Tit, er Tin Man

19 03 2009

I thought, “Eh. I’m being too judgmental. Not all Sci-Fi channel miniseries can be totally terrible.”

“That Dune miniseries wasn’t all that bad. It was way more faithful to the the book than the David Lynch movie. Even though it wasn’t as visually inventive or campy.”

With this self-denial tucked at the front of my palate, I watched “Tin Man”, the Sci-Fi Channel’s miniseries revision of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.

If the bleary end of that sentence didn’t make it clear, this was a terrible decision on my part. I want those 6 hours back.

Now understand, this Tin Man was sneaky. I looked at the cast list: Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming, Richard Dreyfuss… not exactly lightweights. And I am a big fan of the Fairuza Balk-starring “Return to Oz” film–it combined just the right amount of psychodarkness with the same childish awe as the books on which it was based. This series seemed to adopt the same general idea.

Alas, this miniseries did stupid shit like randomly start sentences with “alas”. It also proved that decent ensemble acting calibre cannot make up for a ridiculously wooden script. Zooey Deschanel is darling incarnate to self-effacing ex-hipsters like myself, but her listlessly-written “DG” character, despite being the ostensible Christ placeholder, evinced about as much depth and strength of character as a fencepost. Bet you can’t guess what “DG” stands for.

Maybe these actors realized how inane the writing seems, and thus gave their phoned-in performances to avoid putting too much of themselves into the frankly cheesy script.

And it’s not just the writing. During a scene in which Dreyfuss, the retooled Wizard aka “Mystic Man”, staggers around in a cantina and shares his “vapor” addiction with a nightclub-sized audience, I realized what had been bugging me about the look of the series. The visual design seems to be a haphazard potpourri that resulted from a producer or director’s request that the art director and production designer “make it look funky and cool, you know, really hip. But also dark.”

Unfortunately the product that resulted was a visual design that, while filled to the brim with imaginative details and interesting bits, lacked any semblance of a unifying principle or idea, other than “make shit look kinda bleak”. As a result, any setpieces like the aforementioned cantina, where designers got the chance to cram in a lot of shit, felt incongruous and disorganized. And it didn’t seem like that was what they were going for. There was also a disturbing tendency to use lots of clashing pastels to make things look “fun” or “quirky”. [retch]

Tin Man _really_ starred two major characters:

* traditionally hit-and-miss Sci-Fi channel CGI

* Kathleen Robertson’s tits

The first will be obvious to anyone who’s even seen commercials for such Sci-Fi classics as “Manticore”. While some of the environments are perfectly lush and passable, most of the creatures are laughably bad. One example: the retooled Flying Monkeys, which in Tin Man look more like bigass bats with a monkey mouth.

And how, pray tell, do these flying bat-monkeys enter the story? Well, gentle reader, it just so happens that they pop out of Kathleen Robertson’s tits.

I won’t lie; when I saw Kathleen Robertson’s name among the cast, I figured, “Yep. Gunna be some cleavage there at the least.” And frankly I was counting on said tits making up for Kathleen Robertson’s, um, incredible acting skillz.

Little did I know that my half-hearted boorishness would be transformed to highly hilarious levels of camp. If I thought it were intentionally campy, I’d take back some of those things I said above. I doubt it was more than a ploy to keep nerds’ attention span, however.

Kathleen Robertson plays the revised Wicked Witch, nee “Azkadellia”. When she needs her mammalian hybrid things (I’m referring to the bats, not her boobs) to go out and plug plot holes, she unclasps an already low-cut bodice, the camera zooms in a bit on the linen she’s wrapped in (or assumes a conveniently overhead angle), and a string of tattoos just above her bustline COME ALIVE WITH PLEASURE. Needless to say, the tattoos are some weird-ass vaguely Celtic symbols that look kind of like bats. But man, they glow like radioactive shit and TURN INTO MONKEY BATS. Inventive, right? There are several such scenes.

Overall, I would rather mouthfuck Gary Busey.

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