The Sandman is a fantasy fable brought to the screen by DC Comics and adapted from a collative set of graphic novels written between 1989 and 1996 by Neil Gaiman. The Netflix series has been developed with a creative team including David S Goyer and Allan Heinberg, and modifies the first two volumes from Gaiman’s original works.
The story weaves around the central character of Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), the King of Dreams, who is part of the Endless family. He is summoned with an occult ritual by a wealthy man called Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance) and held captive in a huge glass case for over a century, meanwhile his three objects of power (his helm, his ruby and his pouch of sand) are whisked away. This incarceration causes all sorts of horrors like the sleeping sickness (or “encephalitis lethargica”, as the devastating state between waking and dreaming is known).
Sturridge holds court not only as Morpheus, but as the narrator too. His clear and noble voice brings a sense of classicism, whilst his haunting expressions and emaciated frame in imprisonment add a huge vulnerability and depth to his character.
It is only upon his escape that much of the Sandman arc unfolds as the protagonist sets out to restore the kingdom; viewers are then pulled away from his narrative and introduced to a host of strange characters who each have their own story. There is little room for humour as the series rolls along like a dark amalgamation of the Harry Potter tales. There’s a cute pet gargoyle who meets his fate when his two owners, Cain (Sanjeev Bhasker) and Abel (Asim Chaudhry), are locked in an eternal mortal duel; Morpheus’s pet crow succumbs to tragedy, and sweeping views show mystical lands that turn to rubble. Prospective audiences should be sure to expect a depressing slant on a fantasy tale.
Characters are brought to life by a host of seasoned actors, who move the fantasy along: the Corinthian is played with gusto by Boyd Holbrook, alongside Jenna Coleman (as Johanna Constantine), Joely Richards (as Ethel Cripps) and the rather brilliant and convincing David Thewlis as her son, John. There is some awfully good on-screen chemistry that makes all these roles believable, in turn reflecting Lucinda Syson’s expertise as casting director.
The Sandman series is packed to the brim with plot lines of romance, death and dreaming – clearly a passion project from Gaiman that’s been brought to light. It’s not for the fainthearted, with some uncomfortable darker tones and elements of horror, but it’s an epic adventure that fans will hope gets a second season.
The Sandman is released on Netflix on 5th August 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Sandman here: