work by Alexis Lebrun August 9, 2022
Since it was first published more than thirty years ago, Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel has held a prominent place in the pantheon of works deemed unfit for the screen. However, this is the feat that Netflix has just accomplished with this new big-budget series that stays very true to the plot and spirit of the Sandman comics.
An impossible adjustment?
The graphic novels published by Neil Gaiman between 1989 and 1996 at DC Comics (at least 2000 pages) are rightly considered comic monuments for adults and for several decades have attracted attention in Hollywood, which is desperately trying to adapt them to the big screen again and again. The flaw in particular of a rich visual universe difficult to transcribe and serious philosophical ambitions that make it a colossal working world, a priori impossible to blend into the format of a film or even several.
It therefore took the long time of a series to bring the dreamlike adventures of Morpheus alias to the big screen sandman (the sandman) or even Dream in VO, a kind of deity member of the Eternals’ siblings (mit Fate, death, destruction, despair, desire, delirium), who in turn rules over the realm of dreams. Or rather reigned, for after being imprisoned in a glass cage by a slightly insane wizard for more than a century, the unfortunate Morpheus lost most of his powers, coupled with three items stolen during his captivity: a small bag of sand, a rather spooky mortuary helmet and a ruby.
And to make matters worse, his empire has completely collapsed in his absence, forcing him on an exciting journey across multiple worlds. He meets more or less sympathetic characters and demons in a beguiling, gothic and sometimes violent fantasy universe. This universe respects the spirit of Neil Gaiman’s work and in particular his plot, which is followed almost to the letter, knowing that this first season covers only the first two volumes of the comics sandman.
Tom Sturridge, a chewable sandman
This loyalty is evidently tied to the collaboration of Neil Gaiman, who was involved in the production as he was in the serial adaptations of two other of his works, American gods (2017) and Good omens (2019), for a then-contradictory result. This is not the case this time. Flanked by Allan Heinberg, the film’s screenwriter wonder woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017) and David S. Goyer, who has earned a reputation as a writer of DC films such as the trilogy The dark knight by Christopher Nolan, Neil Gaiman succeeded with sandman Adaptation once thought impossible.
The success of the series is certainly partly due to the good use of a very substantial budget to create sets and often spectacular scenes, but the really good surprise comes above all from the casting. And of course we must start by saying a few words about Tom Sturridge – who recently appeared on the series Irma Vep by Olivier Assayas on OCS – whose angular face, sullen pout and looks worthy of Robert Smith make it possible to compose a Morpheus with the arrogant allure of a sixties English rock star, but eventually mysteriously adorable.
The rest of the cast takes their turn as the brilliant David Thewlis (landscaper on CANAL+) embodies a creepy character (what he does best), while Gwendoline Christie (game of Thrones on OCS) simply takes on the role of Lucifer Morningstar, Queen of the Underworld. With his Playboy glasses and carnivorous smile, Boyd Holbrook (narcotics on Netflix) is very convincing in the skin of the Corinthians, nightmare escaped from the dream realm of Morpheus, and at least intriguing antagonist.
Besides the presence of David Thewlis there are other very good British actors like Joely Richardson (Nip/tuck), Stephen Fry (seen some time ago It’s a sin on CANAL+ and The Dropout on Disney+) or even Jenna Coleman (The snake on Netflix). Finally, it should be noted that even if Gaiman’s work was already way ahead of its time, the series made the decision to go for the current era instead of the 1989 year of the comics, but also to change the skin color or gender of certain characters , like that of the librarian Lucien, who becomes Lucienne here (played very well by newcomer Vivienne Acheampong). Completely normal decisions, but unfortunately made the guardians of the Temple of the Universe flinch sandman. Don’t heed those toxic jeremiads: it’s not every day that a DC Comics work is so well-suited to the big screen.
sandman Episodes 1 to 10 on Netflix, available on CANAL+.
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