In the streaming world, television is a beast with a voracious appetite; it must constantly be fed whole series, seasons, and cinematic universes all at the same time, for the sake of a weekend. These business-oriented desires to reduce art to chum or content have driven recent developments that have removed all obstacles to their path.
The Sandman, the highly successful 1989-1996 comic book series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg, was often regarded as unfilmable due to its serial nature and strange visuals as lovingly depicted by a number of artists who would follow the Dream story forward after Kieth and Dringenberg's departure. It is unclear whether or not the adaptation will prove the medium's limitations as unadaptable, or will it prove those who hold the comic, a singular medium
The Sandman is perhaps the finest imaginable television adaptation of the comic book. While also making some necessary adjustments for its new medium, its creators leave out the good stuff. It's a strange and monotonous series that takes time to establish itself. If you stay longer, you'll find it satisfying.
Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) constructs the last few items with nasty messages he needs to perform a ritual that he hopes will bring him immortality. Instead, he captures Deaths brother, Dream (Tom Sturridge), the king of dreams known by many names including the Sandman, and imprisons him.
Dream emerges during a time of neglect, and The Sandman takes shape. There's London past and present, the world of the Dreaming where all manner of fantastical and nightmarish creatures dwell, and even a journey to hell itself to meet Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie). Then, in the second half of the season, viewers are introduced to Rose Walker, a young woman who may inadvertently destroy everything Dream is trying to rebuild.
The Sandman is a stunningly faithful adaptation, which means the program shares some of its source material flaws: First, it fails to make the most sense of the story the viewer is embarking on. When The Sandman does explain itself, it is in a blunt manner, which goes against the contemplative nature of the story, and it feels all the more dissonant.
The reverence of the comic may make some 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; this isnt necessarily a bad thing when you learn (not a spoiler) that he is but one of the Endless, with older and younger siblings that also personify abstractions like Death (Ki
Patton Oswalts' performance as Matthew, an escaped nightmare eluding and working against Dream, is similarly pitched, effusive, and somewhat aimless on screen.
The Sandman is an appealing and occasionally bizarre comic book advertisement, 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 served as a safe haven for social outcasts and oddballs during a time when that was a rarity. As Sandman would grow to become a story about all stories, from Shakespeare to ancient Greece to superhero comics.
The Sandman isn't a Netflix adaptation. It's still a project that must adhere to the platform's limitations and aspirations, to create a bingeable experience that could become a monster smash hit. All of the ways this might compromise the original work is already present in this series visually, tonally, and structurally.
It's the issue with trying to bring dreams to life. The reason they stay with you isn't the parts you see clearly, but the images that stick out just beyond your grasp, so real yet indefinable, a vapor no one but you knew was there.
The first season of The Sandmans is now available on Netflix.