The Sandman Will Haunt Your Dreams

The Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman's acclaimed, surrealistic graphic novels makes its long-awaited debut

The Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed, surrealistic graphic novels makes its long-awaited debut

It has been a long journey for The Sandman from page to screen. Since a movie was first teased in the late 1990s, various adaptations associated with bold-faced names like Joseph Gordon-Levitt were announced, only to be thwarted by the creative challenge. But if The Sandman can wait a century to put his kingdom back in order, the comic book’s most loyal fans can certainly wait a few decades.

David S. Goyer, the screenwriter behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the creator of the science fiction TV series Foundation, has since 2013 been working on getting Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novels adapted for the screen. Now, Gaiman’s creation finally arrives in a form that feels truer to the source material than fans of the comic thought possible.SandmanNetflix“I think that fans will love the fact that The Sandman is The Sandman,” says Mason Alexander Park, who portrays Dream’s, a.k.a. the Sandman’s, sibling Desire. “The thing that’s most exciting about it is that it feels so much like the comic books do.”

As a fan of Gaiman’s work since long before their involvement in the series, Park says the project hit all the right notes for them. “I experienced a lot of the same emotions and memories as I did when I read it,” says Park. “You just see it play out in a different format, but all the relationships, all of the visuals, and all of the stories are still there. Some of them are just told in a fun, fresh way.”

For Park, seeing Sweetbitter and Irma Vep star Tom Sturridge for the first time as Dream was an emotional experience. “As someone who loves these books so much, it feels like what I’ve always wanted it to feel like,” says Park. “I hope that it gives fans an opportunity to fall in love with this thing all over again and meet people that they have heard and pictured in their heads for so long.”

The esoteric narrative revolves around the fate of the lord of dreams, who at the beginning of the series is captured and held hostage for 106 years by occultist Sir Roderick Burgess (Game of Thrones alum Charles Dance). When Dream finally escapes the Burgess estate, he discovers that his world is no longer as he left it and sets out to restore order to his kingdom.SandmanNetflixOn his fantastical journey, Dream encounters otherworldly characters, including Lucifer Morningstar, the ruler of Hell, played by Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie.

He reconnects with his kind and wise sister Death, played by Killing Eve’s Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and tries to find common ground with occult detective Johanna Constantine, portrayed by Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman.

But perhaps pulling all the strings, regardless of Dream’s perceived agency, is his mischievous sibling Desire. “Desire in the story is exactly as Desire in real life,” says Park. “Desire serves so many purposes and so many functions in the human experience. In the story, and Desire says it to Despair [Donna Preston], there is no Dream without Desire. You can’t dream and imagine things if you don’t want them first. That sets up this lifelong quest for Desire to prove that they are the most important aspect of the Endless. Both Dream and Desire think that they are No. 1.”

The sibling rivalry serves, as expected, as a foil to Dream’s best laid plans. “Nothing in the show would happen if Desire wasn’t pulling the strings from [the moment of] Dream’s capture. Every single thing that goes wrong in Dream’s life was curated by this individual at that moment in time,” Park explains. “For fans of the comics, that’ll hopefully be explored down the line if we are given the chance. It’s an amazing relationship that these two characters have because Desire was once Dream’s favourite sibling, and that obviously is not true when we meet these characters in the present.”SandmanNetflixFor viewers who are unfamiliar with Gaiman’s dark and mysterious world, Park encourages just immersing yourself in this dream-like experience. “It’s not something that you can prepare an individual for. It is unbelievably unique. Every episode is different. It does not follow the rules of traditional television, because it’s trying to remain so true to what the comics are,” says Park, adding that the production design left them gobsmacked. “At its core, it is a beautiful, beautiful story that has so much drama and love. It’s something that can’t really be described in a concise way that’s tangible. It’s hard to wake up and explain a dream. And that’s what the show is to me.” 

The Sandman is currently streaming on Netflix