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Home»Review»The Sandman review: Neil Gaiman’s iconic dark fantasy graphic novel comes to life!»

The Sandman review: Neil Gaiman’s iconic dark fantasy graphic novel comes to life!

The live-action adaptation of the bestselling graphic novel is a faithful retelling of the beloved story

3.5/5rating
  • Ryan Gomez

Last Updated: 08.42 AM, Aug 07, 2022

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The Sandman review: Neil Gaiman’s iconic dark fantasy graphic novel comes to life!

Story: When the King of Dreams and ruler of the Dreaming, Morpheus is captured by a mage in the real world, it creates chaos in both the dream realm and the waking realm. When Dream aka Morpheus is finally freed after a century of captivity he seeks vengeance against his captors and also sets out to retrieve his prized belongings lost in history that are the source of his god-like powers.

Review: A live-action adaptation of The Sandman was once deemed 'unfilmable' after several failed attempts to bring Neil Gaiman's critically acclaimed graphic novel to the screens, dating all the way back to the early 90s. There are several reasons why writers and filmmakers found The Sandman a daunting task to adapt, and the most obvious challenge was to bring out the graphic novel’s visual aesthetic as well as its surreal set pieces and characters. While fantasy and dark fantasy stories have been successfully adapted in the past, The Sandman is no ordinary story, and it rightfully requires craft, dedication, and attention to detail like no other. Fortunately, fans of the comics can be rest assured that the new Netflix adaptation is an almost perfect adaptation.

Despite Netflix’s recent financial concerns, it appears to have had no effect on The Sandman’s production value. The art design and visuals are on par, if not better than, most blockbuster films. In fact, some of the sequences are straight from the graphic novel and accentuate the storytelling aspect of the series. British actor Tom Sturridge essays the titular character to perfection, as the brooding and morally conflicted Lord of dreams. And the casting of Sturridge is arguably one of the best choices ever in comic-book adaptations. His subtle changes in expressions provide additional layers of intrigue and complexity to his character. Dream’s journey, from his fall from the heights of his power to his eventual return as one of the most powerful beings in the known universe, is reimagined through a gripping screenplay.

The series has opted for an old-school method in how it has structured season one. Unlike the more contemporary styles, where a season is essentially a six to ten-hour film cut into an episodic format, each episode in The Sandman has a new story to tell with an overarching narrative progressing in the background. This helps in introducing new characters for each episode with their own unique and compelling stories. David Thewlis as John Burgess is absolutely flawless, as he toys with humanity with his newfound powers, and intends to create a world without lies. This storyline is captured in episode five, titled 24/7, when Burgess uses a local diner as his social experiment to see how humanity will fare if they simply could not lie. The episode is perfectly executed with great commentary on philosophical conundrums. And its greatest strength lies in how it’s able to keep one invested in seemingly insignificant random characters who are in a diner.

The following episode titled The Sound of Her Wings is also a standout; the story introduces Dream’s sibling Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) — an entity who guides people to their afterlife. Death is one among the Endless, a family which comprises other members such as Dream, Destiny, Desire, and Despair. Death becomes Dream's pillar of moral support and the episode captures Dream's evolution as a character. There is a noticeable dip in the overall narrative’s pacing in the episodes that followed. The story of Rose Walker (Vanesu Samunyai) is a shift in tone and her relevance to the finale could have offered more depth. However, Boyd Holbrook’s turn as the villainous Corinthian is effortless, and the 'Cereal Convention' for serial killers is an excellent nod to the comics. Jenna Coleman as a gender-swapped version of DC’s popular John Constantine, named Johanna Constantine is an excellent addition, as is Gwendoline Christie’s portrayal of a reimagined Lucifer Morningstar, the ruler of Hell. Stephen Fry, Charles Dance, Ferdinand Kingsley, Mason Alexander Park, Vivienne Acheampong, and Vivienne Acheampong essay important supporting roles. The finale brings Dream/Morpheus to a new understanding of human beings and also finds new meaning in his existence, while new threats emerge in the distance.  

The series also offers great 'easter eggs' to the wider DC universe, even though it’s unlikely the members of the Justice League or even Justice League Dark would make an appearance in the series. Rose Walker's guardian, Lyta Hall (Razane Jammal), is in fact Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor’s daughter in the comic books. Whereas her deceased husband, Hector Hall, is the son of Carter Hall and Shiera Hall (Hackman and Hawkgirl). Even though it is never explicitly referenced in the series, these are definite nods to The Sandman’s connection to the DC lore. One can only hope that at least the Justice League Dark members such as Zatana, Etrigan, and Swamp-Man would eventually make an appearance in The Sandman.

Verdict: Fans of the iconic graphic novels can finally rejoice that a faithful adaptation of The Sandman has arrived, after being in production limbo for nearly three decades. It is a direct adaptation of earlier comic book volumes such as The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, and it features excellent performances and stunning visuals, and it has even added something a little different for those who are new to the realm of the Sandman.

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