From what little I know of the SyFy channel, it is known for its creative – or wacky! – productions. Inspired by one of their more recent miniseries, Alice I decided this was worth a look. Once again, a fantasy lovers dream is nurtured in this crazy six-hour series (or four-and-a-half hours courtesy of the DVD).
Adventure is something that Dorothy Gail (Zooey Deschnel) – or DG, as she is commonly known, is ready to allow for in her life. In fact, she craves something more than the dusty town she has known since childhood. Her life isn’t dreadful but it is far from fulfilling her curious personality. Living with her beloved parents’ on their little farm, her days consist of waitressing and getting caught for speeding on her motorbike. Tired of the fines, she dreams of taking off to fulfill her grand notions. Her mother (Gwynyth Walsh) is worried for DG but it is her father (Kevin McNulty) who seems to understand her best. The two are most suited. It is he who shares some of life’s most valuable lessons no matter how tiring they can be, and whom DG confides most in about the nightmares; one of bears, apples and a woman who is warning DG of a storm. During an unexplained tornado, their home is invaded by cloaked men with guns; the three barely escape with their lives and DG is separated from her parents. Waking up in a forest puzzles DG as do the small dwarf men who suddenly surround her accusing her of being a spy for the “witch.” Captured by these funny little men, DG is met with another surprise when she befriends fellow prisoner Glitch (Alan Cumming), a funny man with half a brain, who still keeps his wits about him. Escaping when the longcoats come searching, DG and Glitch set out for the central road to make it to The Outer Zone, where answers may exist… but DG soon realizes that the witch Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson) is actively searching for her capture…
Coming upon two others in need – former Tin Man, Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough) and the frightened and cowardly Raw (Raoul Trajillo), DG helps their cause but why does the O.Z look so familiar, and what does DG and her supposed knowledge have to do with it? Does the Mystic Man (Richard Dreyfuss) hold the answers, or are the answers inside DG?
Part one ends just as it should. Leaving you trying to catch your breath with the heroine in danger and another protagonist is thought dead, and even more importantly – wanting more. Looking back, I cannot say as I was too impressed with the comparisons this miniseries drew from its inspiration. It is, of course based upon the classic children’s story, The Wizard of OZ. Most new translations of classic material have so much tongue-in-cheek humor as to pay homage to whatever it is modernizing. And the ones that have interested me have been the better for it. I didn’t really “connect” with this re-telling like I did with the re-imagining of Alice. Mainly because, and to be fair, I’ve only seen The Wizard of OZ once as a child. All the links seemed meaningless. However, I did notice several comical remarks which no doubt, were in reference to the classic story (for example, Cain’s comrades constantly reminding him to “have a heart”) and did nothing to lessen the originality of this adaptation.
Not meaning to downgrade the script by any means, I’ll just say that it is a lot of fun. Some of the minor nods to various well-known Hollywood achievements were interesting. “Tin Man” referenced law men in the O.Z, so it was interesting for Cain to have the forename “Wyatt” – who is quite a “cowboy” of a hero. The physical appearance of DG’s three companions to Dorothy’s weren’t totally obvious although, I did think that Cowardly Lion was well-imagined. Cain was given a decent back-story for his “heartless” nature and it was believable to further him while Cumming makes “scarecrow” the “fun” member to the group. The cast played each of their respective players well. Zooey as the heroine is strong-willed and therefore, a different type than we are used too; she doesn’t panic at the first inkling of trouble and instead finds what has been handed to her something meant to be solved… and perhaps answer some questions. Her restless spirit ties into reasoning why she learns that home is where the heart is. The entire supporting cast from McDonough to Robertson was brilliant, really and the two youngsters who played the princesses in flashbacks were simply marvelous.
Being a fantasy feature allows for some material of a more troubling nature to creep in. Right off the top, I’d say if this genre hasn’t been your thing in the past, skip over this. In the end, there is nothing so drastic as to keep avid fantasy fans away. This borrows far too much from Alice or rather Alice borrowed too much from Tin Man. (In my case it seems the other way around because I happened to see the former first.) Much of the plot is devised in similar ways and the heroines share much of the same characteristics. I cannot fault this miniseries to the point of sounding downtrodden because it is boatloads of fun. There is something left wanting about some plot threads, but the creative team was brilliant in many of their assumptions, particularly in the sets and naturally, the costuming. It takes talent to go for a look of old world and modern and pull it off to be attractive. The production staff managed to do just that. All of the sets convey whatever mood we should be in; trepidation, happiness or sorrow and the costumes blend modernism with hints in the style of BBC. Designers used a lot of leather and armor, but the gowns are generally long with feminine touches somehow incorporated with a lot of long trench coats and old weaponry. DG wears the same jeans and jacket throughout but just one small nod to Judy Garland is her waitress uniform which mirrors the iconic pinafore dress and white blouse. The ending is satisfying, but I also don’t think it realized its full potential. Fantasy leaves so many more doors open to the crew and director because it is pure imagination and I think in combination with its original concept, Tin Man is destined to become a classic in a class all its own.
(Be aware: Too many creatures to count appear out of no where, threatening their prey. All sorts of magic is implemented; one woman has a line of tattoos across her upper chest, images that come out of her skin at will, she also can kill a person by seemingly sucking the life out of them , another gives her powers in much the same way to save someone dear to her. A witch inhabits the body of a young girl, twisting her mind. Many men wield swords and use them when their mistress commands it. [None of the results are overly bloody.] There may be a swear word here and there. There are no sex scenes or much else in a sensual way, but women do wear many form-fitting, shear and low-cut gowns. In order to get information, someone enters a type of brothel where it is implied the madam also provides a “phone sex” operation.)