Dream and Rose Walker inside his castle in the Dreaming and looking at the mural of Nightmares.

Tom Sturridge as Dream, Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker. Image courtesy of Netflix.

The Sandman: Blending the Dark Elements into an Incredible Adaptation

The Sandman is a series that both fans of the comic book series and new fans will enjoy. Read our review to find out why!

In a world where dreams and nightmares’ existence are bound together with Biblical figures like Cain and Abel and the Devil, Neil Gaiman is the figure that created the dark fantasy comic books. The Sandman literature series, which began in 1989, finally gets a live-action treatment from Netflix. The metaphysical transformation of Gods and Devils will be summoned to the streaming service with a stellar cast of individuals. As creatures of magic, demons, and mythical creatures are present in this world, we follow immortal beings called the Endless, as they rule their realms. 

One realm, in particular, shapes a world that waits for us when we close our eyes and in the Dreaming, an immortal being that goes by many names, The Sandman, or Master of Dreams, or Morpheus. He creates all of our deepest fears and fantasies while commanding guardians of the library, nightmares, and emissaries who help him to control the parts of the Dreaming. Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), a magician, tries to entrap Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), but accidentally captures her brother Dream (Tom Sturridge). Instead of freeing him, Roderick steals his tools: a helm made of skull and bones, a pouch filled with dream sand, and his dreamstone ruby, and keeps him inside a glass prison for a century. 

Dream trapped inside a glass prison.
Tom Sturridge as Dream. Image courtesy of Netflix.

When Dream finally frees himself, he sets out to find his tools before he gets weak and is unable to rule the realm of Dreaming. In his absence, he learns that the creatures and nightmares he created have left and his castle is in ruins with only the chief librarian and Dream’s trusted guardian Lucienne (Vivienne Acheampong) left behind to watch after everything. But finding the tools isn’t as easy as it looks. Dream locates the pouch of dream sand with Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman), visits hell to claim his helm after defeating Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie) and finally, save the world from getting destroyed by John Dee (David Thewlis), who holds the power of the dreamstone ruby.

After successfully taking back his tools, there are other obstacles in the way for him. The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), an escaped nightmare of the Dreaming realm, is set out to find Rose Walker (Vanesu Samunyai) who can destroy the Master of Dream and bring an end to his rule. 

Netflix’s The Sandman, based on the comic books series by Gaiman, Sam Keith, and Mike Dringenberg, combines the dreaming and waking world in a fantastical adventure of an immortal being. During his imprisonment, he caused a lot of problems, such as people falling into eternal slumber and the realm of the Dreaming no longer in its former glory days, and wishes to make amends for his mistakes. Through this journey, he learns the unpredictability of human empathy and begins to understand the nature of existence in an entirely new light.

Dream is apologetic and comprehends the mistakes made during his absence were not entirely his own but due to greedy humans for a higher power. Sturridge plays the brooding, mopey being with dark hair, and has an exceptional choice of wardrobe, bringing the comic book character to life. His menacing voice and look match the intensity of the comic book character in every way possible. Dream lurks in the shadows and knows who to trust, and given the decades of imprisonment have changed him. 

Along with Sturridge’s great performance, the supporting cast is the star of the show. With exceptional performances by Christie, as the intimidating and cunning ruler of Hell, her presence in the show is magnificent. She displays beauty and elegance, with a bit of vengeance which makes the portrayal of Lucifer a devilish one indeed. In “A Hope for Hell,” the ruler of Hell and the Master of Dreams battle it out after he accuses one of the demons of possessing his helm. When Dream wins the battle, Lucifer is filled with anger and swears vengeance on him and his realm. 

Lucifer Morningstar ready to battle Dream.
Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Thewlis’ performance is by far one of the best. He plays the son of Roderick and Ethel Cripps (Joely Richardson), who steals Dream’s tools of power and runs away. Obsessed with the power to dominate the world, he possesses the power of the dreamstone ruby, which he manipulates to make people submit to their dreams and exploit them. The Sandman’s “24/7” is based on the comic book “Preludes and Nocturnes” and the diner scene sequence is well-written with some minor narrative changes.

John uses the power of the ruby to entrap the people in the diner and reveal their secrets, and it slowly escalates into a terrible conclusion. John sits at the counter and the corner of the diner, watching and observing the characters while they inflict harm for his self-amusement. Thewlis portrays the dark character just like a creature preying on its victims. A chilling and menacing performance that puts the spin of John Dee to a whole new level. 

For fans familiar with The Sandman comic books, they will be happy to learn that “Doll’s House” is also part of the first season. Unlike the first half of the season, which adapts the first issue, the story of Unity Kincaid (Sandra James-Young) and Rose Walker’s quest to find her missing brother Jed Walker (Eddie Karanja), has many narrative changes. Don’t be alarmed! The essence of Rose and Jed’s story is still there and the story is as heartbreaking and adventurous as ever. 

Gilbert and Rose Walker at The Royal Empire Hotel.
Stephen Fry as Gilbert, Vanesu Samunyai as Rose Walker. Image courtesy of Netflix.

Rose is desperate to find Jed and bring him back to her new family — Unity’s home in Sussex. She finds herself wrapped inside the dreams of her friends at the inn and she never imagined being connected to the Dreaming. When the Master of Dream becomes aware of Rose’s true purpose — a vortex that will rip the waking and dreaming world if he doesn’t take care of the problem soon enough. Rose finds herself on a journey with Gilbert (Stephen Fry), her protector wielding a sword cane, and ends up in a convention for “collectors.”

With characters like Nimrod, Fun Land, and the Corinthian, the sequences are creepy to watch, and not in a bad way. The second half of the season shows familiar panels of the serial killers at the convention come to life. The ‘Religion’ and ‘Women’s Rights’ panels are written into the show to add the kind of absurdity and inhumane nature of the Corinthian’s wrath and his consequences. 

Regardless of some changes made to the narrative structure of The Sandman, it’s still an exciting watch. There are so many familiar panels, such as Hob Gadling (Ferdinand Kingsley) and Dream’s meetings once every century has a great sequence in the series. A gender-swapped Johanna doesn’t impact the story of Constantine. Coleman plays the role of the two Constantine’s mixed together. 

The Sandman is a series that both fans of the comic book series and new fans will enjoy. The creators of the show have made some minor changes to make the show as accurate as the original source possible by creating an amazing world of Dreaming. Despite some worries about the CGI scenes, they are amazing and show the great castle of the Dreaming realm and the world surrounding it. The Sandman shows the journey of an immortal being restoring his powers and his realm back to its glory, while also learning how to make amends with the people around him. You can definitely expect the spirit of the fan-favourite comic book series present in the adaptation, and it is simply too great to be missed.

For more from Nuha check out her review of Obi-Wan Kenobi here!

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Nuha Hassan is a film/tv writer and reviewer. She is a Staff Writer at Film Cred and Off Colour Org. Apart from writing about film, she is a Video Editor at Dead Central. She studied Master of Media at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

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