‘The Sandman’ review: Neil Gaiman’s Netflix show is a fleeting dream

Neither a dream nor a nightmare, the long-awaited screen version of the historical comic book series is like a grueling walking tour of bizarre fantasies, but built on dream logic and led by a boring guide.

Like a huge hourglass with two wobbly ends,hypnoticHe never finds his balance. Netflix series, based on Neil GaimanThe award-winning picture books edited by the same author (along with David S. shrink) to her elaborate fantasy world, filled with legendary characters who rule and roam their given worlds but live in an ever-expanding common world.

As if educating audiences about the secret importance of our sleep wasn’t hard enough, Season 1 can’t rest on a simple structure. Some stories seem episodic, but they rarely fill an entire hour, while the ongoing plot – led by Dream, aka Morpheus, aka Master of Dreams, aka The Sandman – is scattered and shifting. The Dream itself (played by Tom Sturridge) is little more than a tour guide. His ambitions change as frequently as his staunch beliefs, and seem to be motivated more by the need to submit to Lucifer (Gwendolyn Christie), Death (Kirby Howell Baptist), and Constantine (Gina Coleman) than any fixed inner desires or desires.

Desire is another character, by the way, played by Mason Alexander Park, but it’s less relevant to what’s going on here than it is a nuisance for future seasons. “The Sandman,” which runs a teaser after the first episode, as if knowing the first hour offers little reason to keep watching, comes similarly empty — all promise, and little reward. For die-hard fans, just seeing Gaiman’s stoic graphics come to life might be reason enough to sit back for 10 hours of a long-awaited dream and finally come true. But anyone who hasn’t yet transformed is tired of sifting through all that shimmering sand for more meaning — or, you know, any kind of real feeling.

Upon arriving at the gallery, “The Sandman” begins with a dream (first introduced as The King of Dreams) informing its “mortal” audience that the world they “insist on summoning the real world” is only half of their existence. The place they visit when sleeping, which is called The Dreaming, plays an important role in their lives, and is responsible for keeping them in order. Dreaming creates and controls dreams and nightmares. He keeps some of these creations in his kingdom. Others venture with the chosen staff. But once you tell us that bone Dreams cannot survive in the waking world, these are clearly rules that were made to be broken – and you wouldn’t know, one of them will soon be over.

The first episode mainly follows Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), a wealthy Englishman who believes he can capture death and force them to bring his dead son back to life. But Roderick’s spell goes awry and instead lassos Dream, who asks him to tell him how to conjure death or resurrect his favorite child. When Dream – by way of a century-long silent cure – refuses, Roderick imprisons him, not patiently waiting for the impatient quasi-god to succumb to his demands. Lending a helping hand to a treacherous father is The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), a nightmare fugitive who lives in the waking world and sees Dream Prison as an opportunity for free judgment. (How he was killing people with no repercussions thus far is a question that was never asked, though the meaning seems to be a nightmare that takes off so well into our dark and violent “reality.”)

The catastrophe occurs in the absence of Dream, although much like the films “The Sandman”, it is unclear how important his time away – to the waking world and to the dream itself. Instead of using his long family to help the audience get to know him, stand by him, understand his motives and grow with a passion for his next research, Dream remains a blank page that never becomes a fully attached hero, or even constantly understood. . One minute, he berates a man for giving him immortal life to earn money from the slave trade, and the next he is condemned to a 1,000-year nightmare of darkness for choosing to become compassionate. About halfway through the season, Dream suffers from some sort of midlife crisis (or whatever it’s called for people with no end of life), and he’s cringing like he’s already bored with the premise that’s been built up over the past four hours. Even his opening monologue, where he says his job is his goal, is later undermined because he has to learn the same lesson again.

Tom Sturridge and Vivian Achempong in The Sandman

Courtesy of Netflix

Having returned to his kingdom and set out to restore whatever system needs to be restored, Dream is primarily visited by other members of the Endless: a family of immortal beings that rule their kingdoms. But every little conflict he encounters is resolved using the kind of dream logic that never conveys minute by minute bets, let alone the big picture. He has a fight with the devil by… talking. The meticulously built villain by the name of John D (David Thewlis) is defeated very quickly. A lot of the fights have to be explained as they happen, and even then they only make sense conceptually – watching them unfold is a pointless exercise because there are no noticeable consequences to every attack. When we’re not told what hurts an infinite being, it doesn’t matter what kind of CGI fireworks are being exchanged or casting spells that have never been heard of – there’s no telling who’s winning or who’s losing until the characters literally tell us who won and who lost.

While interesting ideas are useless as a series of works, they do appear from time to time. There is a long-running animosity between the creators and the creature, or at least between the dreamer and the dreamers he supervises. He also feels that his family has abandoned him, and they have not come to look for him for the entire time he is held in an impenetrable glass ball. There is a constant questioning and reaffirmation of their duty to serve humanity, contrasted with the rebellious nightmares and other misguided entities that seek to do them harm. But none of these observations have developed into substantive ideas, nor have they been explored with sufficient conviction to require any real investment in discovering a final position.

What little highlights in “The Sandman” comes courtesy of strong. Christie plays Lucifer with an arrogant conviction that is easy to admire. Howell-Baptiste puts a polite twist on Death, as she kindly introduces the fallen into afterlife situations. Thewlis is electric even when it’s just a spoonful of ice cream, and the half-loop break at dinner is the closest thing to show to properly acknowledge the necessity of dreams. But with a few spots to shine, this first season is all over the map. She is so focused on the excitement of this character or that field that she forgets to craft a continuous line, completely abandons any recognizable arc to lead her, and undoes the confusing dream logic to keep things moving. “The Sandman” is not a grueling watch, but it lacks a beating heart and a focused mind, it is easy to forget. If you fall asleep at any turn, odds are good that whatever your subconscious mind creates is just as memorable as this.

Grade: C-

Season 1 of “The Sandman” airs Friday, August 5 on Netflix.

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