What dreams may come: A review of ‘The Sandman’

Published August 5, 2022, 2:27 PM

by AJ Siytangco

Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ adaptation stars Tom Sturridge (left) as Morpheus, with Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Netflix)

One of the most celebrated comic book stories is The Sandman. When it came out in the late 90s, it helped legitimize comics as a literary medium, and was one of the few comics to land a spot in the New York Times Best Seller List.

And now, roughly a quarter of a century after the end of the original 75 issues, The Sandman arrives on the small screen exclusively on NETFLIX.

A dream come true (pun intended) for the creator Neil Gaiman, the adaptation doesn’t follow the comics page by page, panel by panel, but rather keeps the narrative and thematic core and dresses it up in the trappings of television. And this by no means a bad thing.

The show, keeping in step with its much lauded source material, gives us a glimpse into the life of Morpheus, also known as The King of Dreams, or simply, Dream. He is one of the Endless, a family of beings born from Night and Time, and the personification of all of humanity’s dreams and stories.
If that sounds rather philosophically trippy, then steady yourself because the show revolves around such concepts and ideas.

Ideas such as, what happens when the King of Dreams is gone? What happens to the sleepers without their dreams or nightmares? And how does being gone affect the King of Dreams himself? And what happens, when dreams come true?

We open the series with a magus who successfully captures Morpheus and locks him away as a prisoner for decades. Tom Sturridge is perfect as the sullen, often cold Dream, who upon his escape sets out to hunt his captors and retrieve several items that were taken from him.

Along the way we meet a range of fantastical characters, all played by equally adept actors like Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar, Stephen Fry as the kindly old Gilbert, David Thewelis as John Doe, and Kirby Howell-Baptise as Dream’s sister, Death. (I said this would be trippy) Also lending their voices to the wonderful computer generated characters are Ratatouille’s Patton Oswalt and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamil.

The Dreaming, the Sandman’s domain where all beings go when sleep overtakes their waking selves, benefits immensely, just by being a new medium of motion and color.

The visual effects bring fantastical dreams and horrific nightmares to life on screen sublimely and effortlessly, and never overtake the tale of the Sandman itself.

The show succedes at striking a balance, delivering wonder and horror, as well as fantasy and humanity, in equal measure. It will bring you to the heights of the Dreaming to the depths of Hell, and everywhere in between. The comics tends to be slow and introspective, but the show manages to not feel dragging while at the same time gives you enough time to consider and wonder at the ideas of the show.

Whether you are new to the story of the King of Dreams or you have followed him since the comics, NETFLIX’s Sandman is a cerebral, enjoyable show that, just like the best of our dreams, stays with you long after it ends.