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Mini-Series


With Tin Man, the Sci-Fi Channel take on the daunting task of re-imagining the uber-classic The Wizard of Oz in this three part miniseries. DG (Zooey Deschanel) is led into a whirlwind that takes her to the Outer Zone (The O-Z). There she discovers that the sorceress Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson) has the O-Z under her rule and that DG may have more in common with this baddie witch than she could ever had imagined.

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I think I’m actually quite a big fan of The Wizard of Oz and Oz related Oz-ness. I say ‘think’ because it’s not like it’s really something I watch a lot, but I do have quite the soft spot for the original 1939 classic and a great deal of affection for 1985’s much darker Return to Oz, plus I’ve enjoyed any and all Oz related homages from Futuama through to Lost and I recently got very excited about the prospect of this  new animated project, so I guess I’m a fan. At its heart, the The Wizard of Oz is just a very good story, told simply but with a lot more layers to it. I guess it’s sort of ingrained into the movie watching sub conscious from an early age and everybody knows enough about the basics for it to work time and time again.

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So what does the Sci-Fi Channel’s version bring to us that we haven’t seen before? Well for a start it’s got some space to breathe. At four and a half hours in runtime, the Wizard of Oz sandbox has never had so much leg room. Very much along the lines of the Hallmark TV specials that pop up at Christmas, New Year and any long bank holiday weekends, they’ve taken a story that we all know and love and played about with it but rather than merely flesh out elements or take notes from the original source material like Hallmark do, the Sci-Fi channel have totally modernised the concepts into a darker, more modern and fantasy-based Oz.

 Tin Man
The original ingredients are all still here of course. We have our Dorothy Gale—or ‘DG’—who meets some friends on her way to the wizard, or in Tin Man’s case, the Mystic Man (Richard Dreyfuss).We have a forgetful, kind hearted scruff by the name of Glitch (Alan Cumming), who is looking for his brain, an ex Outer-Zone sheriff or ‘Tin Man’, Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough), who has lost his family and is in search of them, and of course we have a cowardly ‘viewer’, called Raw (Raoul Trujillo), who just needs a little courage, all rounding up the classic travellers. Of course outside of that we also get Toto, who is now a shape shifter, the winged monkeys, who are now bats with monkey characteristics called Mo-Bats, that as an added sci-fi twist turn into tattoos that reside on the wicked witch, sorry, sorceress’s always-well-presented cleavage.

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Despite all of the many changes, these classic relationships are all intact. Making the Tin Man a gun-slinging ex cop on the quest for revenge, somehow doesn’t take away what was always there with the classic woodsman Tin Man. Having Alan Cumming play a non-scarecrow who can do roundhouses still somehow retains the spirit of the original scarecrow and having the lion as someone who can read minds actually makes his softness a little more rounded. But what of the bad guys? Making this a darker take on a classic children’s story is always a hell of a risk to take (see the original reactions to Return To Oz as an example), but once again this manages to work despite being massively different to what we all know. I used to be seriously creeped out by the original green Wicked Witch of the West. She was proper nasty and a genuine threat to a young Marcus (and if I’m honest, to one who should have grown up to know better), so when I was presented Kathleen Robertson as the witch here, I was initially worried. Attractive chick with tight costume, tattoos on her cleavage and metal shoulder pads? Please, this could never work. But, y’know what, it did—really, really well.

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The makers of the mini-series cleverly weave the baddie into the unravelling story with as much dedication as they had to making our hero DG the main focus. Azkadellia is allowed to be a classic villain without playing it for pantomime. Kathleen Robertson plays her with such subtlety and underlining sadness taking someone who is notoriously one dimensional and bringing her to life. By the end of the second chapter, I was as compelled by Azkadellia’s tale as I was with DG’s and that is really what delivers the goods in the closing chapter. Unfortunately, to say more about that would give too much away, but I will say that without this much dedication to both roles this project would have fallen flat.

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So, after the four and a half hours, did this re-imagining work? I think it did. It still has that slightly better than cheap TV movie feel to it; it can sometimes feel as if it’s treading water to fill the run time, some of the overacting is a little obvious and there are a lot of times that you wish you were in the original version over the more full on fantasy approach, but despite all that Tin Man has a lot going for it. Zooey somehow manages to make it a little more accessible despite her not being the greatest actress in the world. Strangely, her quirky, slightly off centre, wide-eyed performance as DG makes the fairytale vocabulary around her work a little better. She somehow grounds everything into some sort of reality by just being Zooey Deschanel (thankfully not The Happening version), all of the supporting cast work well and as I’ve said I found Azkadellia to be enough of a backbone for the whole thing to make it worth your time. Yes, it’s still one of those bank holiday watches, and yes, you need to buy into it early on or you’ll find it hard to be won over, but it’s worth a look see for anyone that has ever taken any delight from the world of Oz, despite the fact they keep referring to it as the ‘O-Z’ (Oh Zee), which in all honesty was maybe a step too far.

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Video


Really bland actually. Sure, it has moments that really show off the HD, mainly in the forest scenes with the bright sunshine making the green leaves pop to life off of your screen, but really that’s about fifteen minutes tops in the massive runtime and the rest is really normal. Skin tones hop from being bright and almost technicolor to just normal skin tones, sometimes within a single scene. There are instances of colour blocking, the darker scenes can get a little muddy in places and in all honesty I can’t image that this HD transfer looked much different on television.

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Also the HD transfer really shows off the cheap TV CGI, which can be forgiven for the most part because of the mini-series budget limitations, but it is still very, very obvious all of the time, especially considering the CG elements are so much cleaner than the practical elements in most of the shots.

Audio


The audio mix here does almost nothing to call attention to itself. Considering this show opens with a tornado, has explosions, has scenes in crowded streets and has massive light beams hitting double eclipses in the sky, the only times I ever really felt any sense of real surround use was the birds chirping in the trees in the many forest scenes.

The dialogue and sound effects remain in the front speakers throughout and the music sticks to the backs no matter the amount of people in a scene or how dynamic moments get and all in all this is a pretty un-eventful mix throughout.

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Extras


None at all. The US version was advertised as being ‘loaded with special features, including the 'Making of Tin Man’, but if that was the case it didn’t show up here.

Overall


I’m not sure the Sci-Fi Channel should have made a big thing about this being a re-imagining, considering how this played out with a certain black and white sequence, it could just have easily have been presented as a new tale from Oz, that happened to have a few of the same beats (hell it works for most sequels). That said, I actually ended up enjoying this quite a bit, even if it took at good hour to get me on side.
 
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It may have a very bland audio and video presentation and a total lack of features, but when weighed against the other option of watching this on TV, across a weekend with about a hundred adverts placed throughout, this has to be considered the best way of seeing this, even if it’s just a rental.

Oh and for the life of me, I can’t work out why this is called ‘Tin Man’ other than it’s a Wizard of Oz reference. It’s not like the Tin Man is anywhere near the main focus here. I guess The Mystic Man of the Oh Zee would have turned people away.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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