When the Sandman, aka Dream, the cosmic being who controls all dreams, is captured and held prisoner for more than a century, he must journey across different worlds and timelines to fix the chaos his absence has caused.
Neil Gaiman’s original comic series ran from 1989 to 1996 and is generally considered to be one of the greatest comics of all time. It was progressive, dark, and absolutely aimed at adults. This Netflix adaption of The Sandman covers the first two story arcs, Preludes and Nocturnes, and The Doll’s House, with each arc getting five episodes.
I first discovered the comics about twenty years or so ago, when I borrowed the first two collections from a work colleague. I was hooked from the start, and set about buying the complete set as soon as I could. So, to say that I was looking forward to this would be an understatement. It didn’t disappoint.
Honestly, the casting was perfect. Tom Sturridge embodies Dream in such a wonderful way. It’s his body language in particular that really shines, from his general demeanor to the little facial touches that get his attitude across, Tom deserves a lot of credit here. The same can be said for Boyd Holbrook’s turn as the nightmare, the Corinthian. My word, he absolutely nailed that vocally, and captured the mix of menace, manipulation, and desire to be free so well.
And they aren’t alone. There isn’t a bad piece of casting in the whole series. Gwendoline Christies’ Lucifer, David Thewlis as John Dee, Charles Dance as Roderick Burgess. All are great. The two that are – quite rightly – getting a lot of praise though are Jenna Coleman as Johanna Constantine and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death.
Kirby just is Death. She 100% understood the character, and whether she’s being playful, loving, or vulnerable, she absolutely nails it. Meanwhile, Jenna’s take on the Constantine family is as much John and it is her own thing. The attitude, the dark streak, and the power are all there.
In terms of story, both arcs are faithful adaptions. That’s not to say that there haven’t been changes. Some scenes have been fleshed out so as to stretch individual issues to full episodes. When this happens though, it’s done well. Nothing feels like it’s unnecessarily padded out, it’s all just taking advantage of being a different medium of art. In the same way, when things do change slightly, it doesn’t lose the original point of the source material.
Meanwhile, the visuals are excellent. Hell and the Dreaming are gloriously fantastical, and the overall cinematography is very good. The costumes too are fantastic. Sure, Dream doesn’t have the massive hair but, as Neil Gaiman revealed, it didn’t look right when they did it for real. It’s still identifiably Dream. My favourite was Desire, though. That scene where they have the cat tail swishing subtly while they lounge was just plain beautiful.
Overall, this is a masterclass in how to adapt an already deep, beloved comic into a deep, beloved live-action series. There is a reason it was the number one streamed show in more than 80 countries at once. I cannot think of a single criticism to throw at it. This is must-see television, plain and simple.
- The characters are every bit as wonderful as their comic counterparts and are played excellently by the cast
- The story is excellent
- The changes made are sensible and don’t alter the tone or intent of the source material
- From the scenery to the costumes to the general effects, the visuals are great
- Nothing. Literally nothing.