alters each time he has the dream.

However, it is up to the audience to deduce what the film is really about and interpret the truth of reality shown in the movie. The film story leans towards time travel with some lightly altering casualty loop with not enough evidence to prove any dramatic change to what could be the original timeline or previous iterations.

It is why the film is about the predestination paradox (time loop) and can be categorized as a psychological thriller because it has been made for the viewer to think about the nature of the characters’ reality. The film might leave viewers with questions and ambiguity because they still might not determine the truth by the film’s end.