Squeeeee! That's me ditching all semblance of being a serious columnist for this feature on the freshly released Netflix show, “The Sandman.” It may be new for some, but hardcore fans of Neil Gaiman's beloved comic book series have been waiting for an adaptation such as this for decades.
The Sandman (at least this incarnation) is not a superhero. He is Dream, one of the seven Endless, the rest being Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destruction and Destiny.
He is King of his realm, The Dreaming, and he is tasked to protect it and ensure all the humans and entities that pass through it abide by its rules. He is powerful, thoughtful and complicated. And it's the complicated part we love so much.
In the mid-'90s, we would talk about ideas for a movie adaptation of Sandman. Cast-wise, I envisioned “Strange Days” era Ralph Fiennes with the unkempt hair as Dream and Winona Ryder as Death.
At the beginning of this long epic tale, we find Dream, aka Morpheus, summoned and imprisoned by the occultist Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance, “Game of Thrones'” Tywin Lannister and “The Crown's” Prince Phillip Mountbatten). Save that, Burgess' goal was to enslave none other than Death.
For anyone worrying about the quality of this series, there's no need to hyperventilate. Breathe easy because author Neil Gaiman has his fingerprints all over the show. He is, after all, an executive producer.
Now 36-year-old British actor Tom Sturridge is absolutely a dream as Dream! My '90s goth girl heart would swipe right for him so hard that my index finger would carve a deep valley on my phone.
“The Sandman” weaves tales of sinister dangers, sweet delights, and things that fall in between. There are moments of darkness and freakish horrors but, more so, moments of tenderness, deep connection and love. The philosophies of our existence, our worries, our imaginings, our fears and our heart's desires are discussed by characters, real and unreal, who are of this world and other worlds.
It also reminds us that perhaps mankind is still preoccupied with the same things throughout the ages. In a scene that takes place in a tavern in 1389, one character is overheard saying, “We've got war, plague and two bloody popes fighting. The end of the world is soon. You mark me!”
Going back to freakish horrors, there's David Thewlis as John Dee, twisted and corrupted by Dream's ruby. “Narcos'” Boyd Holbrook plays the wicked and wayward “The Corinthian” with sinister relish. He also looks straight out of the comic book.
There are a few key visuals that look exactly like the original comic book panels, as well as lines of dialog. I did very much enjoy the things they changed around a bit to fit the new medium (streaming service) and the new times. On the whole, “The Sandman” works. Although, I still have to know what someone who hasn't read the comic thinks of it.
My favorite episode is the fourth one, “A Hope in Hell,” where Morpheus/Dream must duel with Lucifer to reclaim his helm. The episode featuring Death also tugs at the old heartstrings. You'll wish it were indeed this Death helping people transition from this existence into the next. There's also a line that goes, all people want is “a kind word and a friendly face.”
There are a few other characters I loved in this re-telling. Besides Dream, I enjoyed his sidekick Matthew the Raven (voiced by Patton Oswalt and so wonderfully animated); Hob Gadling (played by Ferdinand Kingsley, who I just found out is the son of acting great Ben Kingsley) who makes an agreement with Dream and Death in that previously mentioned tavern in 1389; and darling Gilbert (Stephen Fry) who I am not supposed to say anything about just yet.
The costume and make-up team did a great job. I hope they get an Emmy nomination for their work on this show.
I have seen “The Sandman” from beginning to end, but I will watch it again, then read a random issue of the comic and do reading chores for the Audible's “The Sandman” audiobook.
It's good to be reminded why something remains so magical and has captured both the heart and imagination.
Ten episodes of “The Sandman” were released on August 5 on Netflix.
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