Television in the streaming age is a beast with a voracious appetite. You have to constantly feed on the entire series, the seasons, the cinematic universes, all at once, just to get your fill for one weekend. The need to attract subscribers is paramount, and there aren’t many stories in the world to tell them. Driven by this business-oriented need to reduce art to chum, or content, as it’s now called, adaptations of beloved works in other media have been made at a dizzying pace of late, as projects that previously languishing in development hell have suddenly found everything. Obstacles removed from your path.
The Sandman — the critically acclaimed 1989-1996 comic book series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg — was one such project. Considered largely unfilmable thanks to its serialized nature and surreal imagery, lovingly rendered by a group of artists who would carry Dream’s story forward after Kieth and Dringenberg left the series, a film adaptation was constantly not forthcoming. materialized despite many efforts beginning in the 1990s. decades later, The Sandman has finally been translated into flesh and blood as a Netflix series developed by Gaiman himself along with David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Allan Heinberg (the oc, among other things). His arrival immediately raises two questions: Did the cynical need for grain content bring him here a shell of what he might have been? And will he agree with those who support the comic, a unique work of the medium, as “inadequate”?
The good news is simple: they did it. The Sandman is perhaps the best television version of the comic book imaginable. The series is faithful to the source material on a Peter Jacksonian level while also making some necessary compromises for its new medium. For comic book readers, those compromises are jarring notes that can be hard to ignore in a show that’s otherwise an enjoyable revision of an old favorite. For those who come fresh to the show, they will find a strange and apathetic series that moves with strange rhythms and avoids traditional conflict. It’s a story that takes time to make a case for itself, but a gripping one if you stay away.
The story begins with a shocking abruptness. Wealthy amateur occultist Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) gathers the last of the evil vibes he needs to perform a ritual he hopes will grant him immortality. In one of the many moments where The Sandman assumes familiarity with their history, Roderick’s plan is only detailed in passing: he hopes to imprison the personification of Death and force them to do his bidding. Instead, he captures Death’s brother Dream (Tom Sturridge), the king of dreams known by many names, including the Sandman, and imprisons him, hoping he can wear Dream down to give him what he wants.
After nearly a century of imprisonment, with Burgess’s son taking over as guardian when Roderick dies, the dream slips away during an inattentive moment, and The Sandman takes shape The first half of the season follows Dream as she rebuilds herself, serving as an introduction to the world. As Dream gathers relics of her power, The Sandman shows viewers the breadth of the show. There’s London past and present, the world of dreams where all manner of fantastical and nightmarish beings reside, and even a trip to Hell to meet Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie). Then, in the second half of the season, viewers are introduced to Rose Walker (Kyo Ra), a young woman who can inadvertently destroy everything Dream is working to rebuild.
The Sandman is a remarkably faithful adaptation, which means that the show shares the weaknesses of its source material: namely, its opening arc doesn’t present the best case for the story the viewer is embarking on. While it’s refreshing to see a fantasy series that doesn’t feel the need to constantly explain itself, when The Sandman it explains itself, it’s at odds with the contemplative nature of the story, and it feels even more dissonant. Like the comics he’s based on, it’s not immediately apparent. why you are being introduced to all these characters (and you will be introduced to so many characters) and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. You may also be surprised to learn there. it is a huge scheme at play here, though the realization of that is entirely up to the fickle Netflix greenlighting future seasons.
For the uninitiated, the comic’s revered status can make many of the series’ adaptation choices unintentionally amusing. Dream, for example, is depicted in the comic as a ghostly man with stars for eyes, an ethereal presence that can’t really be portrayed on screen without a lot of makeup and maybe some computer animation. On the show, he’s just a guy; Tom Sturridge is remarkably committed to believing embodies the being you can see on the page. But he’s really just a brooding, moody Englishman, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you learn (not a spoiler) that he’s just one of the Endless, with older and younger brothers who also personify abstractions like Death (Kirby Howell- Baptiste) or Desire (Mason Alexander Park).
There are a lot of little details like this that may or may not stick with any viewer. Patton Oswalt’s performance as a talking raven named Matthew. Boyd Holbrook’s recurring role as the Corinthian, dodging an escaped nightmare and working against Dream, also has an odd tone, effusive with charming menace but somewhat aimless on screen.
Finally, The Sandman it’s effective as an engaging and sometimes weird advertisement for the comic, which sounds like damnation with a hint of praise, but may actually be the desired result. Part of what he did Sandman Comics so beloved is how they were a haven for social outcasts and weirdos, a place where queer characters casually showed up on a regular basis at a time when that was a rarity. It was a work of alternative art published alongside DC Comics’ heteronormative corpus, whose esteem grew until its countercultural leanings effectively became the culture, an ambition that was always there, as Sandman would grow into a story about All stories, from Shakespeare to ancient Greece to superhero comics. Dreams, after all, are what stories are made of.
from netflix The Sandman it can’t be that. Despite being the best possible version of a Netflix adaptation, it is calm a Netflix adaptation: a project that must fit within the limitations and aspirations of the platform, to create a compelling experience with the potential to become a monstrous hit. All the ways this could compromise the original work are already present in this series: visual, tonal, and structural. from netflix The Sandmanno matter how faithful it is, it is still an adaptation with the roughest edges softened, a dark fantasy that never that dark, a fable that explains only one little bit too
That’s the problem with trying to make dreams come true. The reason they stay with you is not the parts you see clearly, but the images that remain just out of reach, so real yet impossible to describe, a vapor that no one but you knew was there.
The SandmanThe first season of is now streaming on Netflix.