‘The Sandman’ finally fulfills the dream of adapting Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed comic

After years of failed attempts to bring Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed surreal comic book to the screen, Netflix is ​​finally making a home for “The Sandman,” armed with enough top-tier British guest stars to populate a Harry Potter movie. The resulting series is visually arresting yet dramatically apathetic, made for those, and perhaps only those, who already own titles in Sandman 101.

Gaiman was joined in the adaptation process by Allan Heinberg (“Wonder Woman”) and veteran comic book and movie writer David S. Goyer, who between this and Apple TV+’s baffling “Foundation” has carved out a niche herding projects. considered unsuitable for fruition as a series.

In this case, the long-awaited series follows a proposed movie that was set to star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and an Audible podcast version unveiled in 2020, so kudos, in a way, just for getting this far.

Still, the dense fantasy elements and lyrical storytelling don’t translate easily from page to page, and the meticulous detail in rendering look and tone doesn’t elicit much emotional investment. That might sate fans who can fill in the gaps, but in the context of a 10-episode series, it might leave the uninitiated adrift in dreamland.

Faithfully following the comic, the opening episode features Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), also known as the King of Dreams, trapped by a strange spell, making him the prisoner of a rich Englishman (“Charles Dance” from Game of Thrones) who Search for the secret to cheating death.

Decades pass before Morpheus escapes, discovering that chaos has ensued during his long absence (by human standards, anyway), forcing him to retrieve the lost items to restore his power and control.

That slow quest parallels the actions of a shadowy, malevolent figure known as The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), who seeks to capitalize on Morpheus’ weakness as the story oscillates between various fantasy realms and “the waking world.” . where mere mortals reside.

Morpheus’ travels take him down a variety of detours (several chapters are essentially episodic, advancing peripherally in the larger plot at best), leading to encounters with other eternal supernatural beings, including Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie). and Dream’s siblings known as the Endless, such as Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

As for others in the all-star cast, many of whom appear in just an episode or two, include David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Joely Richardson, and the voices of Mark Hamill and Patton Oswalt, the latter as a prankster crow.

The performances, however, feel blunted by narrative structure and dreamlike storytelling, beginning with Sturridge’s lead role. In that sense, “The Sandman” is less accessible than something like Gaiman’s “Good Omens,” where Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s hilarious combat helps anchor its mythical qualities.

Netflix is ​​no stranger to taking ambitious leaps with high-profile sci-fi and fantasy properties, experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, including high-profile entries like “Cowboy Bebop” and “Jupiter’s Legacy,” none of both of which won a second season, “The Sandman” kicks off a series of high-stakes adaptations on broadcast, adding additional corporate hype to its fate.

On paper, the series certainly has the makings to engineer a longer run, but this often visually stunning first season, while creeping into later episodes, speaks more to the promise of the concept than its full execution.

For those who have eagerly awaited “The Sandman” to invade this realm, and no doubt harbor long-nurtured notions about how it should do so, that excitement might be enough. But perhaps inevitably, given the hypnotic nature of Gaiman’s mythology, a series devoted to dreams doesn’t turn out to be the stuff dreams are made of.

“The Sandman” premieres August 5 on Netflix.

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