Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, July 1, 2013

Miniseries Review:Tin Man

Well if I'm going to do this I might as well start from the start.

Look do you know how many times the Wizard of Oz has been a thing? And people love it. Probably because of the nostalgia for a certain 1939 movie that is almost required Easter Sunday watching along with the movie about the lawgiver. Why do the movies never get into the 40 years of wandering.

Anyway they remake and retool that story a lot and my favorite is Tin Man,  a 2007 Sci-fi channel minseries .

Let me bottom line my thoughts. Lots of good ideas trapped in a flawed execution. I mostly respect Tinman for what it was trying to be rather than what it was, ambitious unapologetic science-fiction. Are you ready for some steampunk.

The problem is that in order bring the ambitious vision to the small screen they decided to 300 it. Don't get me wrong it looks beautiful, but it's also clear that a lot of the actors didn't really know how to act against the green screen and so things get a little weird. Furthermore some of them were miscast. I get why Zooey Deschanel was chosen.

But here she's constantly set on dull surprise.

The Good Ideas
Okay so as I said this is the Wizard of Oz, but a different Wizard of OZ. Meaning that it's recognizable as itself but it's also something else. And that sums up all the individual elements of the show.

The first episode more or less plays the story straight but with a few differences.

See we know the story. We know Oz, which normally kind of takes away from what is suppose to be this wierd out there place, but because here we feel like Oz is so familiar the show keeps surprising you by the choices it makes with the story, the characters, and the setting.

Despite that every element is recognizable as itself. D.G. is Dorthy Gale, and depending on how you look at it Glinda. Glitch is the Scarecrow, Cain is the Tinman, and RAW is the Lion.

All of those differences eventually start to make the world, the O.Z. becomes cool again.

Most retellings of the Wizard of Oz fall flat because they run like a check list. We have to have these characters and places because without them it wouldn't be the Wizard of Oz. Here with the exception of some referential dialogue, they all feel like they're here because of the backstory. And all of them have a backstory. Every character has a reason for being where they are and who they are.

But like I said this is a different Oz. This is the Outer Zone. A lot of aspects of the characters get broken up reconstituted and put back together. For instance in this show the Wizard, The Wicked Witch and Glinda get split between two people each. And that can come as a shock. When you think you've got the place figured out it can throw you for a loop.

To explain further I think I'm going to have to start talking about the differences in the plot so spoilers. I'll try to make them white so if you want to see them highlight them.

Things start to go differently right around the third act of the original so lets recap,

The characters reach the Emerald City where the Wizard tells them he'll help if the defeat The Wicked Witch.

That happens and the Wizard who is really a two-bit hustler goes about solving everyone's problem except Dorthy's and then Glinda comes tells her she could have gone home all along.

Well here. Our Glinda the Good, and Wizard aren't in a position to do that. See in the original movie at least the witch is portrayed mostly as a nuisance. Sure she's the source of all the story's problems but apart from that she's mostly just interested in ruining people's day. And getting revenge for her murdered sister.

Here she's the overlord. The Wizard's on the vapors and Glinda, the elder Glinda, is trapped in a pocket universe.

Ousting this witch is going to take more than a bucket o' water.

And this is where the story starts to become something else. The basic story of the has been told  by the end of the first episode, but, the problems haven't been solved. The Tinman's "heart" is still gone. Glitch  our scarecrow, still doesn't have a brain.  And Raw still has the problem that requires him to nut up, his family has been kidnapped by the witch. For the girl wanting to go home well Oz is Dorthy's home, she is actually the princess of O.Z. daughter and successor to the other Glinda character.

And like in the original The Wicked Witch is the cause for all of it.

And when you think on it, it all makes sense. As I mentioned the Wizard's always been of questionable help and Glinda was a walking deus ex machina. The biggest joke for my generation of Oz watchers is that she's kind of bitch for not letting Dorthy go home from the get go.

Anyway, the story folds in on itself and through some trippy exposition becomes a plausible sequel to the original. This witch has been possessed by the spirit of the original who has learned from her mistakes. We're looking at an Oz without the Great and Powerful and Glinda to keep the Witch in check.

So, for the most part the witch is a competent villain. Not quite genre savvy, but definitely less cartoonishly evil than "Wicked Witch" would imply. Good villains need menace, and as a sci-fi guy I have to say sorry green paint isn't enough. This witch on the other hand can bring the menace.  "Did she just eat the wizards soul?"
Anyway back to the point I was circling around. The story you know is only the half of it. There are lots of really good twists and turns.

That said it's not just the movie they used as a source the books, and Wicked. They know their way around Oz.  And that knowledge comes together to  bring forth a lot interesting aspects of the place that haven't immigrated into mainstream pop culture.

Beyond that, the place looks amazing. Oz looks fantastical again.

The Flawed Execution
Well for starters the script could have used another pass. A lot of the dialogue only exists to make reference to the original. We have to have the witch say, "I'll get you my pretty." And it gets old quick. The story itself makes enough reference to the original...s, they they didn't have to beat anyone over the head with it.

Even the dialogue that isn't can feel a bit stilted. I don't know if it was the actors or the script but well we get some robotic stuff here.

On top of that there are a lot of cliches to this plot. And I'm not just talking cliche because it was already done in the original. I mean there was better way to deal with some of this stuff than the way they did.

Like I said in the Hook Paradox my favorite of series of miniseries this is a part of Alice, because in a lot of ways the creators learned. It has the same basic plot but with a mirrored sheen instead of colored but I'll get to it in a bit later.

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