Review by Camden Ferrell
Neil Gaiman is one of the most versatile and prolific writers around today, being the person responsible for such works as Coraline, American Gods, and Good Omens to name a few. Arguably his most known and acclaimed work, The Sandman is finally receiving its long overdue adaptation as a television series. Often thought to be “unfilmable”, this adaptation is strong, entertaining, and feels very well connected to its source material even if it does falter in other areas.
Dream aka. Morpheus is the personification of Dream who over sees his own realm. However, he becomes imprisoned for many decades and finds himself in a completely changed world when released. From there, he must reclaim what he has lost and deal with the fallout of the many threats the world and his realm face. This first season adapts the first wo arcs of the series Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. Those who are familiar with the source material are aware of the unbounded potential this phenomenal and mesmerizing comic book series has to offer for a live-action adaptation, so its creators definitely have a lot to work with.
The writing does a great job of honoring the style of the books while still making it feel natural in live-action and also adapting for a modern era. Like the book, this show offers some great meditations on universal themes and ideas that give the scenes more subtext and meaning. There are a handful of moments that feel slightly out of place with its dialogue and narrative, but it’s a pitfall of trying to adapt such an ambitious work.
Surprisingly, one of the more underwhelming aspects of the show is its cast. Nobody is bad in this vast ensemble, but very few actors make a lasting impression. Tom Sturridge leads the series as Dream, and his dark and brooding performance is sufficient to carry the episodes, but it’s not as complex or nuanced as one would hope. The two actors who truly standout in these episodes are Kirby Howell-Baptiste and David Thewlis who play Death and John Dee respectively. Both are able to deliver unique and memorable takes on iconic characters with ease and emotion.
Even though fans of the comic book series will probably get more mileage out of these episodes, the show does an amazing job of being accessible to all viewers, so reading the source material is not required whatsoever. The show is a very faithful adaptation that makes small changes to help the narrative flow better.
The show is hit or miss with its technical achievements. The cinematography wavers between gorgeous and well-shot to sometimes passionless and generic shots that don’t fully do justice to the rich visual source material. The effects can also be inconsistent in quality and use with a select few effects being quite weak for a show of this caliber. However, the show does have some truly amazing VFX work and cinematography throughout that help elevate certain episodes.
Fans of the series will look forward to episodes 5 and 6 which adapt 24 Hours and The Sound of Her Wings respectively from the series. I’ll admit that albeit great, the 24 Hours episode is not as unsettling and brilliant as its literary counterpart. Fortunately, I’m happy to say that the sixth episode is utterly beautiful and nuanced in its complex story and themes, and it is by far and away the highlight of the entire series that I think will be the one episode that is unanimously loved.
The Sandman is a faithful, creative, and overall strong first adaptation for the iconic series. It’s not without cosmetic flaws throughout, but these 10 episodes prove that this series is adaptable and will hopefully find a fanbase to keep this series running for years to come. Plenty of fun for new and old fans alike, this is a series you’re definitely going to want to give a chance this August.
The Sandman is available on Netflix August 5. All 10 episodes are reviewed.