“Tin Man” – a SciFi Channel’s original miniseries – tried to put a modern, darker spin on a classic tale by L. Frank Baum. But, as it often happens, good idea does not equal good execution.
Despite the series lasting only around four and half hours, “Tin Man” still manages to drag with predictable plot and characters behaving as if on autopilot. It’s not that some of the actors don’t try – Alan Cumming and Callum Keith Rennie (Leoben from “Battlestar Galactica”) actually pull a pretty decent job – but the script simply doesn’t give them much to work with. On the other hand, Zooey Dechanel – who plays the main character – mostly looks dazed and confused.
They say that the story is only as good as it's villain and the character of Azkadellia definitely lacks charisma. Although she's evil sorceress cliché straight out of sword & sorcery, the writers tried to make her more interesting by adding some nice little details, like her shifting moods and the way she holds "conferences" by whispering to herself. Kathleen Robertson nevertheless doesn't really leave much of an impression, even with the monkeys flying out of her magical tattooed cleavage.
As for the "modernization" of the story, the results are equally mixed: while the treant-wolves and portable torture chambers are pretty cool ideas others, like Central City or the interior of Azkadellia's tower, are ripped straight out of other, better movies. But by far the worst touch is the lackluster "hipstering" of names, like changing the Oz into O.Z. (Outer Zone) or Dorothy Gale to DG.
If the creators really wanted to make Oz grim and gritty, they should have took a cue from 1985's movie “Return to Oz”. There, Dorothy’s stories about Oz get her into lunatic asylum. She does manage to escape to Oz, only to find herself hunted by headless witch that collects and changes her heads as easily as hats. Now, that stuff scared the hell out of me as kid!
Other decent alternative to “Tin Man” is definitely “Neverwhere” – a six-part British miniseries that amply demonstrates you don’t really need a big budget with a mad genius like Neil Gaiman writing you a screenplay. Then there are some delightfully dark fairy tales like Del Torro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” or Jenuet’s “City of Lost Children”. Finally, you can always check out the movies “Brazil” and “Dark City” from which “Tin Man” definitely took some inspiration in it’s retro/modern set design.