He is perhaps the most tormented character in the DC Comics universe. Sandman, the king of dreams, also called Dream, is the anti-hero created by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline) in 1989. A comic book with a dark, sometimes horrifying universe which is adapted for the first time in a series expected on August 5 on Netflix. Sandman is played by Tom Sturridge (Hello England, Irma Vep), he has reigned over the dream realm since the dawn of time by controlling the dreams and nightmares of sleepers.
He is one of the members of the Eternals (infinity in the original version, not to be confused with those of Marvel), a family that influences the lives of Men, composed of Desire, Despair, Destruction, Delirium, Destiny and Death. One day, the king of dreams is taken prisoner on Earth by a human, leaving his universe uncontrolled for years. After his release, Dream will attempt to regain his powers and redeem any mistakes he may have made during his life.
It must be admitted, Sandman is amazed. Dream’s journeys in the dreams of sleepers give rise to sublime scenes, with landscapes as far as the eye can see populated by fantastic creatures. We appreciate the assumed creative choices sprinkled throughout the episodes, like the costumes and the palace of Desire recognizable at first glance. The different realms explored by the king of dreams remain faithful to the gothic style of the comics, in particular the underworld, where Gwendoline Christie (game of thrones) embodies a very successful angelic-faced Lucifer.
Dn the whole, the visual effects are successful, in spite of a dragon in the first episodes which lacks details. As in the comics, we find the play of shadows and lights around the tormented character embodied by Tom Sturridge. True to character, he has a massive skeletal mask that hides his very white skin, contrasted by tousled ebony hair.
The pace of the series may surprise at first sight if you don’t know the comics. The first episodes follow a classic progression, the dark lord searches for his tools of which he has been deprived for years. But from the fifth episode titled 24 hours, Sandman looks like a succession of mini-movies with characters of their own. They are linked together by the presence of Dream and the Eternals encountered through different eras.
On this point, the series scrupulously follows the course of the paper version, sometimes even taking up the same dialogues and plans in their entirety. We guess here the influence of its creator and draftsman Neil Gaiman, showrunner of the series. Only, unlike the saga, this change of pace is a bit brutal and can lose the least attentive spectators. For the others, hang in there: there are still great discoveries to be made in the latest episodes…
Fans will no doubt notice some deviations from the series to the comics, adaptation requires. The cast brings a bit of diversity and several characters have been feminized, like Lucifer who in the original version is an androgynous being inspired by David Bowie. The librarian and faithful arm of the master of dreams, Lucien, here becomes Lucienne thanks to the actress Vivienne Acheampong. Same thing on the side of the exorcist John Constantine, who has become Johanna (Jenna Coleman), in the episodes taking place today.
The cast brings a new diversity that modernizes the comics published in the 80s without betraying it. However, if the Justice League – the DC comics superhero team – is present in the comics, no traces of the league in the series. It will be necessary to be satisfied with a small wink in the eighth episode.
As a reminder, the series is recommended by Netlfix for those over 18, an extremely rare decision for the platform, only the sulphurous series sex/life has the same restriction. This classification is due to the fact that Sand seller deals with human nature, through its good as well as its worst aspects. Some scenes can be shocking, with sequences of self-harm, suicides and horrific nightmares which are still overall more watered down than in its paper version. But the series does not play on gore for fun. Alongside the Sandman, the viewer examines the complexity of Man under a magnifying glass as if in a mirror.
Throughout his journey, the king of dreams loses his coldness and his selfishness to understand the human nature he encounters in his kingdom. On this point, even if Tom Sturridge’s interpretation is stunning with his deep voice from beyond the grave, he sometimes forgets too quickly his characteristic darkness.
Sand sellerAugust 5 on Netflix. Not recommended for under 18s.