"Tin Man" (2007) Is the Last Great Thing Syfy Ever Did
Tin Man is a miniseries based on the book The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, as well as the film of the same name. It aired on Syfy in 2007, and since then, the criticism has been split down the middle: people either love or hate this miniseries.
As a lifelong fan of The Wizard of Oz -- both the books and the film variations -- I was very excited when this miniseries came out. The fact that Alan Cummings was in it was enough to put me in front of my television screen that night. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, aside from Alan Cummings, the miniseries also features a lot of talent.
I say Tin Man is the last great thing Syfy did because after it was released, Syfy decided to focus on weird, badly written CGI films about genetically enhanced alligators and shark tornadoes. Yes, that is really a thing.
I realize that Sharknado was not supposed to be good, but the fact that Syfy went from something like Tin Man -- a story with interesting characters and a decent enough plot -- to something purposely silly and kitschy is amazing. It's like they didn't care about losing their original audience. I remember the days when it was Sci Fi Channel and the changes on the channel are wild. Should I ever switch to Syfy these days, I always feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone -- and not in a good way.
That being said, here is why I actually love Tin Man.
I thought Kathleen Robertson was amazing as Azkadellia, the sister of D.G. (Zooey Deschanel) who is possessed by the spirit of the original Wicked Witch.
I mean . . . Kathleen actually scared me, and I'm not scared by movies easily. Whenever she came near any of my favorite characters, I was freaking out, hoping she wouldn't suck the life out of them, leaving them a pile of gooey skin.
I'm a writer, and I realize some characters are always too important to die, but still . . . Kathleen was good enough that I forgot about those rules for a while.
Aside from Alan Cumming as Glitch the "Scarecrow," I also loved Neal McDonough as Wyatt Cain the "Tin Man," Richard Dreyfuss as The Mystic Man aka "The Wizard of Oz," and Raoul Trujillo did an incredible job as Raw aka "The Cowardly Lion."
The Story and Lore
Speaking of Raw, I love how Tin Man creativity expands on the lore of this world, while the story itself is also pretty decent.
Raw comes from a race of psychic humanoid lions. They can read people by touching them, can heal people by touching them, and can also work as living projectors, showing memories by touching people and then touching a reflective surface.
Azkadellia used them as a sort of crystal ball to find the location of the Grey Gale, which holds the key to her dark plans.
I also loved that there were androids in this. What people don't realize about the "Oz" books is that they were technically science fantasy, a hybrid of science fiction and fantasy. In almost every book, there's some kind of old-fashioned robot. Tik-Tok comes to mind, one of the first robots to appear in modern literature.
So to have robots appear in this seemed highly appropriate. In fact, it would have been odd without them. I only wish Wyatt Cain had been a real robot, like maybe the "police" in Central City (the Emerald City) were actually robots and thus referred to as "tin men." That would have been so cool.
We could have lived without the subplot about Cain's family. I realize the miniseries is called Tin Man because it's all about the aspects of love: forgiveness, kindness, bravery, and friendship . . . but they could have given Cain a robot-related story that was about love. They didn't need him to be human in order to tell such a story.
Also, I really didn't like the romantic implications between D.G. and Cain. We didn't need that either. It just felt so out of place to me. It would've made more sense for D.G. to fall for Cain's son, but whatever.
All that being said, it shouldn't surprise you that I loved how the story focused on sisterhood rather than romance. One of my favorite things about the film is how it slowly unfolds a story about two sisters and how one was abandoned by the other.
D.G. (Rachel Pattee portrayed the young version) and Azkadellia (Alexia Fast played the child version) were the princesses of the Oz and descendants of Dorthy Gale, the first "slipper." When they were children, they wandered into a dangerous cave -- at D.G.'s insistence -- only to stumble upon the trapped spirit of the Wicked Witch.
I remember this scene terrifying me.
Feel free to laugh, but the Wicked Witch was fucking horrifying. It was especially scary because the girls were trapped. The second they meet the spirit, they both know there's no escaping it. It can move very fast, as well as change shape and form, and it's surrounded by flying monkeys. The ball is clearly in its court.
D.G. was a child and had every right to be terrified. But unfortunately, she runs from the cave, leaving her sister to become possessed by the spirit of the evil witch. Had D.G. stayed, the events in the cave wouldn't have happened: both princesses possessed magic powers of pure light. They were weaker when separated, and the Witch knew that, one reason she purposely frightened D.G. and sent her running.
So Azkadellia wasn't evil after all. She was possessed and was a victim the entire time.
That all of it is D.G.'s fault is a pretty interesting twist. During the first two parts of the film, she is presented as the innocent victim of Azkadellia's relentless pursuit. She is funny, likeable, even daring and brave. She rides a motorcycle and doesn't take crap from anyone, even the cops. But then we get to the end of Part 2 and we learn that it was all just a facade when it's revealed that D.G. was a scared kid who ran and left her sister to be possessed.
In other words, D.G. was not perfect. She was just human and had to come to terms with forgiving herself and trying to save her sister. A more in-depth script could have handled this better, but I suppose it was good enough for a brief miniseries.
In the end, D.G. rescues her sister from the spirit of the evil witch by not running and instead standing strong beside her. The witch pops out several times, trying to frighten D.G. again, but D.G. doesn't budge this time. She apologizes to Az, holds out her hand, and promises not to run ever again. Azkadellia takes D.G.'s hand, and with their combined powers of light, they vanquish the wicked witch together.
Yes, I loved the ending. I'm getting really tired of these classic tale remakes where the leading female character is turned into a tropey warrior princess (Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland or 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, for instance ). There's nothing wrong with warrior princesses. In fact, I was a huge Xena fan when I was a kid (one guess why), but it's just something I'm tired of. It's been done over and over, and what's more, there are other ways to resolve conflicts.
That sounds very Barney-ish, but it's true. So it was a huge breath of fresh air when -- instead of donning some armor and kicking Azkadellia's ass -- D.G. talked her sister down from bringing eternal darkness to the O.Z. She apologized for abandoning her sister and vowed to save her this time -- and she did.
I thought it was a wonderful ending and a wonderful miniseries all around.
© 2019 Ash