Plans for a film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s famous DC/Vertigo graphic novel series the sandman have been around for almost as long as the three-decade-old title itself. After countless starts and stops, Netflix has finally delivered the sandmana ten-part venture (August 5) starring Tom Sturridge as the title character, who is also known as Dream (or Morpheus) and is one of the Seven Endless, a family of divine metaphysical elements that have taken on human form à la Gaiman’s american gods and Good omens. The saga of Dream is a sprawling saga that spans the ages and grapples with issues of destiny, hope, ambition and purpose. In the first season, however, it is weighed down by a helter-skelter story that borders on the aimless – and consequently takes a nap.
Created by Gaiman, David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg, the sandman opens as the source material does, featuring Sir Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), an occultist fondly called Magus, who uses a magical ritual to summon Death so he can resurrect the son who died on the battlefields of Gallipoli. However, accidentally this ceremonial invocation summons Dream just as he was about to attack The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), a nightmare who left Dream’s Dreaming realm for a life in the mortal world, where he loves to kill of people and cutting their eyes out. Dream becomes the prisoner of Roderick and later his son Alex, who is locked up for the better part of 100 years in a beautiful glass case in the sprawling basement of an English country house. Throughout this century, Dream is naked and says nothing, bidding his time for the moment when he could finally achieve liberation and, ostensibly, take revenge on his captors.
With a swirling head of black hair, his skin as pale as the moonlight and his body as lithe as a ghost, Sturridge forms a faithful, striking figure like Dream, and with a little post-production sonic enhancement, his voice has a deep , echoing quality that fits the protagonist nicely. Unfortunately, he is largely seen as a distant dullness. When he finally escapes confinement, Dream finds his empire in ruins from his absence and neglect, and he embarks on a quest to regain the three tools that give him his power. Those include a ruby, a bag of sand, and a giant gas mask with an elongated, spine-like tube he calls his Helmet. But despite indulging in big blobs of exposition, the sandman does not provide a clear explanation for the precise nature of the meaning of these objects, which is in line with a story that feels like it lacks vital connective tissue and is therefore aimed at fans who already know the details that fill these gaps.
The first stop on Dream’s adventure is a village populated by Cain (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry), who are trapped in an endless murderous cycle along with their pet gargoyle, which Dream needs for its essence. As in the graphic novels, the biblical and the historical are mixed with the actual action, with Dream soon encountering Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), a female take on the exorcism-loving demon slayer, as well as Hell’s ruler Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie). ) and Roderick’s son John Dee (David Thewlis), whose mother Ethel (Joely Richardson), who dealt in stolen goods, once owned Dream’s tools. John is an inmate in a psychiatric ward thanks to past crimes that are only briefly mentioned and through additional lead conversations it is revealed that he still has the ruby of Dream. How he could wield such a weapon, or modified it to serve his own ends, is never clearly explained, nor is the reason why John is so determined to recreate the world by eliminating the human urge to deceive.
In what amounts to a standalone episode, John uses a restaurant as his laboratory and the residents as his guinea pigs for a grand experiment that tells bare truth. The subsequent revelations are bleak and made all the more annoying by the fact that we barely know John or care about his deranged intentions. the sandman works overtime to recreate the mood of bleak goth forcing that made Gaiman’s original such a ’90s sensation, filled with endless darkness punctuated by glowing orange-yellow lights, medieval architecture embellished with CGI wisdom, and fish-eye-lens cinema that everything in the frame. Aesthetically, it’s all romanticized digital doom and gloom, neither tangible enough to make a powerful impact, nor ethereal enough to mesmerize.
“Aesthetically, it’s all romanticized digital doom and gloom, neither tangible enough to make a powerful impact, nor ethereal enough to mesmerize.”
the sandman becomes more episodic as the first season progresses, so that the leading continuous line turns out to be Dream’s attempt to gain a greater understanding of himself and humanity, while simultaneously reflecting on the fundamental role of dreams and stories in existence. Such notions may be loftier than those in your typical genre endeavors, but Gaiman, Goyer and Heinberg fail to bring them to magical life. For the most part, the series is inert, thanks in no small part to Dream herself, a detached quasi-deity who embodies Sturridge as a passive, solemn observer. There is no overarching urgency or sense of dramatic commitment to these bleak proceedings, and worse, there is a serious lack of compelling personality; try what Sturridge might, Dream is a dull shadow of a character, more suited to posing than attracting and holding attention.
Based on the first six episodes, the sandman is an alienating venture that hops between storylines gathered from various Gaiman graphic-novel collections in a vain search for direction. Devoted acolytes may see the scattered vignettes as smaller pieces of a large puzzle, but everyone else tends to be as confused as they are enthralled. A dark fantasy that gets lost in the darkness, the sandman introduces elements in such a random way that it rarely feels like anything rests on Dream’s success or failure, regardless of the hero’s repeated conversation about the importance of his mission. Nestled in Netflix’s latest, if there’s a tantalizing tale of our musings—that we experience while we slumber, and that we tell ourselves through awake fiction—it’s buried too deep to cast a memorable spell. .