‘The Sandman’ review: Netflix’s Neil Gaiman show is a momentary dream

Neither a dream nor a nightmare, the long-awaited screen version of the historical comic book series is like a weary walking tour of strange fantasies, but built on the logic of dreams and led by a tedious guide.

Like a giant hourglass with two wobbly ends,the Sandman“It never finds its balance. The Netflix series, based on Neil GaimanKey’s award-winning comic books and adapted by the author himself (along with David S. Goyer and Alan Heinberg) are tasked with launching the streaming service’s giant (albeit slightly smaller) streaming service. shrink) viewers of its elaborate fantasy world, filled with mythical characters who rule and roam their given territory, yet live within a shared, ever-expanding universe.

As if convincing the public about the secret importance of our sleep wasn’t difficult enough, the first season couldn’t settle on a simple structure. Some stories seem episodic, yet rarely fill an entire hour, while the ongoing plot – led by Dream, aka Morpheus, aka Master of Dreams, aka The Sandman – scattered and moving. Dream of Myself (played by Tom Sturridge) is little more than a tour guide. Their ambitions change as often as their established beliefs, with Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie), Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), and Constantine (Jenna Coleman) needing to offer more than any coherent inner desires or desires. appears to be.

Desire is another character, by the way, played by Mason Alexander Park, but they’re less relevant to what happens here than a tease for future seasons. “The Sandman,” which runs a teaser-trailer after the first episode, as it knows the opening hour offers little reason to watch, likewise comes up empty — all promise, little payoff. For die-hard fans, watching Gaiman’s raucous drawings spring to life may be reason enough to sit through the 10 hours of long dreams and finally realized. But anyone who hasn’t been converted yet can get tired of sifting through all this shimmering sand for more meaning—or, you know, any sort of genuine emotion.

Gaining the rights to the exhibition, “The Sandman” begins with Dream (first introduced as The King of Dreams) informing its audience about the “mortals” in the world in which they “see the real world”. insist on calling” is only half of their existence. The place they visit while they sleep, called The Dreaming, plays a consequential role in their lives, and he is in charge of keeping it in order. Dream creates and controls dreams and nightmares. He keeps some of these works in his purview. Others venture out with his chosen employees. But as soon as we’re told majority of Dreams can’t survive in the waking world, it’s clear these are rules made to be broken – and wouldn’t you know it, one soon breaks.

The first episode primarily follows Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), a wealthy Englishman who believes he can capture death and forces them to bring their dead son back to life. But Roderick’s spell goes awry and instead the Lasso Dream, whom he solicits, tells him how to accept death or otherwise revive his favorite child. When the dream refuses – through a century-long silent treatment – Roderick imprisons her, not patiently waiting for the always patient quasi-god to give in to her demands. Lending a helping hand to the dastardly father is The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), a childish nightmare living in the waking world who sees Dream’s imprisonment as an opportunity for free reign. (How he continues to kill people without repercussions until now is a never-asked question, though it seems he’s a nightmare that’s right there in our dark and violent “reality.”)

Disaster ensues in Dream’s absence, although like in “The Sandman”, it is unclear how much his time matters—to the waking world and to the dream itself. Instead of using her lengthy captivity to help viewers get to know her, accompany her, understand her motivations, and look forward to her upcoming discovery, Dream remains a blank slate that never fully relats, Or even constantly understandable, does not become a hero. , One minute, he’s scolding a man bestowed with immortal life to make money from the slave trade, the next he’s punishing 1000 years of dark nightmares for being kind. Around the middle of the season, Dream faces a sort of mid-life crisis (or whatever it’s called for those whose lives are endless), as if she’s already bored of the base she’s established in the last four hours. Already happened. Even his opening monologue, where he says that his act is his purpose, later falters as he has to learn the same lesson all over again.

the Sandman.  (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Vivienne Achempong as Lucien in episode 103 of The Sandman.  Ten million.  Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Tom Sturridge and Vivienne Achempong in ‘The Sandman’

courtesy of netflix

After returning to his kingdom and restoring whatever order is needed, Dream primarily visits other members of the Endless: a family of immortal beings who rule their realm. But every little conflict he runs into is resolved using a kind of dream logic that never gives minute-by-minute stakes, let alone big-picture ones. He has a fight with the devil… by talking. A carefully constructed villain by the name of John Dee (David Thewlis) is quickly conquered. So many battles need to be explained as they are taking place, and yet they only make sense conceptually – revealing them is a pointless exercise because each attack has no apparent consequence. When we’re not told what hurts an endless creature, it doesn’t matter what kind of CGI fireworks are exchanged or unheard spells are cast – no one can tell who wins. Has been or is losing until the characters tell us who won and who lost.

While meaningless as an action series, interesting ideas come up from time to time. There is a longstanding enmity between the creators and the created, or at least between the Dream and the dreamers they see. He feels abandoned by his family, who never come looking for him during his detention in an impenetrable glass sphere. Unlike the Rebel Nightmare and other wayward entities that seek to harm them, their duty to serve humanity is constantly being questioned and reaffirmed. But none of these observations develop into sufficient consideration, nor are they explored with sufficient conviction to require any real investment in the pursuit of a final stand.

Courtesy of the strong casting, “The Sandman” has some highlights. Christie plays Lucifer with a cocky confidence that’s easy to admire. Howell-Baptiste puts a humble spin on Death, as she kindly fell into her post-life position. Thewlis is electric even when he’s just spooning a tub of ice cream, and his half-episode at a diner is as close as the show gets to properly acknowledging the necessity of dreams. But for some points to shine like, this first season is all over the map. It is so focused on teasing this character or that realm that it forgets to craft a commanding through-line, completely skipping any obvious arc for its lead, and dreaming of moving things forward. Comes back to confusing logic. “The Sandman” is not a tough watch, but in the absence of a beating heart and a focused mind, it is easily forgotten. Should you fall asleep at any point, chances are good that whatever your subconscious creates is just as memorable.

Grade: C-

“The Sandman” Season 1 premieres Friday, August 5 on Netflix.

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