Netflix’s The Sandman Review: A great promotion for the Sandman comics

TV in the streaming age is a monster with an insatiable appetite. It has to be constantly fed with entire series, seasons, film universes at once, to be saturated for just one weekend. The need to gain subscribers is paramount, and there are only so many stories in the world that could be told. Fueled by this business-driven need to reduce art to chum — or content as it’s now known — adaptations of popular works in other media have been made at a dizzying rate lately, as projects that had previously suffered in development hell suddenly became everything have found obstacles in their path.

The Sandman — the acclaimed 1989-1996 comic series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg — was one such project. Widely considered unfilmable thanks to its serial nature and surreal visuals, as lovingly portrayed by a bevy of artists who would continue Dream’s story after Kieth and Dringenberg left the series, a film adaptation failed despite many efforts beginning in the 1990s years. decades later, The Sandman was eventually translated into the flesh as a Netflix series developed by Gaiman himself with David S. Goyer (Batman begins) and Allan Heinberg (That’s OK, among other things). Its arrival immediately raises two questions: did the cynical need for grist content bring it here as a shell of what it could have been? And will those who consider the comic, a singular work of the medium, “unadaptable” be right?

The good news is simple: you made it. Netflix The Sandman is perhaps the best TV version of the comic imaginable. The series stays true to the Peter Jackson-level source material, but also makes some necessary compromises for its new medium. For comic book readers, these trade-offs are conflicting notes that can be hard to ignore in a show that’s otherwise an enjoyable iteration of an old favorite. For those new to the show, they’ll find an odd and listless series that moves at odd rhythms and avoids traditional conflicts. It’s a story that takes time to establish itself but is gripping if you stick around for a while.

Dream, in his helmet and robes, is captured in the occult circle in Netflix's The Sandman

Image: Netflix

The story begins with shocking abruptness. Wealthy amateur occultist Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) assembles the final objects of bad vibes he needs to perform a ritual he hopes will grant him immortality. In one of many moments where The Sandman Assuming they are familiar with his story, Roderick’s plan is only marginally detailed: He hopes to imprison the personification of Death and force her to do his will. Instead, he captures Death’s brother Dream (Tom Sturridge), the king of dreams known by many names – including the Sandman – and imprisons him in hopes that he can get Dream to give him, what he wants.

After nearly a century of captivity, with Burgess’s son taking over as keeper when Roderick dies, Dream escapes in a moment of inattention and The Sandman takes shape. The first half of the season follows Dream as he rebuilds himself and serves as an introduction to the world. As Dream collects relics of his power, The Sandman shows viewers the breadth of the show. There’s London past and present, the world of dreams inhabited by all sorts of fantastical and nightmarish beings, and even a trip to Hell itself to meet Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie). Then, in the second half of the season, viewers meet Rose Walker (Kyo Ra), a young woman who may accidentally destroy everything Dream is working to rebuild.

The Sandman is a remarkably faithful adaptation, which means the show shares the weaknesses of its source material: namely, the opening arc isn’t the best argument for the story the viewer is getting into. While it’s refreshing to watch a fantasy series that doesn’t feel the need to constantly have to explain when The Sandman self-explanatory, it’s a blunt affair at odds with the contemplative nature of the story, and it feels all the more dissonant. Much like the comics it’s based on, it’s not immediately obvious why You will be introduced (and you will be introduced) to all of these characters so many characters) and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. It may also surprise you to study there is There’s a big plan at play here, although its realization is entirely dependent on Netflix greenlighting future seasons.

Dream uses his powers to rebuild his castle in Netflix's The Sandman

Image: Netflix

For the uninitiated, the comic’s revered status may unintentionally make many of the series’ adaptation decisions funny. Dream, for example, is portrayed in the comic as a ghostly man with stars for eyes, an ethereal presence that can’t really be portrayed on screen without extensive makeup and maybe some computer animation. On the show, he’s just a guy; Tom Sturridge is remarkably committed believe he embodies the being you can see on the page. But in reality he’s just a brooding, sulking Englishman – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you learn (no spoiler) that he’s just one of the Endless, with older and younger siblings who also embody abstractions like death ( Kirby Howell-Baptiste) or Desire (Mason Alexander Park).

There’s a lot of little details like this that may or may not resonate with a particular viewer. Patton Oswalt’s performance as the talking raven named Matthew. Boyd Holbrook’s recurring role as Corinthian, an escaped nightmare who eludes Dream and works against him, is also odd-voiced, ebullient with charming menace but somewhat aimless on screen.

Eventually, The Sandman acts as an enticing and at times odd advertisement for the comic book, which sounds like damnation with weak praise, but may actually be the desired outcome. Part of what she did sandman Comics are popular because they were a haven for misfits and oddballs, a place where queer characters made an occasional and regular appearance at a time when that was a rarity. It was a work of alternative art published alongside DC Comics’ heteronormative corpus, and was increasingly appreciated until its countercultural leanings effectively became culture – an ambition that was always there when sandman would become a story Everyone Stories from Shakespeare to ancient Greece to superhero comics. After all, dreams are what stories are made of.

Dream stares at Lucifer in brilliant light in Netflix's The Sandman.

Image: Netflix

Netflix The Sandman it can’t be. Despite being the best possible version of a Netflix adaptation, it is quiet a Netflix adaptation – a project that must adhere to the platform’s limitations and aspirations to create a binge experience that has the potential to be a monster hit. All the ways that this could affect the original work are already present in this series – visually, sonically and structurally. Netflix The Sandmanfaithful as it may be, is still an adaptation with the roughest edges smoothed out, a dark fantasy never to be the dark, a fable that explains only one little too much of.

That’s the problem with trying to bring dreams to life. The reason they stay with you isn’t the parts you see clearly, but the images that linger out of your reach, so real yet impossible to describe, a haze no one but you knew was there was.

The SandmanThe first season of is now streaming on Netflix. Netflix’s The Sandman Review: A great promotion for the Sandman comics

Charles Jones

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