I'm happy to say that the SyFy Channel's mini-series 'Tin Man' is one of, if not the best things they've produced. I just got done reviewing 'Riverworld,' a while ago I also reviewed SyFy's reimaging of the Alice in Wonderland story called 'Alice,' and 'Tin Man' blows both of those productions out of the collective SyFy mini-series water. What makes 'Tin Man' so engaging and much better than those other original mini-series? The acting.
Many of these original productions suffer from bland performances. One of the reasons it's so easy to continue watching the lengthy 'Tin Man' is because of Zooey Deschanel ('(500) Days of Summer'). Personally, I could watch Zooey for any amount of time (I admit I've got a crush on her, so what!). Here she's her same goofy, cute self, which goes a long way towards selling the series as a whole. In this re-imagining of the 'Wizard of Oz' story, she plays the part of D.G. (Dorothy Gale),who is transported to the land of OZ (or as the locals pronounce it, "The Oh. Zee"). D.G. is soon thrust into the middle of a battle between good and evil as the cruel sorceress Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson) rules the land with an iron fist, squashing all those who oppose her.
D.G. soon finds out that she may be more entwined with this strange world than she had ever thought. The twist of how the world of OZ has been shaped is an interesting one. This is far from the story of the Judy Garland classic, but it's clever in its own right. The evil sorceress Azkadellia has imprisoned her mother, and is hell-bent on destroying the entire land of OZ. D.G. doesn't know it yet, but she's come to stop her from completing that task.
Mini-series regular Alan Cummings ('Riverworld') appears here as the updated version of the Scarecrow, his name is Glitch on account of the fact that he's missing half his brain (sound familiar?). Neal McDonough ('Traitor') arrives on the scene as Wyatt Cain. Early in his life, Wyatt was known as a Tin Man, the law enforcement of OZ before the sorceress took over.
While much of the series is full of hokey looking special effects and some terribly rendered green screen shots, this is all is so engrossing that it's easy to look past them. It doesn't feel overly cheesy like 'Riverworld,' or that it's trying too hard like 'Alice.' Zooey, McDonough, and Cummings all do a fantastic job creating a believable world. Throw in a few scenes from a truly bizarre Richard Dreyfuss, and you've got yourself a very nice cast of seasoned actors who make watching a low-budget mini-series enjoyable.
Even though 'Tin Man' clocks in at a whopping 260-plus minutes, the running time doesn't feel that long. It's a story that's as easy to get lost in as Zooey Deschanel's bright blue eyes. The 'Tin Man' isn't the best thing you'll see all year, but it might just be the best mini-series from the SyFy channel available on Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Blu-ray version of 'Tin Man' is dubbed a 2-Disc Collector's Edition. The two discs are indeed two 50GB Blu-ray discs. It still comes in a standard Blu-ray green-friendly keepcase with the recycle arrows on the inside, making it a flimsy case for a "Collector's Edition."
Vivendi's 1080p presentation of 'Tin Man' isn't something to get excited about.
There are moments of brilliant clarity and lush color, but when things in OZ turn dark all bets are off. Much, if not all of this series must have been filmed with a diffuse filter giving the image a more dream-like quality. This creates a soft haloing effect around people, while this isn't a technical problem, sometimes the technique can zap detail, and also create a ghost-like double image. For example, the golden shoulder pieces on Azkadellia's dress often times have a double image reflection. Since the entire series has a softer focus, this is the intended effect.
When darkness falls on the land, or when the characters enter a darkened building interior, the transfer really falls apart. Maybe it's the soft focus being used, or maybe the transfer just isn't up to snuff, but blacks are frustrating too look at. Blacks take on a grayish, flat-looking effect that sucks out fine detail. Characters, details, and just about everything else are lost in amorphous black blobs, blending into the background whenever the lights get dimmer. In lower light, all colors become flat and uninteresting. When comparing daylight scenes to darker scenes it's a world of difference. Daytime scenes are full of color, lush greens and deep blues, but as soon as the light fades, colors take on a metallic looking effect that strains the eyes.
High definition isn't kind at all to the cheap special effects that populate the series. From the computer generated flying bats to the obvious green screen backdrops (like the inside of the Ice Palace), the special effects here look like they came from the discount package. This is no fault of the transfer, but they can't go without mention. Overall, you really can't expect much from a low-budget SyFy production, but seriously much of the darkly lit material here is so frustrating it gets harder and harder to watch as the series progresses.
'Tin Man' is accompanied by a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio presentation that is just about as lackluster as its video counterpart.
First the pros, dialogue is always front and center, always clear, even during whispered tones. I was thankful for that, since this is a very talkative series. Ambient sound is present, although not as lively as one would expect, during scenes where the characters are walking through dense forests or a dried up orchard. In the orchard area they are attacked by dog-like creatures that are given some good, albeit subdued, sound effects as they attack from every side.
The musical score isn't given much room in which to breath, however. It's kept front and center, sounds flat, and isn't ported to the rear speakers to give it that encompassing effect. While dialogue is clearly perceivable it still gives off a slight canned sound. It's just not as full-bodied as one would hope for on a Blu-ray release o a newer series. Overall, the sound on Vivendi's release of 'Tin Man' may be slightly above average, but not much. It just doesn't pack that wallop you'd expect to hear, especially from an action/adventure show.
Yes, I do think this is one of the best things that the SyFy Channel has produced. They were able to assemble a strong cast, headlined by Deschanel and buoyed up by experienced actors Cummings and McDonough, and they're really what make this material believable and entertaining. Unfortunately, even though this Blu-ray is quite the upgrade from the previous DVD release, it doesn't fare all that well. The video can be striking at times, but when night falls, crushing commences. Sound doesn't get off too easy either, never entering the world of enveloping sound. The special features are all in standard definition, which is annoying. Overall, I'd say this is a rental at best. I liked it the first time through, but even though Deschanel usually keeps me coming back for more with most of her stuff, I just don't see myself revisiting the show again. It's plenty good the first time around though.