9.0 / 10
- The “dreamlike” spirit of the comic perfectly transposed
- Good changes made
- Great cast
- The scenes take their time to be thorough
- Thrilling soundtrack
- Some dialogue or too many scenes
- A couple of stumbles in the use of the green screen
After more than thirty years of spasmodic waiting, Sandmanone of the most influential comics of all time, by one of the most influential authors of all time, Neil Gaimanhas finally obtained its much desired transposition.
Netflix released the first season of its new event series, The Sandmanadapting in serial format the first two volumes (out of twelve, not counting Overturethe spinoff Death and, if we want to be the picky nerds we call ourselves, The Books of Magic) of the comic book saga and some short stories. With Gaiman himself producing and writing, Dave Mckean’s collaboration and a highly respected cast, The Sandman has certainly managed to get people talked about by becoming the most viewed series of August 2022.
This is thanks to a good media and advertising campaign of the series, to which the Maestro and the cast are added. But is the result obtained the one hoped for?
Just a dream? It is never “just a dream”
The Eternal they are supernatural entities that watch over and serve human beings. Among the most powerful beings in the cosmos, Death, Dream, Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium and the no longer Destruction, were created by the same human imagination, and as such depend on the same people who dominate. According to Destruction, “None of them will live longer than this version of the universe.”
In 1916 an English magician, with an attempt to imprison Death, carries out a ritual which, erroneously, brings you into the real world Dream, the Story Shaper, the most enigmatic of all the Eternals. Left helpless for over a century, Morpheus finally manages to free himself from his prison and return to the Dreamlands.
But his reign has fallenhis precious objects, the Helmet, the Dust Bag and the Ruby, have been stolen from him, few have remained faithful to him, and some of his creations, such as the terrifying nightmare Corinthianthey are free to roam the Waking World.
Dream will therefore have to embark on a journey between the Waking World and other planes of existence, on a mission in which dream and reality mixto achieve two main objectives: to return as powerful as in the past and to remind everyone that he alone is the Lord of Dreams. Because it is never just a dream.
The Sandman: a brave adaptation
When it’s the same writer of the original work to be involved in the script of transposition considerably diminish the chances that this will fail as an adaptation. Sure, there are exceptions, but with Neil Gaiman it’s always a certainty.
After all we are talking about a man who has proven several times to be a multifaceted author, both as a cartoonist (in addition to Sandman let’s think about yours Eternal oa 1602, or, for the DC, What Happened to the Caped Crusader?), novelist (American Gods, Coraline) and screenwriter (Doctor Who). Lately he has increasingly built a reputation as an adapter of his own stories, previously with Stardustmost recently in Good Omens and in American Gods. One should not be surprised at the lower quality of the latter series as he became less and less involved in the project.
As we all know, in an adaptation each scene need not be identical to its original counterpart. Especially if we are talking about a variegated and complex work like Sandman, it is good that there are changes. As the same Dream says, both in the comic and in the series, stories always go back to their origin. We do not know if or how long the success of this series will last, but in any case the comic will always remain as it was. “Carbon Copy” like are always welcome Sin Citybut it never hurts a The Boys every now and again.
During the production of the series, however, there was no shortage of controversy also from the fans for some casting choices, such as the to have a black actress play Death or having exchanged John Constantine with Johanna. Of the latter fact, however, we must give more the blame the rights of the HBOand for this Gaiman had to use a character created by himself for DC to replace John.
As for the constant complaints of the now abused “politically correct” typical of Netflix, we must remember that since the 80s Neil Gaiman had introduced LGBT issues in his comic without making them stereotyped. In short already in his time Sandman it was an advanced comicNetflix just added a personal touch to make it more current.
Same or better?
Precisely because, or rather thanks, to Gaiman’s skill as a writer, The Sandman manages to be faithful to the spirit of the paper workleaving the most important phrases or scenes intact and, at the same time, even improving others. After all, it has been a long time since 1988 when that book of a thin, pale man with matted black hair similar to its author appeared on the shelves. The author’s own vision can easily change over the decades.
The most striking example is probably the episode “24 hours“. In the comic is a sequence that serves to show the powers of the Ruby, but its length slows the pacing of the story, more than a Neil Gaiman story usually does. The series instead uses the visual sector to make one of the most elongated parts of Sandman one of the richest in pathos. The construction of the setting, the use of lights less and less marked as you go along, the disturbing sound sector and the shots rich in details and very close-ups increase the tension, up to the dramatic finale.
Or the fight that takes place in the fourth episodethat although it is rendered in a captivating way in the comic, in the series it has been modified to make it more epic and narratively integral, especially if we know what will happen, or what could happen, in the coming seasons.
Make a dream come true
Gaiman knows that he is speaking to a much more varied audience than that of comics, moreover an 80s comic. For this it takes much longer to tell its epic saga weird visually. It adds details to the scenography, lengthens the minutes of the scenes so that the viewer immerses himself in the story, gives more space to the silences and introspections of the characters. To speak in more specific terms, a two-second glance with a suitable underlay at the right time can say a lot more than a baloon.
The score, by David Buckley, it ranges from epic to dark and melodramatic toneswhich accompany the visual sector in a dark dance in which it is not difficult to get lost.
Great importance is given to the setting, paid with wide wide and panoramic fields, especially when certain scenes are set in the Dream World or in other realms outside the real one. In some shots you can catch a glimpse a trip on the green screenbut if you remember the importance given to the desired “fiction” of the series, you can forgive it.
The cast of The Sandman is so vast and varied that one should spend a separate article to describe it. We will limit ourselves to saying that each of the interpreters has been able to immerse themselves in the part of her to the maximum of his abilities and to bring to life the characters we all love. But it would be a betrayal in fact not to mention the actors who pierced the screen the most.
Tom Sturridgealthough it seems at first glance subdued as an actor, he is more than suitable for the part of Dream precisely because of this will coldness and emotional detachment from everything around him, events or people who are. Sure, he’s younger than Dream is portrayed in the comic, but it’s an incentive for a long-term interpretation.
But who steals the show throughout the season is of course Boyd Holbrook in the role of the sadist Corinthian. The actor is no stranger to comic book villain roles (Logan-The Wolverine) and this may be the best so far. The perversion of him and the disturbing behavior of him is something capable of making him a real nightmare both in the series and for us viewers.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste silences all the rumors against her by giving us a Death that lives up to expectations, with a perennial friendly smile and a playful and empathetic attitude towards anyone she meets.
Special mentions also go to Stephen Fry, who excels in the role of Gilbert, Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine, Gwendoline Christine as Lucifer and David Thewlis as John Dee.
A dream come true
They believed it was impossible to transpose to the big screen The Lord of the Rings, until Peter Jackson arrived with his inventiveness to surprise readers and novice audiences. Equally unlikely opera looked like a TV series Sandman, but, like Jackson, Neil Gaiman proved otherwise. An epic, dark, weird fantasy saga, which does not limit itself to thrill novice spectators and to please the readers, but to make them savor almost the same experiences they felt while leafing through the pages of the Vertigo comic.
An animated series would have been preferredperhaps in rotoscope as it was shot The Dream of a Thousand Catsso as to increase the dreamlike counterpart of the story, with more marked color games and dynamic animation, but if we have reached these levels, to say that we are satisfied is an understatement. Because Netflix was the Materioptikon with which Neil Gaiman, plagiarizing his Morpheus, was able to make his dream and his story real. And, as Matthew says, “Dreams don’t fucking die!”
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