‘The Sandman’ Review: Netflix’s Dark Fantasy Is a Dream Come True

Tales are like recurring goals. They bubble up from our unconscious, typically showing the identical — and but, wanting nearer, you may discover the main points shift in each telling. Should you like occupied with goals, and tales, and also you’re into common ponderous musings about goth stuff, then hoo boy is The Sandman the present for you.

As a long-gestating adaptation of a seminal comedian e-book by Neil Gaiman, there’s an enormous weight of expectation amongst readers and followers, however the excellent news is that this atmospheric and fascinating sequence is the stuff that goals are manufactured from. Should you’ve by no means learn the comics, you are in for a deal with as you come to the sequence unencumbered by your recollections and imaginative and prescient of the unique. Should you have learn the comics, effectively…. The unique Sandman is such a multilayered and ambiguous story that each reader could have a singular relationship to it, and it will be fascinating to see how every viewer responds to the TV model.

Both method, Netflix’s 10-episode sequence is a scrumptious, darkish, humorous melding of fable and magic within the fashionable world, full of seductive and damaging supernatural beings in a richly layered realm of fears and fantasies.

Streaming from Aug. 5, 2022, the sequence begins with a hubristic occultist attempting to seize loss of life. That is not a metaphor: On this story, there’s an precise strolling, speaking determine who shuffles ill-fated people off this mortal coil. It is a universe the place summary ideas — loss of life, need, despair — are embodied as stylishly dressed schemers squabbling with one another on assorted planes of actuality. And it is one in all these who by accident finally ends up locked within the occultist’s basement: a thin, fiercely cheekboned chap named Morpheus. He is the lord of goals, and whereas he is locked up for the most effective a part of the twentieth century his kingdom falls into ruins, unleashing goals and nightmares alike into the human world.

The sequence intriguingly mixes the mundane with the legendary. The story unfolds in a world of cell telephones and gasoline stations and spit-and-sawdust taverns — combined with an eyeless serial killer, foul-mouthed occult trouble-shooters and an precise, literal Lucifer. From the dream realm to Hell itself, the present’s world(s) are so wealthy intimately that even the lesser characters sketch out a way of an enigmatic bigger universe, evoked by the merest scrap of dialogue or the briefest look.

Although it is a fantastical story a couple of godlike legendary determine, reality-altering rubies and Demise in a tank high, the core of The Sandman is the humanity of the folks Morpheus encounters. From the premiere episode’s father and son battling over their prisoner’s destiny, to a frankly mesmerizing midseason episode set fully in an ill-fated diner, the present’s characters are sketched with heartwarming hopes and heartbreaking fears. 

It is irritating that the present’s creators felt the necessity to open the sequence with a jarringly over-explanatory voiceover spelling out in eye-rolling element what might’ve been teased and revealed by the present. I am unable to assist however really feel the hand of a Netflix government in that call, but when it makes the sequence extra accessible to new viewers, then I in all probability should not quibble. The cliffhanger for the primary episode additionally suggests a conventional kind of sequence — the fantasy model of a procedural — however that present by no means materializes. As a substitute, every installment tells a comparatively self-contained story, and fragments of tales are woven right into a mesmeric patchwork. When a extra typical overarching storyline kicks in throughout the later episodes, Morpheus is considerably sidelined. However this extra conventional story does give the present’s dreamlike construction a bit of ahead momentum, and in addition serves as a facade to smuggle in more and more and delightfully bizarre stuff.

Dream meets Need as Tom Sturridge faces Mason Alexander Park in The Sandman.


Netflix

The listlessly whispering Tom Sturridge has a tricky process taking part in the lead position of Morpheus, who’s typically a mere observer of occasions and is usually haughty, even merciless. However this fearsome determine can be enticingly weak and has partaking moments of humanity (as in an early episode, when he asks when he might have commanded). He additionally has a really good coat.

It is also a tricky job to play in opposition to such a weighty forged, all of whom sink their tooth into their multifaceted characters. There is not a weak hyperlink among the many forged, although Jenna Coleman and Patton Oswalt really feel a bit misplaced. Silky-voiced Boyd Holbrook leads the way in which as Morpheus’ nightmarish creation The Corinthian, a seductive and sybaritic southern gent who cannot cease reducing folks’s eyes out. Then there’s David Thewlis, who follows his terrifying flip in Fargo’s third season with one more unnerving efficiency. Sport of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie is an imperious Lucifer, whereas Vanesu Samunyai is the human coronary heart of the later episodes. And among the many supernatural stars attacking their roles with relish regardless of sadly restricted display screen time are Kirby Howell-Baptiste as an affable Demise and Mason Alexander Park as purring, growling Need.

In some methods, adapting The Sandman is an inconceivable process (or, I dunno, a Sisyphean labor, if we’re speaking the language of Gaiman and his creations). Operating from 1989 to 1996, the comedian was created by Gaiman with artists Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg (and lots of others), and incessantly instructed its story by taking part in with the type of the comics medium. A few of that stuff is solely inconceivable to re-create on tv. So not every part will work within the TV model, at the least not for some readers who’ve deep relationships with the supply comics.

However tales are like recurring goals. The identical preoccupations, the identical fears, the identical needs might frequently power the identical dream into our helpless sleeping thoughts. But the main points might change — and extra importantly, we modify on daily basis, so the dream is rarely skilled the identical method twice as we develop and be taught. I confess it has been years since I learn the comics, and I would expertise them completely in another way now than I did as a callow youth. So a brand new adaptation of a beloved murals can be a distinct factor, and we’re totally different as we expertise it.

What I am saying is, try to let go of the comics a bit if you watch the TV present, OK? 

For these new to The Sandman, your enjoyment will hinge on how you are feeling about ethereal philosophizing, Gaiman’s mixture of caprice with jet-black humor, or Stephen Fry. However, following on from the gleefully depraved American Gods and the cheerfully cosy Good Omens, this long-gestating adaptation of The Sandman appears like a becoming translation of Gaiman’s signature cocktail of unflinching humanity, atmospheric allusion, hilarious nastiness — and most of all an underlying sense of aching hope and pleasure. Maybe nothing might seize the magic of the enduring comedian, however set your love for the books apart, like a half-remembered dream. As a darkish and charming fantasy TV sequence, The Sandman is a dream come true.

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