August 15, 2022

‘The Sandman’: Neil Gaiman’s Twisted Dark Fantasy Finally Comes to Life (Almost)

8 min read


In an episode of Netflix’s new drama the SandmanIn , the two characters discuss a shared love for the works of William Shakespeare. one of them recently objected King Lear Production that changed the story substantially, while another assures him, “Great stories will always return to their original forms.”

The latter spirit is key to understanding both the assets and challenges of making a TV series out of a comic book, long held as one of the medium’s greatest, but also one of the most irreverent. is one.

Written by Neil Gaiman and produced by a rotating series of artists, the Sandman, which ran from 1989 to 1996, holds that there is a family of cosmic beings more powerful than any deity, each having dominion over some important aspect of human existence. Its title character, known by either Dream or Morpheus, is the master of everything that happens to us while we sleep, as well as all the stories we dream about in our waking hours. Through Morpheus, his siblings, and their poetic fantasy adventures, Gaiman spun an anti-genre yarn that helped bring female and LGBTQ readers into comic-book shops visited primarily by straight men. While the whole “Zap! Bam! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!” Media narrative of the late eighties and early nineties.

The series was such a phenomenon that Hollywood has been trying to make it to the screen practically from the beginning. but sandman has stubbornly challenged the adaptation for decades—its story is too large and supernatural to be condensed into a film, challenging its protagonist to be as interesting in three dimensions as he is as lines on a page. And as successive attempts failed, Neil Gaiman became so frustrated with the process that he began to develop a reputation as a creator who wanted all of his works to be translated as literally as possible. . He reportedly had Starz’s original audience american gods were replaced as they tried to deviate from the text of Gaiman’s novel, even though those deviations were pretty much the only parts that worked for television at all.

eventually, sandman A filmed version has arrived, in a format best suited to capture its elaborate narrative, and with Gaiman as a practical producer, the TV show is developing with David S.Batman Begins) and Alan Heinberg (amazing lady) In many ways, the 10 episodes that are now streaming on Netflix represent the closest possible thing to bringing Gaiman back to life. sandman Comics for life. And in others, it reflects why it took so long, and why, at times, great stories aren’t best served by staying in original forms.

With a few exceptions, the first season is a direct retelling of the comics’ first two arcs. We begin with a take on the story “Prologues and Nocturnes” in which Dream, played by Tom Sturridge, ends a century of imprisonment at the hands of amateur British magician Roderick Burgess (from Charles Dance). game of Thrones), who was hoping to trap death and is dismayed at being captured by her more vaguely defined younger brother. Eventually escaping, Morpheus must retrieve various powerful items stolen by Burgess and begin to rebuild his kingdom, The Dreaming, after falling into disrepair during his absence. In the second major arc, based on “The Doll’s House”, Morpheus’s quest for a surviving nightmare called the Corinthian (from Boyd Holbrook) Narcos) intersects with both a serial killer and a convention for a young woman named Rose (Vanesu Samunyai), who has unexpectedly developed powers that threaten both the dreaming and the waking world.

the Sandman.  Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian in episode 102 of The Sandman.  Ten million.  Liam Daniels/Netflix © 2022

Boyd Holbrook as Corinthian.

Liam Daniels/Netflix

But “Prologues and Nocturnes” was an odd point at which to start a comic book and an even weirder point at which to start a serial TV show. Dream spends almost the entire first episode of his own show sitting naked and silent inside the glass cage in which Burgess has sealed him, just glowing while the other characters take action. And even once he’s out and about trying to retrieve what Burgess has taken from him, the depth of his loss and the import of his new discovery doesn’t really matter. happens, because we haven’t yet seen him or Dreaming at their respective peaks. , He wanders around the ruins of his realm, quarreling with chief librarian Lucien (Vivienne Achempong) and biblical brothers Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chowdhury), but it seems the story is starting from the wrong place. , simply because that is where Gaiman first started it.

Or maybe Morpheus is a challenging character to put at the center of it all. He is aloof, unintelligible and largely unchangeable. None of these are ideal traits in a hero. Comics got away with it just because she was so visually striking on the page – ghostly pale, with an uncontrollable shock of jet-black hair, draped in dark clothing and other flashy accessories. And for the bulk of the comic series, Gaiman treats Dream less as the protagonist of the story than its host, using him to introduce us to characters far more colorful than Morpheus was himself. .

