The Sandman finally appears on screens. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s legendary fantasy-horror comic book have been anticipating this day for roughly three decades. The comic book series lasted from 1989 to 1996, cracked the New York Times best-seller list, and inspired a vast array of spinoffs and sequels. They originally intended it to be a film. After that, it lingered in development hell as Hollywood continued to adapt other Gaiman books. Those include Coraline, Stardust, and How to Interact with Women at Parties. American Gods, Lucifer, and Good omens even appeared on screens. However, a number of Gaiman’s brilliant adaptations continued to fall short due to poor screenplays and creative disagreements.
The 10-episode Sandman series is now available on Netflix thanks to a contract negotiated by Neil Gaiman, David S. Goyer (Foundation), and showrunner Allan Heinberg (Wonder Woman). The show ended up being well worth the wait. Of course, though, certain people will never be happy. This is undoubtedly one of the best small-screen comic adaptations ever created. For that, we can thank clever acting, solid writing, and breathtakingly creepy noir-meets-horror production design that makes judicious use of digital effects.
What’s the story of Sandman about?
Dream (a touchingly vulnerable Tom Sturridge, most recently seen in HBO’s Irma Vep) is introduced to us in both the comic books and the television series on what must be the worst day of his everlasting life. In order to capture Death in an orb and make her follow their commands, members of an occult organization assembled in an English manor in 1916. Dream is the Endless they arrest instead because he has entered the waking world in search of a “rogue nightmare”. The nightmare is Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), who amuses himself by wreaking havoc among humanity. So, Dream endures a torturous century in his cell. He is unable to give gifts to his captor for his release.
You threatened, cajoled and pleaded for gifts are neither mankind’s to receive nor mine to give. You had no thought for the harm you have brought to your world…
Lord, what fools these mortals be.
All of this basically serves as a prelude to Dream’s escape and return to his collapsing kingdom. He must reclaim three looted items which will help him reconstruct it. His aids are the most devoted deputy, dream librarian Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong), and chirpy raven sidekick Matthew (voiced by Patton Oswalt). The first six episodes, which largely follow Preludes and Nocturnes, the first book of the comics, will literally take him through the gates of hell and back to Earth.
What this adaptation of Sandman has done right?
This project has always required excellent casting, and Netflix’s The Sandman does not disappoint. Finding actors that resemble comic book characters the most isn’t always the best option. David Bowie’s big-haired, late-’60s folk singer phase was famously depicted to resemble Lucifer Morningstar, the mythical fallen angel who rules over hell. Here, the role is filled by the statuesque Gwendoline Christie of Game of Thrones, who, despite being a woman, perfectly captures Lucifer’s charming smugness. A very knowledgeable and peaceful interpretation of Death, who consoles the recently deceased and leads them on a route to the hereafter, is provided by Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
Bonus points go to whoever had the brilliant idea to portray John Cameron Mitchell, the creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as the proprietor of a drag cabaret in Florida. In the midst of all the strangeness, Dream serves as something of a straight guy, yet Sturridge has just the right amount of baby face and scowl. It makes sense that he got the role above 200 other performers for the part.
Also, we must not forget Charles Dance (Tywin in GOT) once again plays the role of a ruthless father.
Masters of CGI
Theoretically, it should be simpler than ever to make a CGI-heavy genre program seem nice. However, even studios with enormous pockets of Marvel have had repeated failures in this area. Gary Steele, the production designer for Outlander, uses visual effects far more skillfully in The Sandman. In Dream’s realm, hell, and other supernatural locations, there are numerous landscapes that are obviously computer-created. For the most part, these parts appear purposefully animated, like incredibly detailed renditions of comic book art. While the waking world resembles our planet quite closely. This includes a greater density of bars, fast-food restaurants, and gloomy alleys.
Closing thoughts about the Sandman Netflix show
This first season has done everything that was expected of it. Clever writing, faithfulness to the original content, amazing CGI, and wonderful casting have all led to people being delighted with watching the show. Hopefully, in its progress, Sandman will only get better and better.