It’s been over 30 years since Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece of a graphic novel was released and fans have constantly been clamoring for an on-screen adaptation of the source material. The years-long of wait has finally come to an end and it’s all thanks to Netflix alongside Gaiman, David S. Goyer, and Allan Heinber who have developed the much-awaited and needed TV show adaptation of The Sandman — the very topic of this review.
The Sandman Review: Synopsis
The Sandman stars Tom Sturridge alongside cast members such as Boyd Holbrook, Vivienne Acheampong, David Thewlis, and Patton Oswalt, just to name a few. The Sandman follows Morpheus aka Dream aka The Sandman who is a part of The Endless family — a group of eternal beings who are abstract concepts personified. The Endless also includes beings such as Desire, Death, Despair, and many more. The Sandman revolves specifically around our titular character who must pick up the pieces of both the Waking and Dreaming World after his 100-year absence and subsequent imprisonment which was brought about by a cultic ritual. The series follows the graphic novel’s flow of events which start off with Morpheus’ escape, his pursuits to retrieve his lost items (his helm, pouch of sand, and ruby), and eventually his run-ins with a vortex of dreaming; a rogue nightmare, Corinthian; and the exploits and plans of his brother and sister Despair and Desire.
The Sandman Review: Spoiler Warnings
We will keep our review of The Sandman free from any spoilers that may interfere with your viewing experience. We will limit our discussion in this review to the show’s visual spectacle, its premise and creativity; and finally some of the standout performances from the show.
Living Up To The Source Material
The Sandman is, by all means, a one is to one, play-by-play adaptation of the source material with maybe a few tweaks here and there in terms of the dates, years, and timeline. This is the perfect show for fans of the graphic novel as it screams the respect that the story of Sandman truly deserves. This series is the perfect example of an adaptation gone right! The show manages to really create an immersive experience and character developments that would engulf any viewer in the story. The show manages to create a story that is so enticing, to begin within its first few minutes alone while managing to keep such excitement and enthusiasm on our part alive until the very end. The Sandman however is as volatile and ever-changing as the sands of time itself. It’s not just one particular story that we follow all throughout but every continually shifts gears from time to time and this is a very interesting manner with how the story is told as it becomes all the more powerful and engaging as each episode progresses.
As mentioned though there is almost a bias in the way this show has been developed. It stays true to the source material in such a way that it may go over the heads of those who are as knowledgeable with graphic novels. There are moments that tend to drag its feet so heavily that not all may appreciate its beauty. I mention this, not as a discouragement, but as a means to entice and implore you further to stick along with the ride that The Sandman gives us. It doesn’t follow your typical run-of-the-mill TV shows with high points in each episode to keep you wanting more. Some of the episodes may even be grueling for some to watch due to the pacing of it all. Once you see the creative direction not just in terms of the visuals but more importantly with the story and how it’s told then The Sandman suddenly becomes a show that you wouldn’t want to put down anytime soon. Let’s take the fifth episode as a great example. Halfway into the show, I found myself questioning the extent that the show would take to dedicate one entire episode to prove a seemingly simple point. The creativity and innovation that 24/7 gives us however are unlike anything I have seen as it took me a while to appreciate but the pacing was, in my opinion, proof of the time that the show would take to really bring the message of dreams being a reflection of truth.
It may appear that The Sandman is trying to accomplish so many different storylines and abstract concepts that may be hard to fully digest. The truth is however that while a lot of things occur in just one season, these are all necessary to paint the imperfections and growth of Morpheus. Furthermore, the personification of these abstract concepts isn’t as confusing and intellectually draining as we may expect. It isn’t a complete Nolan type of films like how Inception or Tenet continues to bother us up until today with intellectual battles and discussions. The concepts while having room for discussions and processing afterward are pretty entertaining enough and well explained to follow. There is even the ability for The Sandman to tie in so many facets of humanity within the story and out of it that opens the door for philosophical and literary discussions. This points to the full-on creative direction of the story as a whole and how it has truly transformed into a modern-day poetic, expressive and artistic work.
