The Sandman is almost the most famous comic book published by Vertigo and one of the most remarkable works of the writer Neil Gaiman. It tells the bizarre adventures of Morpheus, the dream lord, in a world full of urban legends and myths come to life. The comic has spawned an entire franchise with a multimillion-dollar army of fans, and they have been trying to film it since the 90s. And in 2022, the long-awaited TV series adaptation from Netflix came out. Expectations from her were extremely high, but all the more pleasant that in general the show turned out to be good. More details in the review below.
Genre Fantasy, Mystery
Directed by David S. Goyer, Allan Heinberg, Neil Gaiman
Cast : Tom Sturridge, Gwendolyn Christie, Stephen Fry, Jenna Coleman, Charles Dance
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Release year 2022
The plot of the series repeats the beginning of the first volume of the original comic (“Preludes and Nocturnes”). British aristocrat Roderick Burgess performs an occult ritual in an attempt to capture one of the Great Ones – Death. But by mistake, Son is trapped in his trap. The latter, as a result, suffers in captivity for a hundred years, and when he still manages to escape, he finds that the Kingdom of Sleep has fallen into desolation, and the dreams themselves are out of control. Now the task of Morpheus is to restore control over dreams in all worlds and regain their former greatness.
The biggest problem when trying to adapt The Sandman to another format is not even the drawing of the comic, which was worked on by a variety of artists, but the structure of the plot itself. After all, if you think a little, it turns out that the adventures of Morpheus are an anthology of various crazy stories. Moreover, each volume embodies its own approach to the chosen genre, so even the presentation of individual chapters sometimes differs dramatically. But in parallel, somewhere among, without exaggeration, hundreds of storylines, the main large-scale story about the strife of the Eternals unfolds.
Adapting something like this into a serial format is almost impossible. At least not in one season. Therefore, many moments in the “Sandman” have changed. However, the showrunners discussed each change with Gaiman himself, without his supervision they did not come up with anything at all in the show. The authors respect the original source too much, which is why they wanted to, if not perfectly recreate it, then at least convey the main spirit.
That’s what Netflix’s The Sandman did. The show does not want to be compared with any others, even with “American Gods” and “Good Omens” by the same Gaiman – it turned out so original. In it, reality is intertwined in a tight embrace with fiction to such an extent that it is no longer possible to draw a line between them.
At the same time, it will not be possible to deny that the series has lost a significant part of the comprehensive charm of the comic book. Some storylines because of this seem more faded than in the original source. Sometimes the plot seems to be in a hurry somewhere and feels too chaotic. This, perhaps, is to blame for the desire of the authors to adapt two volumes at once into one season, although there is more than enough material in one book.
But all the changes in the canon do not cause irritation at all. They’re well-executed and carefully crafted into local history, which is what Netflix’s The Sandman manages to go beyond the usual adaptation and give viewers something unique. The dense atmosphere of dreams reigns here in every frame.
The acting of local stars, who perfectly got used to their roles, also helps her to gain a foothold. Brightest of all here shines Tom Sturridge in the role of Morpheus. He successfully managed to embody on the screen the gloomy Eternal, who stands above all dreams, which leaves an imprint on his worldview. The dream in The Sandman is not the kind of character that you imbue at first sight. Perhaps he will not become attractive to you. But Morpheus will definitely call his share of respect.
Other stars are not far behind. Jenna Coleman gives viewers a fresh look at the cynic Constantine through his female version of Joanna. All the helpers of Morpheus pleasantly dilute the gloom of the Eternal with their good absurdity and comedy. And Gwendolyn Christie in the role of Lucifer is generally revealed from new, amazing sides, after which her Brienne of Tarth from the “Game of Thrones” and I don’t really want to remember.
You can also feel how big a bet Netflix made on this particular series. Each scene looks as expensive and rich as possible. This applies to both the general staging and more technical aspects like the development of computer graphics and costume designs. Ironically, Netflix’s The Sandman, as a series, looks better than the streaming service’s own feature films, though it would seem.
As hard as Netflix’s The Sandman tries, it falls short of Vertigo’s The Sandman in every way. However, if the authors tried to move away from the original source even further in order to create many times more of their own, they would invariably incur the wrath of the fans.
So the crew seems to have struck the perfect balance to cater to hardcore fans and brand new viewers alike. By the way, no knowledge of the complex primary source is required from the latter in order to enjoy it. And that’s one of the best compliments an adaptation of this caliber can get.