This long-awaited comic-book adaptation is neither a dream nor a nightmare; rather, it is a tedious walking tour led by an annoying guide.
“The Sandman” is like a giant hourglass with two wobbling ends. Neil Gaiman’s comic books, adapted for the Netflix series by the author himself (along with David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg), introduce the streaming service’s massive (though slightly shrinking) audience to its elaborate fantasy world, filled with mythical characters who rule and roam their respective realms but live within a shared, ever-expanding universe; this is the show’s primary goal.
To make matters more difficult, the first season is unable to settle on a simple framework for its story. This show has a lot going on, but the episodic nature of some of the storylines makes it difficult to keep up with the overall plot, which is led by Dream, or Morpheus, or The Sandman.
Dream’s (Tom Sturridge’s) primary role is that of a tour guide. For some reason, it appears that the introduction of Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie), Death (Kirby Howell Baptiste), and Constantine(Jenna Coleman) has more of an impact on the direction his goals take than any underlying desires he may have.
As a side note, Mason Alexander Park also plays the character of Desire, but their presence here serves more to tease future seasons than anything else.
With its teaser trailer following the first episode, “The Sandman,” which appears to recognize that the first hour offers little reason to stay watching, comes across as hollow as well. Gaiman’s austere illustrations may be enough for some die-hard fans to sit through 10 hours of a dream finally realized.
This is yet another film that relies heavily on computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create a dull sense of grandeur in scenes situated in large, open locations. However, those who have not yet been won over may become weary of searching through the shimmering sand for deeper meaning — or, you know, any true emotion.
First introduced as The King of Dreams, Dream tells his “mortal” audience that their “actual world” is only half of what they are, and he reveals that he is the Sandman.
The Dreaming, the place they visit while they sleep, plays an equally important role in their existence, and he’s in charge of maintaining it. Dreams and nightmares are the results of a person’s imagination. He keeps a few of these works of art close at hand. Some of his staffers go off on their own. We know these are laws meant to be broken as soon as we learn that most dreams cannot live in the real world. And sure enough, one does.
An English magician (Charles Dance) believes he can capture Death and force them to bring his deceased kid back to life in the first episode. His attempt to summon Death fails miserably, so Roderick demands that Dream explains to him how to conjure it or else bring back his beloved kid. After a century-long silent treatment, Roderick imprisons Dream and waits impatiently for the ever-patient semi-god to comply.
The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), an escaped nightmare who sees Dream’s incarceration as an opportunity for free reign, lends a helping hand to the evil father.
As with much of “The Sandman,” it’s not apparent how much Dream’s absence affects the waking world and Dream himself. calamity Even after being held captive for an extended period of time, Dream remains a blank slate who never becomes a fully relatable or consistently comprehensible protagonist because of this.
A guy who was granted immortality for profiting from the slave trade is punished by him in the following breath for deciding to become compassionate. Dream suffers a mid-life crisis (or whatever it’s called for individuals whose life is forever) about half of the season, moping around as though he’s already bored with the concept created over the last four hours.
He needs to learn the same lesson again and over again, which undermines even his introductory speech, in which he claims that his role is his purpose.
When Dream returns to his kingdom, he spends most of his time visiting other members of the Endless, a family of immortal beings that rule over their respective kingdoms, in an attempt to restore order.
In the end, he uses dream logic to resolve every tiny issue he encounters, but this logic never expresses even the most minute stakes, let alone the most important ones. He engages the devil in combat by… conversing. John Dee (David Thewlis), a beautifully constructed baddie, is vanquished way too swiftly.
There are so many battles that have to be explained as they happen, and even then they only make sense conceptually – watching them unfold is a futile exercise because there is no marked effect to each attack. There’s no use in exchanging CGI fireworks or casting unheard-of spells if we don’t know what hurts an Endless being; we won’t know who won or lost until the actors tell us who won and who lost.
The action sequences may be pointless, but there are some interesting ideas to be found. A nagging hostility exists between Dream and the people he manages, or at least between Dream and the people he manages to create. While imprisoned in an unbreakable glass bubble, he feels as if his family has abandoned him.
In contrast to the rebellious nightmares and other wayward creatures, there is a constant questioning and reaffirmation of their commitment to assist humans. There are some interesting points to be made, but they are not developed enough to warrant a genuine effort in finding a definitive position.
When there are any good points in “The Sandman,” it’s because of the excellent casting. In the role of Lucifer, Christie has the smug assurance that is easy to appreciate. After death, Howell-Baptiste gently guides the deceased to their final resting place.
This half-episode diner scene with Thewlis is the closest the show gets to addressing the importance of dreams because it shows him spooning ice cream. This is a darkly amusing pastime for him: playing the mad morality scientist. There are some bright spots in this season, but it’s a mess. There are no apparent plot lines, and the protagonist’s journey is entirely abandoned.
Instead, it relies on convoluted dream logic to keep things going forward. It would have been less of a problem if it had ditched the season-long stories and instead adopted a more episodic approach, like reading a comic book.
“The Sandman,” on the other hand, isn’t a long-winded show, but it does feature a number of intriguing cast members and inventive ideas that pique one’s interest. But it’s easy to forget about it if you don’t have a heartbeat and a focused mind. Even if you do fall asleep, whatever your mind conjures up will probably be just as memorable as this.