Friday, 6 June 2008

Tin Man

Tin Man is a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. What it isn't is a straightforward adaption of the book[1], or the film[2], or even the other film[3]. DG, a feisty 21st century waitress, finds herself in the Outer Zone or O.Z. She meets a variety of companions including Glitch, who has had half his brain removed; Cain, a cop (known as tin men for the tin star they carry), who has been trapped in a metal coffin for years watching a hologram of his wife and son being killed and is consequently fairly heartless; and Raw, a hairy psychic who is generally afraid of stuff, as you might be if you'd been stuck in a dungeon and had your psychic essence sucked out of your head with a tube.

Oz, which was a bit clockpunk, has moved on into the 21st century and become the O.Z. and seems to have gone through steampunk and out the other side into a post-steampunk apocalypse (see this trailer). This, as you might expect, is due to DG's evil sister Azkadellia usurping the throne. She's planning to destroy the O.Z. during the double eclipse, but there's just one thing in her way; she need the emerald.

So anyway, the problems; the O.Z. looks a bit too much like every other Sci-Fi planet or fantasy land, for the obvious reason; it's shot in British Columbia like every Sci-Fi planet or fantasy land. Raw doesn't seem to have character arc to get back his courage (I may have missed this; it's over 5 hours of film). DG's father's name is Ahamo (Omaha backwards), but Zooey Deschanel pronounces this amusingly (as shown in this video).

Things that may or may not be problems: All the knowing nods to the book and the film ("Have a heart Cain", "Lions?" "Tigers?" "Bears!" "Oh my!" etc.) The full on love of Cain (he may be the title character, but does he have to be a hero at everything?). DG always happening to turn up in the right place at the right time (This is based on a kid's fantasy, but still).

Good stuff: When it looks good, it looks really good. The technology looks like it has the clockwork stuff from the books in it's DNA. DG has been prepared for the O.Z. by her father's stories so doesn't spend the entire time trying to go home, and is smart and sassy. Cain's gun, which solves several early problems lets them down. Cain is a real Gunslinger[4]. DG's relationship with Azkadellia gets more and more complicated as it goes on. It's three parts, so we aren't over cliffhangered; it's not crammed into 2 hours which would have been tragic, or stretched into 13 or 22 hours, which would probably have turned it into setting and problem of the week rather than having all the parts moving at once. And the flying monkeys are tattooed on Azkadellia's chest.

Final Score: Seven rounds (2 for each part, and 1 for the finale)

All the videos in one Oztastic player here:

[1] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L Frank Baum, 1900. Being out of copyright it is available from Project Gutenberg for free.
[2] The Wizard of Oz (1939, Dir:Victor Fleming) This is the famous musical with Judy Garland as Dorothy. Here's the trailer, which, I note, has several blatant lies in the voiceover. (Not the claim to Widescreen - that's true)
[3] Or other films as it turns out. Here's a couple you may or may not know of:

The Wiz (1978, Dir: Sidney Lumet) This is also a musical but has all different songs to the Wizard of Oz, and an all black cast including Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as the Wiz. No really and truely. It looks like someone has put the whole thing on Youtube, but I'm just going to link to this song Ease on Down the Road.

Return to Oz (1985, Dir: Walter Murch) Some suggest that this production was something to do with the preventing the expiration of the film rights, others suggest it was just the whole thing of Disney losing it's way in the mid-80s. Either way, here's the trailer. Note that there is a Scissor Sisters song of the same name, based on the Oz books, while at the same time being a remembrance of friends lost to drug abuse; it's an album track and doesn't have an official video, so here's a Doctor Who/Rose fan video with it as a soundtrack.

There's a list of other adaptions on the Wikipedia The Wizard of Oz (adaptions) page which does not half give the lie to the claim in the trailer to the 1939 film that " one has dared the towering task of giving life and reality to the land of Oz and it's people"; I count 5 attempts to put it on film, one of which failed. Also first published 1900, film in 1939; that's 4 generations of children?

[4] Inspired a little by Stephen King's Dark Tower series?

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