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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

‘Tin Man’ updates Oz with torture and jackboots


Oh, no! I don’t want to see this: Zooey Deschanel hobbled? She is just about the coolest chick ever, like something out of a 1940s screwball comedy come down to us via punk rock. She’s smart and cheeky and funny and has so far refused, as far as I can see, to play the typical arm-candy girl sidekick. So what the heck is she doing in Tin Man? Or not doing, in last night’s Part One?
In a modern update of The Wizard of Oz — no matter how grim and bitter it is, and man, this is some dark stuff — I’d expect Dorothy to be even spunkier and stronger than she was in 1939. But Deschanel’s DG is rather startlingly inert. That’s not Deschanel’s fault — her eagerness for DG to be proactive is palpable; she grabs with gusto the few opportunities she has to do something — but her character is getting dragged along by events rather than making them happen herself. Maybe that’s to be expected from the particular bent of this reimagining, from TV screenwriters Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle (they’re vets of The Pretender and She Spies, among other series): it’s called Tin Man, after all, not DG, so Neal McDonough’s Cain, a former cop — or “tin man” — is dominating, at least in the first episode

The tin men are fascist thugs — Callum Keith Rennie is the best thing about Tin Man so far, as Zero, the head thug. The “scarecrow,” Glitch (played Alan Cumming, also surprisingly subdued), is a dissident who’s been lobotomized into meek compliance. And the wicked witch is an evil queen, Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson), who rules the O.Z. — or “Outer Zone” — with an iron fist. She’s tortured the lion, Raw (Raoul Trujillo), into cowardice — his people are psychics whose power she has systematically abused; and she’s intimidated the wizard (Richard Dreyfuss) into irrelevance: he’s a drug addict working as a nightclub act.

It’s all taking place in a pseudo-retro WWII-era alternate world where jackboots are the height of fashion and repression is the order of the day … which seems to be the reason Tin Man exists in the first place: to turn The Wizard of Oz into something as bleak as commercial cable TV can get away with. That wouldn’t be an issue if what was happening in the foreground was as meaty as the backdrop. But no one who’s seen, say, Star Wars, could have failed to guess, from the opening moments of Part One, that DG was a Luke Skywalker, a powerful child with the potential to threaten a ruling authority being raised in obscurity, being prepared (though she didn’t know it) for her return to her homeland and a battle to save it.

Which leaves just one matter open for suspense: Just how graphic and disturbing will Azkadellia’s torture get?

[Get a recap or watch all of Part One at the official site. Part Two debuts tonight, and it all wraps up tomorrow night with Part Three. I’ll keep watching…]

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  • I thought the first part was really good. The production design, especially. And I like how they’ve updated the Oz universe to make it more relevant and sophisticated, for today’s viewing audience. Renaming Oz to “the O.Z.”, for example, totally reminds me of “The O.C.” (yecch!), but it’s still a humorous change. (Have you figured out what “DG” is short for yet?)

    Of course, I’m also the sort of person who’d just watch Zooey Deschanel read the phone book out loud. She has a lot of screen presence (and AMAZING eyes) and she’s a pleasure to watch.

  • MaryAnn

    I love Zooey too — so I’d really like to see her in a part that takes advantage of everything that’s so great about her. I didn’t see that in Part One. (Oh, and DG obviously stands for “Dorothy Gale.”)

    Yes, the production looks great. But it’s not making me *feel* anything.

  • Hmmm, I’m also ambivalent so far (first day only) Maybe it will get better. I’d have to say that Kathleen Robertson and Richard Dreyfuss are making a better impression than Zooey. The new story is certainly no improvement over the old one, and the old music was way better. Even if the SciFi version gets better over the next two days, I don’t think we’ll be watching this one in 60 years.

  • SSR

    I hated it so much I am not watching tonight.

    There’s no Oz to it at all. And the cheesy stilted dialogue is painful.

    And Alan Cummings is wasted, tragically, as is ZD.

  • Oh, no, Zooey Deschanel is stuck in yet another crappy movie?

    Perhaps that guest shot on “Weeds” wasn’t just a bad career movie after all.

  • I meant “such a bad career move.”

  • Ryan

    Wow, the second part was much better than the first–mostly because they’ve established a truly interesting and formidable villain in Askadelia(sp?) Also a nice twist with Zooey not really being the ‘good guy (or gal)’ per se…but rather the person who has to fix her own mistake which is threatening the O.Z.

    Really hated part 1, really enjoyed this part. Hopefully the conclusion keeps building the momentum!

  • Johnny

    i actually liked the first part .I think its clever how they came up with ways to reference wizard of the oz. The setting is that steam engine technology look. I always been a fan of the industrial revolution. Then Zooey just really makes the whole thing like 50% that much better.She’s the best thing to happen on the sci-fi channel in a long time.She can be the wizard of my oz any day.

  • DG = Dorothy Gale… and the Mystic Man mentioned the “Grey Gale”. Connection?

    I do like how DG is ultimately responsible for everything that’s happened. I wondered how they were going to explain how Azkadellia went from being good to being evil.

  • Ryan

    I don’t know Johnny, I am a huge fan of Zooey Deschanel–she is great in almost every movie she has been in, but she seems to be getting acted off the screen in pretty much ever scene of this mini-series. She just seems Waaaay to ‘low-key.’ Maybe it’s the script. Luckily, Alan Cumming, Neal McDonough, Kathleen Robertson, and Richard Dreyfuss all did a great job in their roles. I even thought the young actresses playing kid DG and Azkadellia did a nice job. Hopefully Zooey can pick it up in act 3 when she comes into her powers a la Peter Petrelli in Heroes.

  • Well, well… so Dorothy returned to Oz and, to quote Syndrome from The Incredibles, got busy.

    Time must flow differently in the O.Z. than it does here on the Otherside… we know that Dorothy first visited Oz in 1939, and DG looks to have grown up in the 1990s/2000s. But based on all of those tombs we saw, it looks like several hundred years have passed in the O.Z. while 60 or 70 years passed here.

    I thought the ending played out pretty well… true evil was vanquished and the innocent were saved. I do agree that no one will be watching this 70 years from now as they do with the original, but it was nice to have a continuation of the original story, rather than a straight up remake.

    Solid effort by the Sci-Fi Channel.

  • MaryAnn

    I was totally bored by it all. It took way too long to get to its ho-hum ending.

    The thing I’m left with is this: Why did so much of the music sound like it was lifted directly from *Stargate*?

  • Yes, overall not worth 6 hours, maybe 2 hours worth of entertainment in the over-long package. It does make you appreciate the original – adding modern conceits like freedom fighters and doomsday machines did not improve the story. The little quotes from the OF were cute, and the acting was generally good, but in the end the worst part was the mixed messages – on the one hand it had a family oriented, feel good message, and on the other hand, they celebrate peaceful characters finally learning to use brutal violence. By far the most ridiculous scene in the whole saga was the scarecrow becoming some kind of mutant ninja – I sure hope that was meant to be funny.
    couldn’t agree more about the music – I guess the low budget had to show up somewhere.

  • Ryan

    I sorta hated the ending. I felt like they were building to some sort of showdown during Part 2 where D.G. would come into her own and confront Azkadellia…but I guess maybe that would have been too expensive in the CGI category. Overall I thought part 2 was decent, unfortunately it was surrounded by a ho-hum beginning and a anticlimactic ending.

    Also, they really did rip off the Stargate music, that is hilarious, I didn’t notice it until you mentioned it!

    I’d say about 1.5 of the 6 hours were worthwhile. Zooey never improved. I don’t think it would kill her to show some sort of emotional range is an actress.

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