‘The Sandman’ assessment: Netflix lastly fulfills the dream of adapting Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed comedian

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CNN
 — 

After years of failed makes an attempt to deliver Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed and surreal comedian to the display screen, Netflix lastly creates a house for “The Sandman,” armed with sufficient top-notch British visitor stars to populate a Harry Potter film. The ensuing collection is visually putting however dramatically listless, made for these – and possibly solely these – who already possess levels in Sandman 101.

Gaiman joined within the adaptation course of with Allan Heinberg (“Wonder Woman”) and veteran comic-book-to-film author David S. Goyer, who between this and Apple TV+’s confounding “Foundation” has carved out a distinct segment shepherding initiatives deemed unadaptable to fruition in collection type.

On this case, the much-anticipated collection follows a proposed film that was to have starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and an Audible podcast version launched in 2020, so kudos, in a manner, only for getting this far.

Nonetheless, the dense fantasy components and lyrical storytelling don’t simply translate from web page to display screen, and the meticulous element in replicating the look and tone doesn’t create a lot emotional funding. Which may satiate followers who can putty within the gaps, however within the context of a 10-episode collection it might depart the uninitiated drifting off to dreamland themselves.

Faithfully following the comedian, the opening episode options Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), a.ok.a. the King of Desires, being trapped by a weird spell, rendering him the prisoner of a rich Englishman (“Recreation of Thrones’” Charles Dance) searching for the key to dishonest loss of life.

A long time go earlier than Morpheus escapes, discovering that chaos has ensued throughout his lengthy (by human requirements, anyway) absence, forcing him to get well misplaced objects in an effort to restore his energy and management.

That slow-rolling quest unfolds in parallel trend with the actions of a shadowy, malevolent determine referred to as The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), who seeks to capitalize on Morpheus’ weak spot, because the story oscillates between varied fantasy realms and “the waking world” the place mere mortals reside.

Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar, Tom Sturridge as Dream, Cassie Clare as Mazikeen in Netflix's 'The Sandman.'

Morpheus’ travels take him on quite a lot of detours (a number of chapters are basically episodic, at finest peripherally advancing the bigger plot), resulting in encounters with different ageless supernatural beings, together with Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie) and Dream’s siblings referred to as the Limitless, resembling Dying (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).

As for others within the stellar solid – lots of whom seem for under an episode or two – they embody David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Joely Richardson, and the voices of Mark Hamill and Patton Oswalt, the latter as a wisecracking raven.

The performances, nevertheless, really feel blunted by the narrative construction and dream-like storytelling, starting with Sturridge’s title function. In that sense, “The Sandman” is much less accessible than one thing like Gaiman’s “Good Omens,” the place Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s playful sparring helps anchor its mythic qualities.

Netflix is not any stranger to taking bold leaps with high-profile fantasy and sci-fi properties, experiencing the fun of victory and the agony of defeat, together with high-profile entries like “Cowboy Bebop” and “Jupiter’s Legacy,” neither of which earned a second season. “The Sandman” kicks off a stretch of big-bet adaptations across streaming, including further company zest to its destiny.

On paper the collection definitely has the substances to engineer an extended run, however this primary season – usually visually dazzling, whereas dragging within the later episodes – speaks extra to the idea’s promise than absolutely executing upon it.

For many who have eagerly waited for “The Sandman” to invade this realm – and little question harbor long-nurtured notions about the way it ought to accomplish that – that thrill could be sufficient. However maybe inevitably given the hypnotic nature of Gaiman’s mythology, a collection dedicated to goals doesn’t fairly develop into the stuff that goals are fabricated from.

“The Sandman” premieres Aug. 5 on Netflix.

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