As far as Neil Gaiman adaptations go, “The Sandman” falls squarely in the middle. The strengths of its source material back it up through some of its weaknesses, but it has a fair number of those weaknesses – most of which rear their ugly heads as the first season’s 10-episode run begins. The main weakness being: Dream himself, Tom Sturridge.
Sturridge is extremely miscast as the King of Dreams, portraying himself less as a primordial, awe-inspiring entity, and more as a mopey emo boy with a bad haircut. Dreaming is a tricky part for anyone to play – it’s less about agency than about the aura you exude: intimidating, inhuman, cosmic and maybe even a little cruel. ‘The Sandman’ star was always going to be a sticking point – perhaps the only actor capable of playing Dream was ’70s David Bowie. As things stand, though, Sturridge is doing his best to try and emulate the haunting way Dream speaks (in the comics, his speech bubbles were black and whispery compared to everyone’s standard white) and is suitably pale and skinny, but his delivery mostly gives”Edward’s constipated face in “Twilight”” energy.
To determine whether or not the changes made by the Netflix series — moving the timeline to modern times from its original late ’80s setting, changing the genders and races of several characters — work, they would dig too deep into spoiler territory, and honestly, be a bit too pedantic. But for the most part the changes work, although some of the less successful changes seem to be a symptom of what I like to call “the Netflix effect”. A few elements are a little too clean, too shiny, too muted to have the same visceral impact that a few brush strokes on a comic book might have. To put it plainly, there are images from the “Sandman” comics that burned into my brain; there are scenes from the Netflix series “Sandman” that left my brain as soon as they entered it.