Television in the streaming era is a beast with a voracious appetite. It must be fed entire series, seasons, and cinematic universes all at once, merely to be sated for a weekend. It is critical, and there are only so many stories in the world to tell them. Today, adaptations of popular works in other media have been made at a remarkable rate, as projects that previously sat in development hell have now found all obstacles removed from their paths.
The Sandman, a beloved 1989-1996 comic book series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg, was considered unfilmable because to its serial nature and surreal visuals as lovingly depicted by a bevy of artists who would follow the dream of Kieth and Dringenberg in the 1990s. It has finally been translated into flesh and blood as a Netflix series by Gaiman himself along with David S. Goyer (Batman Begins), among others
The Sandman, on Netflix, is perhaps the finest imaginable TV adaptation of the comic book. Those compromises are subtle differences that are difficult to ignore in a show that is otherwise a pleasant reprise of an old favorite. Its a story that takes time to establish itself but is enthralling for those who stay long.
Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) prepares 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, known by many names including the Sandman, and imprisons him.
Dream is rescued during a brief moment of neglect, and The Sandman takes center stage. The first half of the season follows Dream as he rebuilds himself, as well as a journey to hell itself to meet Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie). Rose Walker is a young woman who may inadvertently destroy everything Dream is attempting to rebuild.
The Sandman is a remarkable faithful adaptation, which means it shares many of its source material shortcomings: First, it fails to make the most compelling case for the narrative the viewer is embarking on; when The Sandman does explain itself, it is in a blunt manner that is at odds with the contemplative nature of the story, and it is all the more dissonant.
The revered status of the comic may make many of the series' adaptations unintentionally funny. Dream is shown in the show as a ghostly guy with stars for eyes, an ethereal presence that cant really be portrayed on screen without extensive makeup and maybe some computer animation; this isnt necessarily a bad thing when you learn (not a spoiler) that he is just a kid who also personifies abstractions like Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) or Desi
Patton Oswalts' performance as a talking Raven named Matthew, is oddly pitched and intense, yet somewhat aimless on screen.
The Sandman is an appealing and sometimes odd commercial for the comic book, which sounds like a slapstick praise, but may actually be the desired outcome. Part of what made the Sandman comics so popular is their ability to be a haven for social outcasts and oddballs, at a time when that was a rare event. Sandman would evolve to become a story about all stories, from Shakespeare to ancient Greece to superhero comics.
The Sandman on Netflix is not a Netflix adaptation. It is still a project that must respect the platform's limitations and aspirations, to create a bingeable experience that is destined to be a monster hit. All of the ways this might compromise the original work are already present in this series, visually, tonally, and structurally.
That's the problem with trying to make dreams come to life. The reason why dreams stick with you isnt the places you see clearly, but the images that remain so unreal yet impossible to describe, a vapor no one but you knew was there.
The Sandmans' first season is now available on Netflix.