The Sandman – Netflix

“Unfilmable” is thrown around a fair chunk, in particular for written media that isn’t action-focused, or dialogue-driven. Cerebral material can be a true challenge to translate. Dune(1984) vs Dune (2021) is a good example of how different approaches can lead to vastly different results. With a good team, almost anything can be filmed now-days.

The Sandman is an older comic from the late 80s to mid 90s, covering 75 issues. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors where I just seem to click, and this series can be seen as foundational work to pretty much everything that he made since. Prose-driven, with anthropomorphic representations of states of mind, with a strong application of fantasy horror. I read a few of the comics when I was younger, and they were just enthralling because they were so different. This is when Infinity War was the big deal! Long-form comics are making a resurgence now, yet the stage was set back with The Sandman.

Netflix has recently launched their series on the first two storylines from the comics (of at least 12 main storylines, depending on your view). It is thick and slow, just like the comics. Some scenes are just disturbing in their construct (ep. 5 in particular) where humanity is laid bare. The protagonist is not exactly endearing, as he naturally lacks humanity, making for some interesting moral/ethical points of view. Empathy isn’t the point here, it’s the pure logical construct behind pure purpose, and then the means to achieve it.

The writing is solid, the art design fantastical, and the actors representing the Endless all do an admirable job. Boyd Holbrook is a standout, but not for the right reasons. He plays the same type of character here as he has in other media. It feels like a mis-cast as his character is by far the most nuanced and beyond the actor’s range – we need to sympathize and it just doesn’t work. It is important to note that the British/American divide is clear as day in this series, a staple of Gaiman’s work. It’s anti-bombastic and intellectual…

I enjoyed it, and I think it strikes the best possible balance of translating the comics to video format. I’d be more than interested in seeing more. Now, knowing Netflix, I am expecting a note about this series being cancelled sometime next week.

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