Like the long-awaited adaptation by Neil Gaimans The Sandman comes calling to conjure up our pre-dawn dreams, who knows what awaits those who consider themselves immune to his advances?
Only time will tell as exhibition runner Allan Heinberg (Dream lady), creator Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and DC wunderkind David S. Goyer (Foundation) bring their vision to Netflix starting August 5.
The comic was first published between 1989 and 1996, and is considered one of the greatest of the medium, and screen adaptations have been discussed since the late 1990s. It was originally supposed to be a movie before a deal was struck with Netflix in 2019 to turn it into a series, after years of trying to get this ambitious story off the ground.
Fortunately, it was worth the wait as the finished product matches the source material. It’s a cavalcade of visual splendor, bold imagery and spellbinding storytelling that will convince audiences that dreams do come true, as they are taken on a journey through time and space that encompasses every element of human behavior.
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The Sandman the series introduces the audience to the anthropomorphized god Dream (Tom Sturridge): an all-powerful purveyor of unconscious expectations.
Imprisoned by Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), a spokesman for the real-life Satanist Aleister Crowley, Dream is forced to bide his time for a century until time and tide see him free. Stripped of his clothes and jewels of office, he must go in search of three items to right the wrongs that have been inflicted on the mortal world during his imprisonment.
This undertaking sees him encounter The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), John Dee (David Thewlis) and Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) among others.
For those unfamiliar with the folklore of this legendary title, there is no need to worry. Allan Heinberg and his collaboration with The Sandman the creator proves fruitful, as elements of this hollow story are unpacked over a ten-hour period.
With biblical characters including Cain (Sanjeev Baskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudry), along with DC alumni Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), this story remains rich with possibilities that rarely diminish.
As the audience digs deeper into this story, it morphs into many things, encompassing the various facets of human behavior from wide-eyed wonder to unbridled self-interest.
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It’s a transformation that directly affects others over time, as it becomes clear that Dream has much more power than the helm, ruby, and sand would suggest. It is a force that not only affects any unconscious ambitions people may have, but also protects against emotional greed to maintain a balance.
Watch a trailer for The Sandman
From the pits of hell and an overly accommodating Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie) to the ever-constant guidance of dreamworld guardian Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong), this rich tapestry of human evolution continues.
After an opening episode that lays the foundation for the story, The Sandman takes time to get up to speed. Using every minute of screen time to maximum effect, making this world an exciting place to explore.
Tom Sturridge is the bedrock around which this series revolves and his commitment remains crucial throughout. He manages to convey the infinite source of influence that defines Dream, but also adds nuances to his personality that suggest such gifts come with their own price. Much like Damon Lindelof’s perception Watchmenthis Sandman fit is close to perfection.
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In adaptation of cartoon volume Preludes and Nocturnes and The doll’s home in season one, Netflix has laid the groundwork for a franchise.
This ten-hour warm-up familiarizes beginners with the landscape The Sandmanthat allow characters to come and go and leave their mark on the imagination, while also adding layers to this story as they pass by.
The Corinthian is one such character who is woven of dreams and personifies nightmares, consuming our capacity for hope and living forever on our desires. His unique disfigurement makes him a grotesque creation for mockery, if it weren’t for the actor beneath the facade. Boyd Halbrook fulfills the creative need alongside Tom Sturridge and Mason Alexander Park’s embodiment of Desire, to give this world substance.
Other characters may offer fleeting moments of levity before Dream robs them of their gifts, but The Corinthian exists beyond the Endless, walking among mortals trying to overthrow an old world order.
Aided and abetted by members of the Burgess clan, this secret attack on Morpheus defines episode five through random acts of savagery. Conscience free and unlocked from the confines of social convention, this is what happens when people become native.
However, none of these elements would come together if the production design, composition and cinematography failed to deliver – which it thankfully does in abundance.
Conjuring a world of wonder in his hands, series designer Jon Gary Steele (Outlander) weaves visual effects and real places into a coherent whole. An achievement that is further strengthened by composer David Buckley (The Lincoln Advocate), which perfectly blends tone and time period to inject this Sandman universe with some real emotion.
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This long-awaited adaptation of Gaiman’s seminal work proves that, given the right mix of creative influences, any work of fantasy can be pulled from the page and brought to life on screen.
The Sandman streaming on Netflix now.