I've been trying in vain for weeks to figure out how best to impart to you, devoted readers, just how much of a travesty Tin Man is, and why you should avoid it all costs. But I realized only lately that mere words alone cannot convey to you how I feel. I've decided that frame grabs, or screen captures, are the best medium to relay this story, this story of time and money badly spent -- and it's not just because I only now figured out how to use the "Print Screen" button. Honest.
The story opens with D.G. -- no last name given -- a motorcycle riding, college dropout who's waitressing at a local greasy spoon. Begin gratuitous wink-wink-nudge-nudge references to The Wizard of Oz:
She's been having fractured nightmares, most of them involving a woman (later revealed to be her mother) telling her "a storm is coming." After about eight minutes of D.G interacting with her "parents," with their repetitive anecdotes about their old home, "Milltown," D.G. reveals that she's sick of Kansas and doesn't feel like she fits in.
There is a glorious opening CGI shot of the wicked witch's castle in OZ. The strength of this movie is really in the stuff that's unsaid, as this sequence is fantastic, with the landscape and the camera work and the musical score -- it all really does go pear-shaped when people start talking. The "sorceress" is a pretty young lady you may remember from Beverly Hills 90210, Kathleen Robertson. For most of the miniseries she wears a gold-looking corset attached to what appear to be metal shoulder pads, with black pantyhose over her arms. It is as confusing as it is impressive.
Kathleen, called Azkadellia, uses her henchmen to try and find a magical emerald she's looking for. When a little furry guy, hooked to what is either a moonshine still or the office water cooler, lets her know there will be trouble in the form of "light magic" in Kansas, she commands a "travel storm" be summoned to find D.G. and bring her over from "the other side." Oh Lord.
The tornado comes; henchmen dressed like SS officers try to kidnap D.G. and her parents; they all jump in to the tornado. D.G. wakes up in OZ, her parents missing. Right away she runs in to "resistance fighters" from "the eastern guild." They're about three feet tall and wear feathers and face paint. So the Munchkins are no longer the friendly stereotype of midgets in garb that recall leprechauns and babies in giant diapers, oh no. They are now, apparently, pygmies.
I can't decide which is more offensive: actual little people who sing in rhyming couplets, or actors in Native American drag that have been digitally shrunk to knee-height. Personally, I miss the showtunes.
The wicked witch's chief henchman has to break the bad news that they let D.G. escape -- why are henchmen always so useless? is it part of their union contract? -- which means she gets to kill him and promote Leoben Conoy, er, Callum Keith Rennie. His name's "Zero." This should clue you in to how much help he will provide for Azkadellia.
D.G. escapes the munchkins' Willow-esque hanging birdcage prison with the help of Glitch. You will immediately recognize him as the scarecrow character, not because he's the first one to meet D.G. or he's got shabby clothing and wild hair (though he does), but because he has a zipper in his head where his brain's supposed to be.
So now, the henchmen, called "longcoats," are after D.G. and Glitch. While on the run they stumble across the longcoats beating and torturing Neal McDonough and his family. This is revealed to be a hologram that plays out non-stop for Neal, who's been imprisoned in an iron contraption that looks like an old deep sea diver suit, forced to watch the horrible scene for years and years.
Not just enough that he was a man trapped in a tin suit, he's also a former cop, named Cain, which means he's literally a "tin man." And he's hella pissed off that his family is missing, presumed dead. But since he cleans up real nice, we're gonna forgive the murderous rage he's in. (Begin gratuitous screen captures of Neal McDonough in various states of distress.)
Cain is not friendly towards Glitch at first, because "head cases" like Glitch are usually ex-convicts. Since Cain's revenge-spree is headed towards "Central City," where D.G. and Glitch are headed, they decide to all travel together. Of course, they'll have to go through the "fields of the Papé," which constantly reminds me of papaya every time someone says it. Cain explains that the papaya monsters are vicious computer generated beasts that eat people alive. Nice. This is where they find the cowardly lion -- who is a Latino/Apache man that the costume department has covered in fur, and the director has instructed to speak in broken English. KLAS-SAY. We learn later that his name is "RAW."
They're immediately attacked by aforementioned papaya monsters, who look like dogs made out of tree roots. How the quartet did not hear these things coming is beyond me -- they sound like galloping horses and screech like pterodactyls.
After one of the things gnaws on Cain's leg (and, who wouldn't,) the four of them escape by running away. The only dialogue here is Neal McDonough screaming "RUN! RUN! RUN!" for two minutes, as though we, the viewing audience, would be at a loss if the characters were not talking constantly to convey what it is they're supposed to be doing. You've got ominous action sequence music, people with terrified looks on their faces, a creepy field of twigs and spiderwebs, and tree branch animated things charging in herds. So of course you need someone shouting "Run!" the whole time, otherwise you'd be confused and think this was some sort of square dance.
The wicked witch Azkadellia is still relying on her army of idiots to bring her information about D.G., whom she's just realizing is named D.G. What's hilarious is that first she's in her classic bronze corset number, but she switches to a little black cape ensemble to go dig up the grave of her supposedly dead sister. Cut to an ashtray she keeps in her living room, which is really the magical prison of her mother.
