L. Frank Baum is either rolling over in his grave or smiling benignly as his heirs roll in royalty after royalty from the "reimaginings" his singular creation of Oz has undergone over the past several years. We've had not only the book and musical "Wicked," which retold the story of Oz through the eyes of the Wicked Witch, who was, of course, not really wicked, just misunderstood. And now we've been given this SciFi Channel miniseries, which transports the story to a magical futuristic realm where only the vestiges of the original story and characters can be glimpsed under the shiny patina of special effects and flashy production design. Unfortunately, like the title character in this fitfully entertaining enterprise, Tin Man lacks what the original Oz stories had in abundance: heart.
Zooey Deschanel portrays D.G. in this version, a young adult who finds herself whisked into the alien world of O.Z. (the "Outer Zone") by a tornado. There she soon is joined by supposedly new, improved versions of Baum's originals, including Alan Cumming as a literally zipper-headed rebel who's had his brain removed (the Scarecrow, in case you've been living under a rock), Raoul Trujillo as Raw, an empathic lionesque figure who evidently channels Bert Lahr, and Neal McDonough as the title character, which in the patois of this version means a policeman. Richard Dreyfuss does his patented overacting as the Wizard, in this case a drug addled visionary known as the Mystic Man. Acting honors in this version actually belong hands down to Kathleen Robertson as Azkedellia, the ostensible Wicked Witch (in a perhaps unintended hommage to Gregory Maguire's "Wicked", once again misunderstood, albeit more like Linda Blair in The Exorcist). The plot of this version finds D.G. attempting to find her long lost mother while simultaneously seeking to thwart Azkedellia's nefarious plans to achieve world domination of O.Z.
While the miniseries has some fanciful takes on its source material (especially in the relationship of D.G. and Azkedellia, and most especially in the revelation of what turned Azkedellia bad), it's hampered by some frankly uneven performances (Cumming especially seems ill at ease with his role) and
too much style for its own good at times. While the special effects are largely impressive (especially for a television outing), there are only so many CGI effects one can weather before the emptiness at the core of this adaptation becomes glaringly apparent. Some of the adaptative choices, and resultant special effects, are at the least questionable, as when Azkedellia summons forth flying monkeys from a tatoo on her ample bosom.
Purists are going to revile this version of Baum's beloved classic, but those easily wowed by flashy visuals and an acceptable if not inspired storyline will probably find that Tin Man meets muster.
A nice, well defined enhanced 1.78:1 image is for the most part very sharp. There are a couple of moments (notably the attack of the flying monkeys toward the end of the first episode) where the melding of live action with CGI is awkwardly handled, but for the most part Tin Man is nicely rendered.
The stereo soundtrack has above-average separation, though is hampered by a by-the-numbers bombastic score which at times overwhelms the proceedings.
Three fairly standard featurettes augment Disc 2, all as usual culled from the same source interviews and edited into three supposedly distinct areas: the creation the miniseries, an interview with Nick Willing, and interviews with the cast and crew. There's also an equally standard blooper reel.
To paraphrase the inimitable "Yip" Harburg's original lyric for one of the MGM version's classic songs: if Tin Man only had a heart. A big, empty spectacle with the occasional clever idea woven out of Baum's initial threads, Tin Man simply has no emotional resonance. Rent it for an evening's undemanding diversion.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet