"Sandman": how Netflix filmed Neil Gaiman's cult comic

Neil Gaiman is one of the most successful comic book writers. Among the notable film adaptations of his work are the TV series American Gods, Lucifer, and the film Stardust. For the first time, The Sandman was announced back in the 90s, but the projects were closed long before filming. And finally it happened. On August 5, Netflix released the first season of the series.

An experienced team has gathered for the film adaptation of The Sandman. The series was produced by Mike Barker (The Handmaid’s Tale), Allan Heinberg (Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City, Wonder Woman) and David S. Goyer. The latter is known as a specialist in the film adaptation of comics – he was the screenwriter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, produced Blade, the Constantine series.

Starring Tom Sturridge (Velvet Chainsaw), Boyd Holdbrook (Narcos), Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who). Also appearing in the series are Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth) and Stephen Fry and David Thewlis, who need no introduction.

The series tells about the world, which is ruled by different gods. Morpheus is one of the most important. He is responsible for the dreams of all mankind – without it, people hardly fall asleep and wake up. Morpheus also controls nightmares, preventing them from materializing in reality.

At the beginning of the 20th century, English occultists perform a ritual to catch the Angel of Death, but mistakenly catch Morpheus. An attempt to extort a ransom from him for his release fails, so he is chained in a magic circle for almost a century. Without it, the world changes a lot: some people stop sleeping, others cannot wake up. Nightmares that lived only in dreams enter the real world.

Finally, the god of dreams escapes from captivity, tries to fix the problems that began in his absence, and also looks for his magical amulets stolen by people. Including a bag of sand – that’s why he is a sandman.

The screen version follows the original.

Almost the entire team of writers and producers had experience adapting comics, and Neil Gaiman was actively involved in the creation of the series. Perhaps that is why critics praise the project for respecting the original (as if this is a good thing in itself). It manifests itself in the appearance of the protagonist and in dialogues that are practically not corrected. The latter creates the first problem: a couple of pages in a comic book that are read in 30 seconds turn into several minutes of screen time.

Another drawback is related to the desire to create a picture like in comics. Due to poor quality shooting and post-production, instead of beautiful scenes, the viewer sees bad computer graphics.

But there are also differences from the original. Firstly, the writers have smoothed out all the corners of the depraved and bloody comics. Therefore, a sterile mystical detective turned out. The same Corinthian, who, by the way, was given more screen time, in the comics brutally kills people simply because he wants to, but in the series he acts somehow lazily and without enthusiasm.

Shot from the series “Sandman”

Secondly, the comics, the first issues of which were released in the late 80s, have been modernized. Almost all love relationships became homosexual, Lucifer was played by a woman, black heroes are no less than white ones. The series wants to be politically correct and correct.

The plot is boring

A layered world with a bunch of mythical creatures seems like a great base for an interesting series. But it turned out boring, many problems appear already in the first episode.

The development of the plot is easy to predict, all moves are read in advance. Sometimes the characters themselves report what will happen – they explain to the viewer the risks of this or that action. But the consequences are presented as unexpected, also under dramatic music.

The banal clings to the banal, so in the sad scenes of The Sandman it rains, in the ominous scenes a thunderstorm rumbles.

Not only is the plot predictable, but it also develops slowly. There are many arcs in The Sandman, but not all of them are justified. Some do not affect the main story at all, so they simply increase the timing.

There are few events in the series, but a lot of conversations. Unfortunately, they are mostly boring and pretentious: the characters talk either about deep feelings or about complex matters. The level of dialogue leaves much to be desired, so the viewer listens non-stop to platitudes. Action scenes could spice it all up, but they’re almost non-existent.

Heroes repel

If the world created by the authors of the series is contradictory and complex, then the characters are understandable. They are so clear that it is completely uninteresting to follow them. Moreover, because of them, history turns into a farce.

Morpheus was supposed to be gloomy, but came out comical. He looks like a teenager who is about to cry, although the plot hints that the hero is worried because of problems of a universal scale. He also looks like a young Robert Smith from The Cure.

Shot from the series “Sandman”

Each dialogue of Morpheus begins with the same action – the hero looks at the floor, and then slowly raises his head and shows his sad face. Then he peers at the interlocutor as if looking for something in the dark, and then utters some other meaningless phrase. Naturally, as if she were about to cry. But boys don’t cry. For the tenth time (and it comes quickly), it is impossible to take such dialogues seriously.

However, the scenes with the main character really affect the plot, but the orgy is going on around him. The world shown in the series lives by complex rules. There are gods of a higher order (like Morpheus), there are deities of a lower level, there are dangerous creatures created by the gods – it is easy to get confused in the hierarchy. It would be more difficult if the characters were well written, but they are too simple. For example, the rather deep and incomprehensible why the biblical brothers Cain and Abel who appeared in the story in The Sandman are simplified as much as possible, shown, and then thrown out of the main storyline.

Nonsensical characters from Lucifer also appear in the series. Neil Gaiman’s manic desire to refer to himself did not frighten the writers, they accepted the game.

Shot from the series “Sandman”

The writers managed to embody only a couple of interesting characters. Joanna Constantine and the villainous Corinthian are the only living characters, but they appear relatively infrequently on screen to make way for a bunch of empty characters. So the whole season looks like an attempt to create a lot of tragic images for endless shuffling among themselves.

The script denies logic

The series talks about complex things, but does not even try to maintain internal order.

Morpheus is able to penetrate the mind of any sleeping person. Thanks to this skill, he knows everything about everyone. But at the moment when he needs to find his magical trinkets, he seems to forget about his abilities. Instead, he gets entangled in a nonsensical detective story. However, the value of his amulets raises questions. The plot needs them exactly in order to get lost and get to people.

Shot from the series “Sandman”

The conversations of the characters are completely devoid of logic. In one of the scenes, Morpheus comes to Cain and Abel to take away the Gargoyle from them – the only thing the brothers have, which they inform Morpheus about. But they immediately claim that they are ready to give it away. Morpheus takes the Gargoyle – and Cain and Abel burst into reproaches. From “we will give you anything” to “why are you taking the Gargoyle from us” takes less than three minutes.

Attract attention and anachronisms. In a scene set in 1926, the character is reading A Fistful of Ashes by Evelyn Waugh. The interlocutor advises another novel by the author – Vile Flesh. The catch is that A Fistful of Dust came out in 1934, Vile Flesh came out in 1930. You might think that this was done on purpose, but no – what is happening generally does not affect either the plot or the characters.

Only the most dedicated Neil Gaiman fans will love it

The film adaptation of The Sandman was constantly delayed. Neil Gaiman himself said that nothing is better than something bad. But if so, the Netflix series shouldn’t have come out.

It looks like a standard CW project – things like Arrow, Konstantin, The Flash, Supergirl were riveted on it in tenths. They were united not only by common characters, but also by cheap special effects, predictability and meaningless storylines that allowed the series to be extended exactly as long as it was watched.

Many of the problems of The Sandman series are hidden in the original, but the film adaptation exacerbates them. So only those who love comics very much and do not notice the shortcomings will succeed in accepting it.

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