When I was a kid, one of the major networks (I can’t remember which one, but we didn’t have cable, so it had to be one of the Big Three) aired The Wizard of Oz once a year. It was always an event at my house. We would adjust the foil-capped rabbit ears to optimize the picture and settle in for an evening of entertainment. Eventually, we got a VCR (I know, what’s that?) and bought The Wizard of Oz on tape. However, when the time of year rolled around for it to air on TV, we would still watch. It didn’t matter that the film was strewn with commercial breaks or that we could have watched it without interruption on VHS. There was something special about watching it on television. Maybe it was the feeling of a shared experience with other viewers around the nation who were watching the same thing. Or perhaps it evoked a sense of nostalgia and tradition. It could be that then, as now, I was a sucker for just about anything on the old tube. Your pick. Whatever it was, I was drawn into this film every time it was on.
There was something so special about The Wizard of Oz. The film just oozes classic Hollywood—with the remarkable cast (some of whom had “classic” Hollywood off-screen drama), the rich technicolor, the catchy tunes, and a story about a small-town girl who travelled a great distance only to realize that there is truly “no place like home.” I absolutely loved this movie. Now, I don’t know if the network stopped airing the film or if I just stopped watching, but I haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz in several years. Thus, fueled by either homesickness or my fondness for Alan Cumming, I decided to give Tin Man a whirl.
Tin Man is a miniseries from the Sci-Fi Channel before they changed their name to the irritating: SyFy. Seriously, it’s annoying. Like vegan “mylk” or “cheeze.” Argh! Why the odd spelling? Just call it something new instead of effing with a real wyrd. But I digress, as usual. Based on The Wizard of Oz, Tin Man offers a twist to the classic tale. Zooey Deschanel stars as DG, a small town waitress who is thrown into a world of trouble when a tornado dumps her in the outer zone, or “O.Z.” (yes, I expected spoiled rich kids to be shooting a “reality” show in this alternate world, but they never showed. There was probably bad traffic). DG discovers that the O.Z. is ruled by an evil sorceress, Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson), and that she may have the key to saving this world. DG teams up with Glitch (Alan Cumming), a man who literally lost his brain; Cain (Neil McDonough), a former “tin man” (cop) who lost his family; and Raw, a creature with the ability to read minds but who is quite fearful. Together, they embark on a quest to find an emerald which is the key to stop evil from engulfing the land.
The three-episode series definitely puts a spin on the classic tale. While only 60 (or so years) seems to have passed in the “real” world; 800 years have passed in the O.Z. since Dorothy viciously murdered a witch with a house just so she could have a pair of shoes (they weren’t even Manolo Blahnik). I found the story to be imaginative, funky, and fun. Although I am not well-versed in the genre of steampunk (I just read my first steampunk novel, Mortal Engines, a few weeks ago), I get a steampunk vibe from the tone and look of the series. The world is a mix of science and technology, of old and new; and that works. It’s got a cool feel and I love that it is a little wacky. Tin Man constantly references The Wizard of Oz in both obvious and subtle ways. I made a little game of trying to pick out as many of these allusions as I could. Try it, you’ll like it.
Not only is the story unique, but the series employs a quality cast as well. As I have said before, Alan Cumming is an awesome actor and I found him to be spot-on in his role as Glitch (essentially the scarecrow). I also love the way his wardrobe and hair are styled. It reminds me of 1980s Michael Jackson and I wonder if this is a reference to The Wiz (Hmm. Haven’t seen that. Perhaps I will add that to my queue). When I saw he was in the film and that it wasn’t a musical, I was slightly bummed. I mean, wouldn’t it have been awesome if he would have busted out “Floop’s Song” or the like? Oh well, I lived. McDonough delivers an awesome performance of a Tin Man seeking revenge for the loss of his family (though I was a little disappointed he didn’t go back to his early acting roots and play a cannibal).
And while I loved most of the cast, I was a bit underwhelmed by Zooey Deschanel. I could perhaps still have a bad taste in my mouth because of The Happening, but I somehow expected more from her in this. I don’t know if this is due to the direction of the series or if it is an issue with acting, but I felt that the character had a very narrow range of emotion. The go-to shot seemed to be her looking wide-eyed up at something. Yes, she is an unbelievably beautiful person, but I would have liked to see some depth with the character. DG appeared very indifferent with her situation. When she met Glitch for the first time—a character who literally has a giant zipper down the center of his head—she is not the least disturbed that his zipper (the one on the head, not the “barn door”) was open. Personally, that would have at least thrown me for a loop and I may not have been so nonchalant about everything. I guess being that this was the main character, the hero of the story, I wanted more from her.
Some of the choices in direction also seemed a bit off. Many shots were blurred and distorted. Yes, I realize that is often done to disorient the audience or to give perspective into what the character sees; but often it was done for no real reason. Additionally, the effects were a bit hit or miss with me. Some of them looked decent (like the flying monkeys), while other seemingly simpler effects were of a lesser quality. Maybe they spent the effects budget on a few key shots, but I would have preferred consistency.
On the whole, I liked Tin Man. I loved how imaginative the series was and really appreciate the new spin on The Wizard of Oz. It made no attempt to remake the film, but instead tried to work in the same vein as the classic film. It’s a fun, fantasy series and I am happy I (finally) took the time to watch it.
Thanks for reading and have a merry old day!
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