There's a lot of mysterious dialogue here but I'll clear it all up for you hours in advance: D.G. is Azkadellia's sister whom she thought she killed 15 years ago. When she finds out that D.G. is not dead, she's really pissed. So she makes it rain in the ashtray prison, because presumably living in an ant farm isn't shitty enough.
Meanwhile, on the yellow brick road, D.G. and crew are just discovering "Milltown," the birthplace of her parents, which squicks D.G. out. Her parents seem to have never made clear to D.G. that the lovely little midwest town they were from was actually in a world full of angry pygmies ruled by a magical Hitler. Worse still: her parents, whom she reunites with in Milltown, aren't her parents at all. They are "nurture units" -- cyborgs programmed to raise her like she was their real daughter.
So, nice. A young woman is just finding out that not only is she adopted, but she's adopted by computers, and she's from a mystical realm of morons. This is heavy news. Surely the film will devote lots of time to the angst this information would cause-- oh, less than a minute, you say? Okay.
The main robot dude, who I can't get a clear screencap of but looks like a metal bumble bee with a human head attached, tells D.G. she needs to go see the Mystic Man (the wizard) in Central City to find out where to find her "real" mother. Then he brands her with the Eye of Mordor.
Through the magic of editing, they're at the doors of Central City. Since D.G. is wanted by the wicked witch, they can't just waltz in, so they hitch a ride with a pimp named Antoine. He's got cornrows and says thing like "a'ight." I want to punch him. Fortunately Cain does that for me, and more, since he nearly rips the guy's earrings out. Awesome.
From the outside, Central City looks like a castle that's badly in need of renovation. But it's still pretty impressive in wideshots, even if it is all just computer fakery. Inside, everyone wears clothes and drives cars from the 1940's, on what appears to be leftover sets from Brazil. Antoine gets them front-row seats to the Mystic Man's dinner show, and Cain ditches them to go find Zero.
Prepare to be horrified: In the bar from the opening scene of Temple of Doom, with extras from the Mos Eisley cantina, during a really bad burlesque show where no one is naked, appears Richard Dreyfuss. He's sitting cross-legged like Buddha, and periodically takes a hit from a hookah. (If I were Bret Michaels I could've gotten that last sentence to rhyme better.) Then he sprays the audience with the contents of his bong, and says that to get the answers to life's questions you have to "inhale the magic."
Kids, this is your brain on drugs:
Cain finds out that Zero is on to D.G., while D.G. is trying to have a coherent conversation with the Mystic Man. After a bit of babbling and giggling that probably won't go on his Emmy reel, Dreyfuss notices D.G.'s Mordor tattoo and tells her that the journey to find her mother starts on the "Northern Island." Then Cain saves D.G. yet again from the longcoats, and the crew steals Antoine's pussywagon to leave Central City. But not before the Mystic Man insists that Cain never leave D.G.'s side.
While driving through the Pass of Caradhras, the pimpmobile breaks down, so they reach the "Northern Island" -- which is really just some sort of castle frozen in the ice -- by foot. They're all really cold and shivering, even the guy with the giant fur coat. By the way, so far Azkadellia has accumulated some new prisoners: D.G.'s robot parents, and the Mystic Man, both whom she tortures in an attempt to get information. She finds out that D.G. is at the Northern Island.
D.G. chops the ice away from her lost childhood home's front door, all the while reciting the lines to the stories her robot parents used to tell her. Of course all these fairytales now completely apply to the things D.G. has to do or is doing to save the OZ, which is not obnoxious or hokey at all. [/end sarcasm] Inside, Glitch finds out he's really the former queen's advisor, and D.G. is really a princess (and Azkadellia's sister.) There's a six minute scene in front of a bedroom mirror where D.G. sees her past in flashbacks. The "bad" "dark" sister kills the "good" "light" sister, so Mama Queen has to revive her dead daughter from death with "light magic" -- it's all very Jedi meets Days of Our Lives.
Azkadellia, wearing a snappy black traveling cloak, finds D.G. and her cohorts, and endeavors to catch them. Zero shoots Cain and sends him flying out a window, but not before revealing that Cain's family is actually alive. Az unleashes her army of flying monkeys onto the rest of the fleeing group. And you want to know where the monkeys come from? Because if you haven't seen this movie, you're never going to guess.
She has tattoos across her chest, and the monkeys magically fly out of her cleavage when she summons them.
Yeah. Monkey tits. I could not make this shit up if I tried. What a waste of CGI. You think the programmer guys were laughing their asses off when they were told what it was they had to animate? Even more priceless than this revelation is the look on a couple of her henchmen's faces during the cut away:
The titmonkeys capture Raw and D.G., leaving Cain and Glitch for dead. "There's no place like the O.Z.," AzkaMonkeytits says as the first part ends, and I throw my remote control at the DVR.
Parts Two and Three coming as soon as I can muster the strength.