A Treat For All The Senses
The Sandman doesn’t feel like a series at all. In fact, what we are given in terms of the visual front is an all-out captivating masterpiece — one that one may expect to witness on the big screen. The Sandman in other words is a long cinematic experience one that feels like one gigantic epic of a tale or movie. The first few seconds alone in the first episode is a barrage of sensory displays that would leave any viewer mesmerized. I honestly didn’t expect the amount of beauty and grandeur that The Sandman exhibited given that TV shows don’t usually get this type of treatment. The level of excellence is admittedly incomparable to anything that I haven’t seen from a series in a very very long time.
The world-building first and foremost is just spectacular as we are dragged straight into the immersive and expansive universe of The Sandman. This is seen from the almost life-like creatures and nightmares that have been created down to the ethereal realms of Hell and Morpheus’ Dreaming world. Every aspect of the show in terms of its set designs and creative realms that it showcases is just a mind-blowing combination of realism and surrealism. The dream world for example looks like a magical work moving a work of art straight out of a painting. At the same time, the depiction of Hell is just utterly menacing to look at where the despair from the very place emits an unwarranted sense of beauty to it that is just indescribable, to be honest. There is also a great manner with which the show traverses through the human waking world that spans a variety of timelines and periods. There is an honest and realistic hand at play even when the show goes as far back in British history.
The show is able to beautifully combine rich, vivid, bright colorful images with the perfect blend of dark undertones that shifts from the looming moods of the show and are just seamless with the brightness of others. It doesn’t happen abruptly but it is subtle enough that at times you don’t even notice it. This is the perfect way in which a show like this is able to encapsulate and embed its storyline and themes deep within the visual elements to reinforce certain ideas and concepts. In the case of The Sandman, it’s the quest and balance of Morpheus to understand humanity through the lens of darkness and light; dreams and nightmares.
The Revelation That Is Sturridge
Tom Sturridge is a name that we should be taking note of immediately. I couldn’t imagine anyone else who is more fitting to play the role of Morpheus than Sturridge himself. It’s a perfect match as the actor was able to deliver the perfect characterization for the role and extract every dose of his being and that of the characters for this performance. The acting wasn’t over the top but in the most difficult way possible, Sturridge was able to bring out the best from the role through great practice in simplicity and subtlety. Sturridge just embodies Morpheus’ dark and somewhat passive nature which is further highlighted by his perfect delivery that seems emotionless and monotoned with the addition of low cadences that add to the eerie, ethereal, and mysterious quality of the character.
There’s actually nothing to fault with the entire cast to be quite honest as the casting department really did a fantastic job in acquiring all of these amazing actors and actresses for the specific roles as they gave life to each and every character in The Sandman roster. Lucifer Morning Star for example plays along the borders of being mischievous and cunning which Gwendoline Christie is able to blend with spot-on delivery in terms of her line delivery, bodily movements, and facial expressions. We also see such excellence in the acting front from Boyd Holbrook as the villainous, sly, and creepy Corinthian and the misguided and another corrupted member of the Burgess family, John Dee. We also witness the amazing performances of the Endless such as Desire played by Mason Alexander Park and my personal favorite Death played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste. The latter, despite having a very limited appearance in just one episode made a huge impact as a character whose empathy and bigger purpose as an Endless was just shown so brilliantly by even being able to humanize the character.
The Sandman Review: Final Verdict
We just absolutely love the direction, premise, acting, and visual spectacle that the Netflix show The Sandman offers — it’s pretty much evident even in our review. It’s a different show format altogether as it takes its time in creatively ensuring that the story takes center stage. There is however a slight disadvantage for those who are not that immersed with Gaiman, his stylings, and even The Sandman itself. It does have the tendency to drag along at a sluggish pace but once you surpass these somewhat long and slow episode/story arcs and really take the time to appreciate it then you will see The Sandman as the masterpiece that it truly is. Dues to that small flaw of being a bit sluggish, we cannot give The Sandman the perfect ten but a solid 9 on our Hype Meter is a pretty great score. We recommend that you head on to Netflix now and check out The Sandman now.
Hype Meter: 9/10
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