This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the first part of the “Tin Man” miniseries on SciFi Channel.
The first time I heard about “Tin Man” was the first time I saw some scenes from the production. We were on the set of “Flash Gordon” just north of the American border near Washington state, and we were given some sneak peeks of the miniseries in the chamber of Ming the Merciless.
All of the Web journalists there were so impressed with what we saw, we asked for them to show it to us again.
The whole concept of “Tin Man,” with its new modern take on the L. Frank Baum novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” actually is quite intriguing, and I have to admit, a far more adult story than what we grew up with in the 1939 classic.
Unfortunately, everyone’s names and places have been MTV-itized, which means “Oz” is no longer “Oz,” but is now “The O.Z.” Dorothy Gale is no longer Dorothy Gale. She’s now “D.G.” And she’s no longer longing to go home … she’s trying to get the heck out of Kansas. She rides her motorcycle, runs away from cops, and is a waitress in a small mom and pop restaurant.
However, a late-night tornado heads toward her house, but it’s not just any tornado. It’s a portal to an alternate world, the “Outer Zone,” and a group of soldiers led by “Battlestar Galactica” alum Callum Keith Rennie (what isn’t this guy in anymore?) come to get D.G. (Zooey Deschanel) and take her away. But before they can, her robotic surrogate parents send her through the tornado and into a new world that is kind of a hiccuped version of Munchkinland.
There, D.G. meets up with her traveling crew, including Glitch (Alan Cumming) — a new version of the Scarecrow who has a zipper on his head where his brain was removed, Tin Man (Neal McDonough) who is not really a robot, but more someone who had to continuously witness the abduction of his family, and Raw (Raoul Trujillo), the new version’s cowardly lion.
They have to go up against a new version of the Wicked Witch of the West, Azkedellia (Kathleen Robertson), who is after an emerald that will give her power over the entire O.Z. And she is chasing D.G. through the many people she meets (including Richard Dreyfuss in a sendup of the Wizard) through the entire first part.
I think the story works well in this, and that the entire perspective of the new Wizard of Oz is more of a way to present the story in a fashion that would appeal to genre fans, if not really the mainstream market. I know some critics ripped into this, and brought back memories of “The Wiz,” but this is not what the producers and writers were going for.
I like how there is a very deep story behind the Outer Zone, and that the characters of D.G. and Azkedellia are far more defined and complex. And it makes you realize that no matter how much you watched the 1939 movie, you’re getting surprises every inch of the way.
I was worried that this would be simply a retelling of the same story with updated, quirky characters. But it’s not. It’s a totally different story set in the same universe, using a few of the basic elements of the classic, but not depending on them at all. In fact, where the 1939 classic ends at Emerald City, we meet the wizard and see the man behind the curtain and have already moved on … and we weren’t even a third of the way through.
What Didn’t Work
I don’t like how the producers and writers tried to create names like we were watching some bad reality show on MTV. “The O.Z.,” “D.G.,” and all that … somewhat cool, but it just seems that someone is trying too hard to be modern. Plus, it reminds me of a very funny bit from “Good Morning, Vietnam” having to do with letters.
I’m not exactly sure there is enough story to sustain this for three parts. The first part moved very slow, and I know I will get angry e-mail about this, but Deschanel’s acting is not impressing me at all. She is delivering lines in a way when I go back and think of it, I’m scratching my head. It’s almost like she’s calling it in, and I think it may have seriously hurt some scenes that would’ve worked out great otherwise.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Tin Man” airs its second part Monday and its third part Tuesday on SciFi Channel. It was written by Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle, based on the book by L. Frank Baum. It was directed by Nick Willing. It stars Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming, Neal McDonough, Richard Dreyfuss, and Kathleen Robertson.
Michael Hinman is the founder and site coordinator of Airlock Alpha. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.