Television in the streaming era is a beast with a keen appetite. It must be fed whole series, seasons, and cinematic universes all at once, for the sake of a weekend. This business-oriented need to reduce art to chum or content has fueled recent artistic advances that have discovered all obstacles on their path.
The Sandman, a beloved 1989-1996 comic book series directed by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg, was one of those projects. Despite a long list of actors who would follow the Dream story forward after Kieth and Dringenberg's departure, a screen adaptation never materialized until decades later, as a Netflix series developed by Gaiman himself alongside David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Allan Heinberg (The O.C.), which
The Sandman is by far the finest TV adaptation of the comic book. Despite its shortcomings, it remains unfavorable for fans of the show who have come to the show fresh. Its a strange and listless series that moves with odd rhythms and avoids traditional conflict.
Roderick Burgess, an amateur occultist, gathers the last few items with bad vibes he needs to perform a ritual that he hopes will grant him immortality. Instead he captures Death's brother, Dream, the king of dreams known by many names including the Sandman, and imprisons him in order to keep him from dying.
Dream frees himself during a brief moment of neglect, and The Sandman takes center stage. There's London past and present, the world of the Dreaming where all manner of fantastical and nightmarish beings dwell, and even a visit to hell itself to meet Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie). Then, in the second half of the season, viewers meet Rose Walker, a young woman who might inadvertently destroy everything Dream is attempting to rebuild.
The Sandman is a remarkable rendition, despite its source material shortcomings: It does not present the best case for the narrative the viewer is embarking on; its in a blunt matter that goes against the narrative's contemplative nature, and it feels all the more dissonant. Much like the comics it is based on, it may surprise you to discover that there is a vast scheme at play here.
The revered status of the comic may make many of the series' adaptations unintentionally funny. Dream, for example, is depicted in the show as a ghostly man with stars for eyes, an ethereal presence that cant really be portrayed on screen without extensive makeup and some computer animation. But in reality, he is just a brooding, pouty Englishman, as well as older and younger siblings that also personify abstractions like Death (Kirby Howell-B
Patton Oswalts' performance as a talking Raven named Matthew, is oddly pitched and funny on screen, although he is somewhat uninteresting.
The Sandman is a captivating and sometimes bizarre commercial for the comic book, which sounds like a lot of praise but may actually be the desired outcome. Part of what made the Sandman comics so popular is how they were a place for social outcasts and weirdballs, where queer characters arose spontaneously in a time when that was a rarity. As Sandman became a story about all stories, from Shakespeare to ancient Greece to superhero comics.
The Sandman isn't a Netflix adaptation, but rather a project that must respect the platform's limitations and aspirations, to form a bingeable experience that might become a monster hit. This series is still a work of art, with the roughest edges smoothed out, a fable that never really answers anything.
Thats the problem with trying to bring dreams to life. The reason you keep seeing them isnt the details you see clearly, but the images that are hidden beneath your feet, so real yet unimaginable, a vapor nobody but you knew was there.
The Sandmans' first season is now available on Netflix.