To an extent, Dream’s pencil-and-ink magnetism in the comics can be transmitted by the right actor. He will still be passive and depressing in many ways, but the role will keep the cast overflowing with charisma and things will largely work out. Sturridge’s looks are perfect, but his performance, unfortunately, rests on all of Dream’s inherent flaws as a dramatic leading man. What might play out as a seemingly mysterious personality in other hands, instead comes across as mildly irritated and dreary.

The series mostly does better when it comes to the people around Dream. Vanessu Samunyai is a bit bland herself as Rose, who is essentially the main character of that second arc, but the supporting cast is otherwise full of actors who understand the assignment. Chief among these is Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death himself, a surprisingly gentle and warm man who has learned that what people need most when they die is the comfort and understanding he needs. Howell-Baptiste so far oozes so much joy in his solitary half-episode appearance that it’s hard not to wish the series was more about him than his moppy brother. (To be fair, this was a wish expressed many times sandman readers, as well.) Gwendoline Christie is majestic and mischievous as Lucifer Morningstar, the ruler of Hell and one of the few characters in the story more powerful than Morpheus. Boyd Holbrook casually controls the screen in each of his shots, even though the serial-killer milieu of the Corinthian feels far more cliche than when Gaiman first wrote these stories. David Thewlis is necessarily invulnerable as the mentally ill John Dee, who has inherited one of the objects of Dream’s power, and Jenna Coleman brings a welcome degree of mischief as Johanna Constantine, the occultist. There are specialists in matters, who discover that they have a family history with Morpheus.

, Although sandman Posted under the Dizzy imprint of DC’s Adults Only, Gaiman periodically found Morpheus interacting with characters who originally appeared in the pages of DC’s more famous all-ages books. The show largely bypasses these references, for example, John D is an assassin, but not (as he was in the comic) C-list Justice League villain Dr. Destiny. The comic features both Lady Johanna Constantine in the past and her descendant John Constantine in the present, but probably because Matt Ryan was playing John legends of tomorrow just nowLast year, the show made her gender-flipped. The most entertaining diversion involves Lucifer, as Christie is playing the same character who, as Tom Ellis, helped the LAPD solve crimes for six seasons on the Fox (and then Netflix) procedural. lucifer Which was very a. loosely adapted fromsandman spinoff comic

,

the Sandman. Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar in episode 104 of The Sandman. Ten million. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

the Sandman. Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar in episode 104 of The Sandman. Ten million. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar.

Netflix

That first year of the comic was either more horror-leaning than the fictional epic into which it would develop. Starting with these stories – in which the fifth episode, “24/7”, is based on a serious issue of the comic where John D plays with the minds and bodies of six people at a diner – false hopes for where the series is. installs. There is a chance of success. But again, Gaiman clearly wants to stick to the original script wherever possible. Or he wants to stick to that most of the time. Death’s first appearance, based on one of the most beloved issues of the entire Gaiman run, only takes up half of the sixth episode, and moves to a slightly later issue, where Dream tries to make her sister the 14th century. assures an English soldier named Hobb Gadling (Ferdinand Kingsley) is immortal as an experiment to see how long any human really wants to live. Although the two stories were not originally presented together, they make an excellent pairing in theme and tone, and suggest that Heinberg and the others might do well to mix and match the stories and concepts from 75 issues. (give or take some related miniseries) of a comic, rather than following their exact path in sequence.With the superhero deconstructionist story of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons watchman , the Sandman The least suited for transplant into any other medium was held up as a comic book for a long time. Zack Snyder finally made a fairly faithful adaptation of the plot watchmanIn a 2009 movie that otherwise completely missed watchman , Damon Lindelof’s 2019 HBO take on material often deviates wildly in character and theme, but ultimately reading Moore and Gibbons’ work felt too real for the experience, only a few years ago.

sandman debuted. Gaiman & Company certainly isn’t obligated to try anything as radical as Lindelof’s approach. For the most part, he . has accomplished the impossible by making a filmed version of

the Sandman It will feel recognizable and true to anyone who can immediately remember seeing his first cover drawn by Dave McCain, or his reaction to the feeling that the friendly Goth sitting next to Morpheus at the park’s fountain. The woman was dead. And the parts of the series work very well, especially when Dream is not the central figure of those parts.But their success in adopting the adaptable itself only enhances our understanding of why it has struggled for so long to do so. Even with the more attractive lead actor, there are a lot of elements of this season that only make sense because that’s how he was designed to appear in another format 30 years ago. To paraphrase Ian Malcolm

Jurassic Park Gaiman was so busy figuring out if he could directly recreate his original work that he didn’t stop to think about what to do. , all 10 episodes of

The Sandman is now streaming on Netflix. I have watched the entire first season.



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