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

Ffinally, The sand man arrives on the screen. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy horror comic series, which ran from 1989 to 1996, fell in love with New York Time bestseller list, and spawned an entire universe of spin-offs and sequels – has been waiting for this moment for something like three decades. First, it was supposed to be a movie. Then it languished in development hell, as Hollywood continued to adapt more Gaiman works: Coraline. Stardust. How to talk to girls at parties. The streaming era has brought television series based on american gods, good omensand even Lucifercharacter introduced in The Sand seller. But various adaptations of Gaiman’s masterpiece have continued to stagnate, plagued by poor scripts and creative differences.

Well, all 10 episodes Sand seller The series is finally here, following a 2019 deal that brought ownership to Netflix, led by Gaiman executive producers David S. Goyer (Foundation), and showrunner Allan Heinberg (wonder woman). And, with the caveat that there likely won’t be any pleasure to certain sectors of a vocal fandom that has spent decades in a state of anticipation, the show proves to be worth the wait. From the clever casting and strong writing to the delightfully weird, noir-meets-horror production design that uses digital effects wisely, this is easily one of the best small-screen comic book adaptations ever made.

Gwendoline Christie in “The Sandman”


The Sandman harkens back to the 1930s heyday of DC Comics, but Gaiman’s version was a complete reimagining. Known as Dream, Morpheus, and a 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 Endless. (Desire and Despair are two of his seven siblings.) “When the waking world leaves you wanting and weary,” Dream recounts, as the camera sweeps across a graveyard of nightmares and an enchanted palace of fantasies, in the open sequence from the show, “sleep brings you here to find freedom and adventure.”

In the comics and the TV series, we meet Dream (an extremely vulnerable Tom Sturridge, recently seen in HBO’s Irma Vep) on what must be the worst day of his eternal life. The year is 1916, and members of an occult order have gathered on an English estate for a ritual that they hope will summon Death, so they can trap her in an orb and force her to do their bidding. Because he descended into the waking world in pursuit of a “rogue nightmare,” aka the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), who entertains himself by causing havoc among humans, Dream is the infinity they capture at the place. He spends a century of torture in his prison, too proud to buy his freedom by acquiescing to the demands of his mortal captor (Charles Dance).

All of this is essentially a prologue to Dream’s escape and return to his kingdom, now ruined and virtually abandoned. With the help of his most trusted assistant, dream librarian Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) and her raven sidekick Matthew (voiced by Patton Oswalt), he must retrieve three looted items that hold the power to rebuild. In the first six episodes, which come pretty close to the first volume of the comic, Preludes and Nocturnes, the quest will bring him back to Earth and, quite literally, to the gates of hell. The back end of the season makes an abrupt, if inevitable, shift to parallel volume 2, The doll housecentered on Rose Walker (a self-proclaimed Vanesu Samunyai), a young woman who searches for her long-lost baby brother and who, unbeknownst to her, has the latent ability to effect mass destruction.

Netflix's 'The Sandman' is Well Worth Decades of Waiting

Emma Duncan in “The Sandman”


More compelling than these serialized arcs and their protagonists – who largely exist as our guides through The sand manThe Strange Realm of , are the episodic stories, unique settings, and quirky supporting characters. The season’s best episode places the ever-terrifying David Thewlis as the psychotic John Dee (aka DC’s Doctory Destiny) in a 24-hour diner, where he uses energy stolen from Dream to make honest interactions a handful of employees and customers. once in their life. A multi-part symphony of conflict, confession and violence ensues; it’s actually an improvement over Gaiman’s fan-favorite restaurant issue. There are big twisted concepts everywhere like this: a convention for serial killers, a Dream Realm Cain (Sanjeev Baskhar) still murdering a self-resurrected Abel (Asim Chaudhry), a man who has achieved immortality in 1389 and who meets Dream every hundred years for a beer and some thoughts on why he still likes to be alive.

Casting was always going to be crucial to this project, and Netflix The sand man absolutely nails it. That doesn’t necessarily mean finding the actors who look the most like comic book characters. Lucifer Morningstar, the biblical fallen angel who rules Hell, was famous for looking like David Bowie during the long-haired folksinger days of the late 60s. Here the character is played by game of thrones‘ the statuesque Gwendoline Christie, who embodies the seductive recklessness of Lucifer despite being, you know, a woman. Kirby Howell-Baptiste offers a wonderfully wise and serene spin on death, which comforts the newly deceased and sends them on the path to the afterlife. The one who thought of throwing Hedwig and the Angry Thumb mastermind John Cameron Mitchell as Florida boarding house owner and drag cabaret singer deserves a bonus. Dream is kind of a straight man amidst so many quirks, but Sturridge has the right combination of baby face and scowl. No wonder he beat out some 200 other actors for the role.

Netflix's 'The Sandman' is Well Worth Decades of Waiting

Tom Sturridge and Vanesu Samunyai in “The Sandman”

Liam Daniel–Netflix

It’s theoretically easier than ever to make a CGI genre show look good, but that hasn’t stopped studios as wealthy as Marvel from repeatedly failing to do so. The sand man production designer Gary Steele (Foreign) handles visual effects much more cleverly. Many of Dream’s realm, hell, and other supernatural landscapes are clearly computer-generated – and for the most part these elements look deliberately animated, like extremely detailed versions of comic book art. Yet the waking world looks much like our Earth, blackened with a higher concentration of bars, greasy spoons, and dark alleys.

Imagery complements storytelling that stays true to Gaiman’s sensibility – a mix of fantasy tropes, literary and pop-cultural references, gothic aesthetics and archetypes grounded in world mythology that’s also reflected in its own way on the way people use the omnipotent heroes and villains we invent through fiction as watchmen. At times, the series seems too eager to have the characters explain aspects of Dream’s journey to a better understanding of the human experience that already emerge from the narrative. For viewers who aren’t particular fans of the genre, some characters’ artificially grandiose fantasy language might elicit the occasional laugh. None of this takes away much from The sand manintelligent story and wonderful spectacle. A likely megahit in a time when Netflix could really use one, it rivals anything in Disney’s superhero arsenal but has enough personality to make comparison pointless.

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