In a story full of magic and fantastical elements, it’s only fitting that The Sandman’s streaming adaptation is something of a miracle.
Attempts to mount the sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s much-loved comic books, has been running since the early 1990s. It went through so many rounds of development, it started to look like Lucy and the football.
It is safe to assume that for the sandman devotees, this Netflix miniseries is like a gift from the gods, or in the parlance of the series, the Endless, the immortal beings who personify concepts like dreams, death, and destiny.
But what if you’re not a mega fan? What if you haven’t waited the past 30 years for your screen dreams to come true? Shall the sandman offer the same intoxicating allure?
Yes and no. The series is absolutely imaginative, meaning the complex world can be compact and a bit inaccessible at times. Of course, if you’re well versed in the genre – and fantasy is the jour in pop culture – then it shouldn’t be too heavy.
Still, newcomers may struggle for the first few episodes as they wrap their heads around it the sandmandeep lore. And the pace of the show pulls and pulls in the first half of the series as you settle into the demanding story.
But if you last until at least episode five, the classy and visually captivating series really pays off.
For the uninitiated, the sandman centers on Dream/Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), an Endless who rules both the Dreaming and the sleeping self of humanity. When Dream is kidnapped by an early 20th century occultist (Charles Dance), he spends a hundred years in captivity.
When he is finally freed, he finds his realm in disarray and several threats looming. Dream must travel through realms and encounter a series of characters who help and hinder him in his quest to restore order.
the sandman is structured like episodic television, meaning there are highs and lowers depending on the focus. You also get a killer row of guest stars popping up, such as Gwendoline Christie’s (Game of Thrones) bowed Lucifer Morningstar or Jenna Coleman (doctor who) as the wily Johanna Constantine.
While tonally coherent, each episode can vary wildly. A highlight is episode six, starring Kirby Howell-Baptiste (the right place) as Death, Dream’s sister. She and Dream venture through a series of Death and meet different people at the end of their lives and it’s a beautiful and poignant 20 minutes of storytelling.
Another episode features David Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) as the tormented man John Dee, who uses Dream’s enchanted ruby to expose people’s darkest desires, while Jenna Coleman’s chapter is steeped in the philosophies of regret.
that is the sandman‘s power, the way it imaginatively arms its wider story to explore smaller stories of love, time, loneliness, friendship and the shadows that lurk where we dare not look.
Not every episode affects you in the same way, just as not every emotion has the same effect. What felt like a cold exercise one moment can completely envelop you the next.
And it’s all wrapped up in a glossy, mesmerizing series that captivates more than distances itself.
The Sandman is now on Netflix