I don't usually like adaptations. I'm one of those nose-up-in-the-air poindexters who pushes up their glasses and says, "Well, actually, in the book version…" That's right. I'm one of those kinds of people. So, when I heard that one of my favorite comic book series of all time, The Sandman, was being adapted into a live-action show for Netflix, I winced, and thought, well, okay. I guess I'll watch it, but is it really necessary?
But, after binging all ten episodes in the span of two days, I can say absolutely, positively, yes. One hundred percent yes! In fact, after watching it, I now have a renewed interest in Netflix's live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender TV show (Don't get me wrong. I still want to see the upcoming animated feature from the original creators, but I actually have hope for the Netflix series again). So, why is The Sandman one of, nay, the greatest adaptation I've ever seen? Well, you're about to find out.
Oh, and extremely minor spoilers up ahead.
Literally Perfect Casting Across The Board
When I did my article many moons ago about seven quick things we know about the Neil Gaiman comic adaptation, I didn't really know who Tom Sturridge, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, or Jenna Coleman were. Sure, I knew who Charles Dance and Gwendoline Christie were, but those two talented actors alone didn't really give me confidence that this show was going to be a well-cast success.
But, boy oh boy, I'm so glad that I didn't know most of the cast, since I was blown away by every performance, and it's probably because I didn't know what to expect. Let's start with Sturridge, who is absolutely perfect as Dream, a.k.a., Morpheus. He has the same quiet intensity that I always imagined Dream had in the comic book. Hell, even Patton Oswalt is perfect lending his voice to Dream's raven, Matthew. I mean, come on now. How is it possible that I heard Oswalt's voice in my head all those years ago when I read the comics? Because I did. I definitely did. But how?
It doesn't stop there, though, as every character is perfectly cast. A friend of mine recently said that Lucifer's Tom Ellis should have played Lucifer Morningstar in The Sandman series, but who could possibly be better than Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie? She owned that performance! Speaking of which...
It Stays True To The Character, If Not Entirely True To The Source Material
Do you want to know when I knew that this adaptation was one for the ages? It was when Dream went to Hell in Episode 4, "A Hope in Hell." That is actually one of my favorite moments in the comic, and it's also one of the sticking points that I had for this show, since The Sandman isn't a series about superheroes punching baddies in the face. It isn't like the superhero show, Invincible. Instead, it's more cerebral, relying on things like dream logic and philosophy to tell its story.
And, this series does just that. Sure, it features cool, and often disturbing visuals, but it doesn't inherently change the character of Dream, nor does it do anything to the events around him to make the show more "rousing" or "exciting." In other words, Morpheus isn't breathing ice breath, or shooting lasers out of his eyes. Instead, like the comic, the intrigue comes from the world of The Endless, and how their lives are constantly affecting everybody else's life on Earth, and I adore the series for this. It stays true to the overall vibe of the comics, even if it doesn't stay 100% committed to the actual events in the comics, which brings me to my next point.
It Sticks To The Source Material Where It Counts
Even though this first season covers the first two volumes of the comic book series, "Preludes & Nocturnes" and "The Doll's House," there are a number of details from the comics that are altered to make the TV series more compelling, like the role of The Corinthian (he has a much bigger role in the TV series than he does in the comics), and how the season ends.
That said, there is enough from the actual comics here that you do feel that you can still tell where the story is going next if you actually read them. But, I love that the differences made it so I didn't always know where the story was heading.
One major complaint I had with The Watchmen movie was that it stuck a bit too close to the comics (until it didn't), which kind of ruined it for me. But, The Sandman TV series somehow did a tightrope act where it is both close to the comic, and yet different, creating a thoroughly fresh story where even I, as someone who read the comics, could still be thoroughly engaged, and also surprised. Bravo.
Excellent Pacing Meant I Was Never Bored
I haven't read as many news articles lately about "Netflix bloat" like I used to back when shows like Jessica Jones were the hot new thing, but I still often feel that bloat when watching Netflix TV series, even with shows I like, such as Cowboy Bebop, which suffered a swift cancellation. But, I'm happy to say that The Sandman's first season doesn't have any bloat at all. In fact, it's just as slim and to the point as Morpheus himself.
As I already mentioned, there are 10 episodes here, but all of them are interesting. They also flow seamlessly into one another, creating a show that is incredibly bingeable. Honestly, not since Squid Game have I been this absorbed in a Netflix series, which is just another reason why this adaptation is so successful. It's never boring!
It Makes Me Desperately Want More
And lastly, can I just say that I need more of The Sandman in my life this instant? Given that Season 1 (And please tell me there's going to be a Season 2. Please!) followed books 1 and 2, I'm guessing that Season 2 would follow books 3 and 4, which are "Dream Country" and "Season of Mists," respectively, and I am completely for it!
I'm especially pumped for "Dream Country," which may be my favorite book in the entire comic series. I think that is what makes this adaptation so incredibly top-tier, as far as adaptations go. I don't want them to stop. And that's saying something for me, because I'm not a gambling man, and once I win, I pack it in, because I want to leave on top. Well, that's not what I want for The Sandman series! I want them to gamble again with another season, even if it's not quite as good as the first. Because you know what? Maybe it could be even better. If that doesn't make it one of, if not the, greatest adaptations out there, then I don't know what does.
What are your feelings on the Netflix Sandman series? For more news on everything Sandman, make sure to swing by here often!
Stream The Sandman on Netflix. (opens in new tab)
Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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