Jules Verne's Mysterious Island
Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire
Sword of Xanten
DG is a waitress at the local diner, but dreams of getting away from her humdrum life to see faraway and exotic places. She also dreams a dark dream of people and places she does not know and doesn't like. That dream is the one that comes to pass when a cyclone appears, bringing with it men in dark coats who carry guns. The cyclone carries DG off to the O.Z. - the Outer Zone. This is under the influence of an evil sorceress who wants both an emerald and DG. Captured by tree-dwelling creatures, DG escapes in the company of Glitch, a man whose brain has been removed. Together they rescue a cop from his metal coffin prison (the Tin Man of the title) and they, in turn, rescue a psychic man with the features of a lion from deadly creatures. Together, this mismatched quartet head off towards Central City.
Why would anyone want to take on a classic of the stature of THE WIZARD OF OZ, one of the greatest fantasy films of all time? Neither of the two most recent attempts RETURN TO OZ or THE WIZ were able to capture the magic that infuses the Judy Garland masterpiece and let's be honest, the record for Sci Fi Channel home produced shows is patchy.
Well so is this opening first episode, but at least it's patchy on the positive side more often than the negative. First off, it certainly looks the part. Fantasies today have to contain huge vistas of fantastic landscapes crammed full of wonderful, exotic creatures if they stand any chance of comparing to what has gone before recently. TIN MAN certainly delivers on the spectacle front. The twister that descends upon the house is especially impressive, but the Sorceress's castle and Central City are also beautifully realised.
Less well realised are the characters. Zooey Deschanel's DG is a by the numbers fiesty heroine willing to run into a whole bunch of armed soldiers to help someone out. Alan Cumming fails to make his character of a man without a brain work, but you can't really blame him as the character doesn't really work anyway. Raw comes in late in the episode and just looks morose and depressed. The most interesting character is Cain, played with a nice undertone of coldness and suffering by Neal McDonough. This, of course, only first episode and the characters have only just been introduced, so there is time for them to flesh out.
The show is certainly playing around with the format of the story. Already the wicked witch has an army of stormtroopers, DG has a destiny in the O.Z., the lion people can see the future and the Tin Man is a cop. The show is willing to look into some dark places. The punishment handed out to Cain is some very serious psychological torture and Azkadellia's fortune teller faces pain of a more physical kind. Fail the wicked witch and she'll pull a Darth Vader on you.
It's a shame that the munchkins look and act so much like the Ewoks from RETURN OF THE JEDI as this undermines the originality of the show from the start, but the runners are pretty scary. They're certainly scarier than the flying monkeys unleashed in the palace of the Northern Isle, CGI creations that are poorly rendered and badly matted against the background.
The tone is also uneven. What starts out as a fairly straight fantasy detours through a very seriously bizarre encounter with androids and then takes in Central City where the wizard's a junkie, the Tin Man chases his prey through the prostitutes and the wicked witch swears like a trooper. After that, the revelations start coming thick and fast. It's certainly enough to make sure that we come back next time.
DG is trapped in Azkedellia's dungeons where she is being questioned about the whereabouts of the emerald that can grant ultimate power at the time of the eclipse. An old friend from her past helps her escape, but is doing so only so that he can pass messages back to the sorceress about how DG is leading him to the emerald. Instead, DG follows the instructions of the Mystic Man and travels back to a place from her past, a place of memories that have long been surpressed and the truth about how Azkedellia became the terrible witch she is.
This second episode is all about memories, about the importance of remembering who we are and where we came from. Cain learns a terrible truth about his family in a moving moment outside the log cabin where first we encountered him. Glitch remembers the day when the old queen lost her realm and how he came to lose his brain. And DG, well she learns about her relationship with her sister and what happened all those years ago that brought them to this point.
The mystery within DG's memories is played out over the length of the nearly two hour journey and that means that there are moments when you wonder if this isn't unnecessary padding. A side trip to a log cabin with blue smoke and a fearful family within provides a place for Glitch to air his memories, but seems like something that could have been done around a camp fire along the way without the detour. The reveal, though, is done as a slow burn, a drip feed of images that slowly bring us to the full story just before the conclusion, a reveal that casts new light upon the character of Azkedellia, but also on DG herself.
The other big surprise along the way is the fate of the Mystic Man. This is the Wizard of Oz that we are talking about here, so his involvement is surprisingly small, but really rather shocking. Adding a spy into the mix, a supposedly trustworthy ally also muddies the moral waters a bit as well.
There are issues along the way, of course. The dialogue remains clunky and Zooey Deschanel hasn't picked up the gravitas that the role of DG needs in these darker emotional waters. You also have to wonder whether the plot was pruned as the fate of the child from Raw's clan is unresolved and the escape party don't pause to let anyone else out. The flying monkeys remain unconvincing and the twirling doll that sparks off DG's memories is a really appalling special effect.
This second episode has improved on the first, made the story deeper and darker and full of a lot more shades of grey and there can be no doubt that we want to be there at the end.
Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!Top
DG learns that the path to the emerald of the eclipse lies through the man who is her real father. Visiting the land of the outcasts in search of him, the group falls into a trap. DG is rescued by her father and her friends are rescued by Cain's son. Azkedellia, however, is still one step ahead and gains possession of the emerald, sealing DG in a crypt. The eclipse is coming and the evil witch is within hours of plunging the OZ into darkness forever. Can one band of misfits really make the difference?
The yellow brick road from the beginning of Episode 1 to here has been a rocky one at times, but it's proved worth it because all of the plot points finally come together in a final episode that just about gets it all right. There's less emphasis on CGI and the flying monkeys disappear after the first few minutes so there is less to distract from the plot, action and characters.
Sure, there's a world changing event to prevent and obstacles to overcome along the way, but don't be fooled - this is a story about family, a soap opera writ large on a fantasy background. DG finds her father at the same time that Cain finds his son. The queen is reunited with her love and the battle is on between a fearsome witch and a tough young woman not only for the fate of a kingdom, but for the soul of a sister. There are surprises along the way for the characters (the turnaround in having DG buried alive, Cain's saving his worst enemy from his son) and it all leads to a climax that manages to be exciting and action-packed despite being utterly predictable.
It's not all plain sailing, of course. As well as the dodgy CGI flying monkeys, the big build up to the meeting with the grey gale (that's Dorothy Gale from the original film - in monochrome geddit?) leads only to a damp squib that makes you wonder why they bothered. DG and her father fly all night to find the hiding place of the gale and yet Toto manages to run the distance and back in a matter of minutes (seemingly). The evil witch, when she finally appears, isn't so much scary as in need of a good dentist.
These are quibbles though, because the story rattles along, the final mysteries are revealed and everything gets wrapped up quite neatly.Top
If this page was useful to you please sign our