Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ Well Worth the Decades of Waiting

FFinally, The Sandman comes to the screen. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s classic fantasy-horror comic book series, which ran from 1989 to 1996, broke the New York Times best-seller list, and spawned a whole universe of spin-offs and sequels, have been waiting for this moment for some three decades. First it was supposed to be a movie. It then languished in development hell, while Hollywood continued to adapt other Gaiman works: coraline. star dust. How to talk to girls at parties. The streaming era brought television series based on american gods, good omensand even Lucifera character introduced in the Sandman. But various adaptations of Gaiman’s masterpiece remained stalled, plagued by bad scripts and creative differences.

Well, all 10 episodes. Sandman The series is finally here, following a 2019 deal that brought the property to Netflix, helmed by Gaiman executive producers David S. Goyer (Base), and executive producer Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman). And, with the caveat that it probably won’t please some sections of a vocal fandom that has spent decades in a state of anticipation, the show is worth the wait. From a smart cast and strong writing to an exquisitely creepy production design that melds horror and noir with careful use of digital effects, this is easily one of the best small-screen comic book adaptations ever made.


Gwendoline Christie in ‘The Sandman’

Netflix

The Sandman dates back to DC Comics’ Golden Age of the 1930s, but Gaiman’s version constituted a complete reinvention. Known as Dream, Morpheus, and any number of other names derived from mythology, the title character rules the realm of dreams and stories, as part of a family of anthropomorphic representations of natural forces called the Endless. (Desire and Despair are two of his seven siblings). “When the waking world leaves you anxious and tired,” narrates Dream, as the camera pans through a graveyard of nightmares and an enchanted palace of fantasies, in the show’s open sequence, “dream brings you here to find freedom and the adventure”.

In both the comics and the TV series, we meet Dream (a touchingly vulnerable Tom Sturridge, recently seen on the HBO series). irma see) on what must be the worst day of his eternal life. It’s 1916, and members of an occult order have gathered on an English estate for a ritual they hope will summon Death, so they can trap her in an orb and force her to do her bidding. Because she has descended into the waking world in search of a “rogue nightmare” aka the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook) who amuses himself by wreaking havoc among humans, Dream is the Endless they capture instead. She spends a torturous century in her prison, too proud to buy her freedom by giving in to the demands of her deadly captor (Charles Dance).

All of this is essentially a prologue to Dream’s escape and return to his kingdom, now in ruins and almost abandoned. With the help of her most loyal assistant, dream librarian Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) and prankster raven sidekick Matthew (voiced by Patton Oswalt), she must recover three looted objects that have the power to rebuild. In the first six episodes, which closely resemble the first volume of the comics, Preludes and Nocturnes, the quest will take you back to Earth and literally beyond the gates of hell. The later part of the season makes an abrupt, yet unavoidable, switch to parallel volume 2, the doll housecentered on Rose Walker (a self-possessed Vanesu Samunyai), a young woman searching for her long-lost younger brother who, unknown to her, has the latent ability to bring about massive destruction.


Emma Duncan in ‘The Sandman’

Netflix

More compelling than these serial arcs and their protagonists, who largely exist as our guides through The SandmanThe mysterious realm of ‘s is episodic storylines, one-off scenes, and bizarre supporting characters. The best episode of the season places the constantly terrifying David Thewlis, as the psychotic John Dee (aka DC’s Doctory Destiny), in a 24-hour diner, where he uses Dream’s stolen power to make a handful of employees and clients interact honestly for once in their lives. A multi-part symphony of conflict, confession and violence ensues; it’s actually an improvement on Gaiman’s fan-favorite restaurant theme. There are big distorted concepts like this everywhere: a convention for serial killers, a Dream Realm Cain (Sanjeev Baskhar) who is always murdering a self-resurrecting Abel (Asim Chaudhry), a man who was granted immortality in 1389 meeting Dream every hundred years for a beer and some musings on why he still loves being alive.

Casting was always going to be crucial for this project, and Netflix The Sandman absolutely nails it. That doesn’t necessarily mean finding actors who most closely resemble comic book characters. Lucifer Morningstar, the biblical fallen angel who rules Hell, was famous for looking like David Bowie in his late 1960s folksinger era. Here, the character is played by game of Thronesthe statuesque Gwendoline Christie, who embodies Lucifer’s charming nonchalance despite being, you know, a woman. Kirby Howell-Baptiste offers a wonderfully wise and serene twist on death, comforting the recently deceased and sending them on a path to the afterlife. who thought to throw Hedwig and the Angry Inch mastermind John Cameron Mitchell as Florida boarding house owner and drag cabaret singer deserves a bonus. Dream is something of a straight man in the midst of so much weirdness, but Sturridge possesses the perfect mix of baby face and scowl. No wonder he beat out 200 other actors for the role.


Tom Sturridge and Vanesu Samunyai in ‘The Sandman’

Liam Daniel – Netflix

Theoretically, it’s easier than ever to make a CGI-heavy genre show look good, but that hasn’t stopped studios as wealthy as Marvel from failing repeatedly. The Sandman production designer Gary Steele (stranger) wields visual effects much more artfully. Many of Dream’s realm, hell, and other supernatural landscapes are clearly computer-generated, and for the most part these elements seem purposely animated, like extremely detailed versions of comic book art. However, the waking world is much like our Earth, with a higher concentration of bars, greasy spoons, and dark alleys.

The visuals complement the storytelling that stays true to Gaiman’s sensibility: a mix of fantasy tropes, literary and pop culture references, gothic aesthetics, and archetypes grounded in global mythology that, in its own way, is so thoughtful. about how people use omnipotent heroes and villains. we invent through fiction as vigilantes. At times, the show seems too eager to have the characters explain aspects of Dream’s journey toward a greater understanding of the human experience that are already evident in the narrative. For viewers who aren’t particularly fans of the genre, some characters’ artificially grand fantasy language may elicit an occasional giggle. None of this is too bad The SandmanClever story and magnificent show. A likely mega-hit at a time when Netflix could really use one, it rivals anything in Disney’s superhero arsenal, but has enough personality to make comparison meaningless.

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