Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman plays safely – The Hollywood Reporter

At one point in Sand sellersa 400-year-old Englishman (Ferdinand Kingsley) who happens to evade the recent production of King Lear. “Idiots gave it a happy ending,” he scoffed. His chat partner, Dream (Tom Sturridge) – as in it, the physical manifestation of the concept of dreaming, and the ruler of the impossible realm to which we travel as we fall asleep – is less disturbed than. “That won’t last,” he predicted calmly. “Great stories will always return to their original form.”

Sand sellers would not require such a drastic reversal to form. Executive produced by comic book author, Neil Gaiman (with Allan Heinberg and David S. Goyer), the fantasy film is nothing but respect for its original material. Talk about what? King Lear What misses, however, is how updated versions of great stories can be what made them feel fresh and relevant in the first place. By prioritizing fidelity over creativity, Sand sellers resonates pretty well with the comics – but it stops short of being a classic in its own right.

Key point

A perfect adaptation prioritizes honesty over creativity.

Release date: Friday, August 5 (Netflix)
Cast: Tom Sturridge, Boyd Holbrook, Patton Oswalt, Vivienne Acheampong, Gwendoline Christie, Charles Dance, Jenna Coleman, David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mason Alexander Park, Donna Preston, Vanesu Samunyai, John Cameron Mitchell, Asim Chaudhry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Joely Richardson, Niamh Walsh, Sandra James Young, Razane Jammal
Production operator: Allan Heinberg, David S. Goyer, Neil Gaiman

As in the book, Netflix’s Sand sellers Start with the catch. Though Dream – like his other siblings in the Endless, including Death (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Desire (Mason Alexander Park) and Despair (Donna Preston) – possesses powers that the gods barely do. understandably, it was a human mage, Roderick Burgess (Charles Dance), who eventually cast a spell powerful enough to keep Dream imprisoned among the living for over a century. (If you’re trying to figure out which lore explains Dream’s strengths and weaknesses, or why some spells work better on him than others, never mind; here’s how. fantasy films that equate impending threats to reality by describing them as “incomprehensible.”)

Finally, when Dream is liberated in 2022, he rushes back to his kingdom and discovers it has fallen to ruin in his absence, despite his best efforts. second commander Lucienne (a Vivienne Acheampong) and some of his subjects. has become imperfect. The first season, adapted from two of the ten original commercial paperbacks published between 1989 and 1996, follows Dream as he works to regain power, reassert power, rebuild world – and maybe, along the way, to gain a deeper understanding of the human life he wants to serve.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges of any adaptation of Sand sellers was bound to be Dream himself. As depicted in the comics, he has the basic form of a grown man but has the appearance of an ethereal alien, with bone skin and glittering stars for his eyes. It’s a tall order that any flesh-and-blood should fill, and Sturridge has done the best at his game by infusing Dream with a graceful, intentional physicality and a deep, deep voice. . Still, he can’t help but feel human, especially in so little makeup to distinguish him from any other 30-year-old idiot trudging through modern-day London – which undercuts the part. the isolation he experienced in the midst of people.

More vivid is Boyd Holbrook as The Corinthian, a Nightmare who has escaped beloved serial killers. The most terrifying physical feature of this character is that he has a mouth with sharp teeth for his eyes, but Sand sellers often hide them under dark sunglasses; Holbrook can exude a strangely seductive menace on its own. Elsewhere, Jenna Coleman acquitted herself very well in her brief appearance as the villainous Johanna Constantine (a gender-swapped version of John Constantine from the books, NBC series and that Keanu Reeves movie) that she might as well be testing the waters for her own spinoff. And Howell-Baptiste is possibly the most winning presence in the series as the heartwarming, pragmatic Death.

Removed the barrier of casting the characters you can imagine, where Sand sellers stumbling is in finding a purpose beyond its obvious commercial appeal. It’s almost as aimless and artless as Cowboy Bebop – another Netflix production based on a lauded but seemingly unmodifiable property – but it seems to have similar tendencies towards bug loyalty, as well as an aversion to trying anything What too bold different. The story begins with Roderick Burgess not because he’s a super interesting character, but just because that’s where the comics begin. It went around to a diner that turned into chaos not with the expectation that the audience used to do Game of Thrones or Boys will be shocked by its bleak, graphically violent setting of humanity, but because it’s a storyline fans are looking forward to seeing.

The results are mostly not too bad, and sometimes they are quite good. The single best episode of the ones adapted for season one delivers its single best episode, as Dream tags along with Death about her errands and engages in a highly influential conversation. marvel at life, death, love and loneliness in the process. It’s the warmest and funniest hour of a show defined by their sibling’s confusion of moods and emotional dynamics (“You’re totally the dumbest, egotistical excuse most pathetic for a personification of personality in one way or another,” she scolds him) goes a long way toward making Dreams a three-dimensional character instead of a two-way password.

But it’s hard not to notice that for a series about the power of dreams to spark creativity, to inspire our best selves or our worst. , to change the course of a life or a universe, Sand sellers itself feels a bit shorter than imagined. It is the curse of so many sophisticated works of art that they begin to feel less and less fresh as their influence becomes more and more evident in more and more other works. An adaptation that deals with providing a beautiful flawless copy of itself rather than a wholesale reproduction can’t help but feel safe and familiar, in ways the original never did. .

As much as Dream likes to think that nothing has changed in his time, he has come to terms with the fact that nothing has been the same as it ever was – not even himself, as he hates to admit it. there. Sand sellers, can also be a bit tricky in its way. It’s a fun enough series, with a picturesque CG setting (think Asgard meets Rivendell for the castle of Dreams), a lovely cast, and at times dispels a sense of curiosity about the human condition. People. But it was too trapped in the glass to be free to run into the dream world it wanted to conjure.

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