Yet the dense fantasy elements and lyrical storytelling don’t translate easily from page to page, and the meticulous detail in the reproduction of look and tone doesn’t create much emotional investment. It might satiate fans who can fill in the gaps, but in the context of a 10-episode series, it might leave the uninitiated drifting off to dreamland themselves.
True to the comics, the opening episode features Morpheus (Tom Sturridge), aka the King of Dreams, trapped by a bizarre spell, taking him prisoner to a wealthy Englishman (“Game of Thrones” “Charles Dance ) looking for the secret to cheat death.
Decades pass before Morpheus escapes, discovering that chaos has ensued during his long absence (by human standards, anyway), forcing him to retrieve lost items in order to restore his power and control.
This slow-moving quest parallels the actions of a dark and malevolent figure known as The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), who seeks to capitalize on Morpheus’ weakness, as the story swings between various fantasy realms and “the waking world”. where mere mortals reside.
Morpheus’ travels take him on a variety of detours (several chapters are mostly episodic, peripherally advancing the larger plot at best), leading to encounters with other ageless supernatural beings, including Lucifer (Gwendoline Christie ) and Dream’s siblings known as Endless, such as Mort (Kirby Howell-Baptiste).
As for the other stellar cast members – many of whom only appear for an episode or two – they include David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, Joely Richardson and the voices of Mark Hamill and Patton Oswalt, the latter as the Wise Raven.
On paper, the show certainly has the ingredients to craft a longer run, but this first season — often visually stunning, while dragging through the final episodes — speaks more to the promise of the concept than its full execution.
For those who have been eagerly waiting for “The Sandman” to invade this realm – and no doubt harbor long-held notions of how he should – this thrill might be enough. But perhaps inevitably given the hypnotic nature of Gaiman’s mythology, a series about dreams doesn’t quite turn out to be the stuff dreams are made of.
“The Sandman” premieres August 5 on Netflix.