Tin Man is basically the story of the Wizard of Oz refracted through such postmodern reinterpretations of classic stories such The 10th Kingdom and Wicked and while it doesn’t measure up to either source material, it’s still a pretty good miniseries… at least up until the end.
Part of it is the casting, Zooey Deschanel makes a great wide eyed yet scrappy girl in a strange world and Alan Cummings is of course excellent as the Scarecrow, by turns dopey and comic and by turns melancholy and driven. Neil McDonough is an underrated actor, but turns in a good cowboy sheriff in Oz performance. Richard Dreyfuss has a minor role, yet commits to something that most actors would have phoned in, and delivers a performance that smacks of real physical strain. Kathleen Robertson as the wicked witch is the weakest part of the cast and that seriously weakens the miniseries, especially when you remember what a fantastic presence Dianne Weist was in the 10th Kingdom.
The one question about itself that Tin Man never answers is why it’s called Tin Man in the first place. Granted Neil McDonough’s Tin Man is probably the third or fourth most important character in the story, but it’s still Dorothy’s or D.G.’s movie. Not that it matters in the end. Tin Man walks the thin line between revisionism and rejuvenation with a version of Oz that has technology by way of Dark City or Dune and mixes and matches chunks of the classical Oz books by L. Frank Baum with ideas inspired by more modern day politics.
Tin Man is at its best as a story of exploration, of wandering the strange world of Oz. Its ending is predictable and made worse by being a completely bloodless ending to boot. Most heroic narratives understand that the journey is about sacrifice, Tin Man seems to understand this along the way and then chickens out with a final 5 minutes consisting of bad special effects and a cheesy Hugs All Around ending in which everyone lives happily ever after. Even L. Frank Baum mostly knew better than that.