Feb 25, 2010

[TV] Tin Man (2007)

Tin Man (2007)The realm of children's fairy tales are an amazingly rich source for works of high fantasy, horror and even science fiction. Think about it - we're taken to so many amazingly surreal worlds in such stories and it's a small wonder that we don't come out somehow damaged given the kind of books we read while we're young. Even "nonsense" books like Dr. Seuss certainly push the mind into new directions where we're made to accept fantastical creatures and strange animals and locations.

Thus it's no surprise when modern day writers and movie makers decide to explore such timeless tales in order to see how they can use the existing material to present new and exciting stories of a different variety. Some of these ventures have been quite interesting and refreshing while others have been total snorefests that make us curse Hollywood for trying to destroy our happy memories of childhood.

I'll always feel that it takes a lot of guts to try and reimagine such classic stories and it's a small wonder that any movies of this nature still manage to survive underneath our collective scrutiny. But well all know it's going to keep happening and we geeks are still going to give them a shot.

Tin Man is a 6-hour 2007 TV mini-series that was co-produced by RHI Entertainment and the then Sci Fi (now SyFy) Channel. It's partly a reimagining of and a sequel to the classic story The Wizard of Oz and does a nice job of taking elements of the original story and combining it with modern fantasy and science fiction elements to come up with a pretty intense story.

AzkadelliaImage via Wikipedia

The story is centered around DG (Zooey Deschanel), a small-town waitress and part-time student from Kansas who never quite fits in with the others. She is plagued by these visions of a woman calling out to her and warning of a coming storm. These dream become reality when soldiers from the land of the O.Z. (or the Outer Zone) invade their farm via tornado in an effort to take her back with them. She narrowly escapes them but is forced into the vortex by her parents in order to send her to the O.Z. to fulfill her destiny. Along the way she meets a diverse crew of individuals who have all lost something because of the evil reign of the wicked witch Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson). They consist of a man who has lost half of his brain named Glitch (Alan Cumming), a former law enforcer who had been imprisoned in an iron suit for many years as a prison named Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough) and a lion-like Viewer named Raw (Raoul Trujillo). Together they travel across the O.Z. in search of the secrets of DG's past and in order to escape the relentless pursuit of the witch queen Azkadellia.

What I first loved about this mini-series was the effort put into making subtle references to the original Oz tale without requiring the characters themselves to embrace such a paradigm. Thus you end up with some pretty enjoyable small touches and quaint moments like when you see DG in her waitress outfit that looks a lot like the original dress of Dorothy in the original movie or all the banter about Wyatt being without a heart and Glitch being without a brain just like the Tin Man and the Scarecrow in the original tale.

Most of the acting was solid and Zoe really worked out as a great actress to play the lead role given her ability to remain largely innocent while asking rather difficult or awkward questions when under fire. Alan Cumming came off a bit too much like Michael Jackson, but that still worked for his concept and Neal McDonough was surprisingly good as the "Tin Man" despite his often strange roles in the past. Plus the young actresses Rachel Pattee and Alexia Fast were really amazing as the young DG and Azkadelia respectively - great performances at such young ages.

I wasn't all that impressed with Kathleen Robertson though - he performance as the main villain was a tad inconsistent, and I mean that in a bad way despite her character. Or maybe it was just her gold costume that was really distracting me - I started to appreciate her more in the last two parts when she started wearing better-looking and yet still menacing outfits.

Of course the real meat here is the story and I did like their vision of the world of the O.Z. Sure, there were parts that dragged a bit or weren't too clear how they fit in the rest of the story, but overall I really enjoyed the plot and found the story quite compelling. Plus its very rich musical scoring really helped drive the mood for the series and kind of made me wish that they had expanded this into a full TV series and not just a limited one. There's so much of their version of the OZ universe that warrants further exploration in a future creative effort.

I think what also worked for the show is how they chose not to have the characters being self-aware that they were in the story of OZ. The more recent SyFy mini-series, Alice, tried to use this knowledge to a limited degree but eventually had the characters remain completely ignorant of the story. Here they were always ignorant and yet their progression did hint at echoes of the original, which totally worked for me.

The whole thing was trying to build up to a rather epic climax, and it attempted this rather well although in the end it did suffer from some Act 3 issues. All the same, it was still a rather great story and one that I enjoyed as far as reimagination movies go.

Tin Man gets 4 subtle OZ references out of a possible 5.



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