At some point in the sandmana 400-year-old Englishman (Ferdinand Kingsley) casually picks up a recent production of King Lear. “The idiots had given it a happy ending,” he mocks. His interlocutor, Dream (Tom Sturridge) – as in, the physical manifestation of the concept of dreams, and ruler of the impossible realm to which we travel when we fall asleep – is less bothered by it. “That won’t last,” he predicts wisely. “The great stories will always return to their original form.”
the sandman won’t need such a dramatic return to form. Executive produced by the comics creator Neil Gaiman (along with Allan Heinberg and David S. Goyer), the fantasy drama is nothing but respect for the source material. What is the exchange about? King Lear What’s missing, though, is the way that updated versions of great stories can keep them feeling fresh and relevant in the first place. By prioritizing loyalty over creativity, the sandman makes for quite the echo of the comics – but it doesn’t stop at all from becoming a classic in its own right.
It comes down to
A perfectly fine adaptation that prioritizes fidelity over creativity.
Just like in the books, Netflix’s the sandman starts with a catch. While Dream – like the rest of its Endless siblings, including Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Desire (Mason Alexander Park), and Despair (Donna Preston) – possesses powers that gods can barely fathom, it’s a human wizard , Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), who finally casts a spell strong enough to keep Dream trapped among the living for over a century. (If you’re trying to figure out which lore explains Dream’s strengths and weaknesses, or why some magic works better on him than others, don’t bother; this is the kind of fantasy series that hands down even looming threats to reality. by describing them as “incomprehensible.”)
When Dream finally breaks loose in 2022, he rushes back to his kingdom to find that it has fallen into disrepair during his absence, despite the best efforts of his second-in-command Lucienne (an attractively sharp Vivienne Acheampong), and that several of his subjects are villainous. become. The first season, which features the first two of the ten trade paperbacks and includes the original series published from 1989 to 1996, follows Dream as he works to regain his powers, reaffirm his authority, rebuild his world. building – and perhaps, along the way, to gain a deeper understanding of the human lives it claims to serve.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of any customization of the sandman was definitely Dream itself. As depicted in the comics, he has the basic form of a grown man, but the demeanor of an ethereal alien, with porcelain skin and glittering stars for eyes. Quite a task for any flesh-and-blood mortal to fill, and Sturridge does his best by endowing Dream with a graceful, deliberate physicality and a low, quiet rumble of a voice. Still, he can’t help but feel human, especially in makeup that doesn’t do him enough to set him apart from any other goth dude in his thirties who trudges through modern-day London—which, in turn, is part of it. isolation undermines that he experiences when he is among people.
More alive is Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian, an escaped nightmare beloved by serial killers. The scariest physical feature of the character is that he has sharp teeth for eyes, but the sandman generally keeps them hidden under dark sunglasses; Holbrook is able to single-handedly project a strangely seductive threat. Elsewhere, Jenna Coleman acquits herself so well in her brief appearance as troubled badass Johanna Constantine (a gender-swapped version of the John Constantine from the books, that NBC series, and that Keanu Reeves movie) that she might as well test the waters. for its own spin-off. And Howell-Baptiste is arguably the series’ most winning presence as the warm, pragmatic Death.
After we go through the hurdle of casting characters that pop into the imagination, where the sandman stumbles is in finding a purpose beyond the obvious commercial appeal. It’s not nearly as aimless and artless as Cowboy Bebop — another Netflix production based on a critically acclaimed but seemingly unfilmable property — but it seems to have a similar propensity for fidelity to error, as well as an aversion to trying anything too boldly different. The story starts with Roderick Burgess, not because he’s very interesting as a character, but apparently only because that’s where the comics begin. It makes a detour to a restaurant that turns into chaos, not with the expectation that the public used to have Game of Thrones or the boys will be shocked by its bleak, graphically violent take on humanity, but because it’s a storyline fans expect to see.
The results are usually not too bad, and sometimes they are quite good. The best song from the songs adapted for season one yields the best episode, as Dream runs her errands with Death and engages in a surprisingly touching conversation about life, death, love, and loneliness in the process. It’s the warmest and funniest hour of a show otherwise characterized by a moody inscrutability and their clingy sibling dynamics (“You’re definitely the dumbest, most self-centered, pathetic excuse for an anthropomorphic personification on this or any other plane” , she scolds him) goes a long way toward fleshing out Dream as a three-dimensional character rather than a two-dimensional figure.
But it’s hard not to notice that for a series about the power of dreams to spark creativity, to inspire our best or worst selves, to change the course of a life or a universe, the sandman itself feels a bit lacking in imagination. It is the bane of so many groundbreaking works of art that they begin to feel less and less fresh as their influence in more and more other works becomes apparent. An adaptation that settles for delivering a perfectly beautiful copy of itself rather than a large-scale reimagining can’t help but feel safe and familiar, in ways the original never did.
As much as Dream would like to think that nothing has changed in his absence, he is again and again confronted with the reality that nothing is as it once was – including himself, disgusting as he is to admit it. the sandman, can also be a bit stuck. It’s a fun series, with picturesque CG settings (think Asgard meets Rivendell for the castle of Dream), a lovable cast, and an occasionally disarming sense of curiosity about the human condition. But it’s too trapped in glass to really let itself run free in the dream world it wants to evoke.