Thursday, August 25, 2022

A Textbook Case of How to do a Great Adaptation

Neil Gaiman waited several DECADES for the proper medium, technology and creative control to make a live action adaptation of the Sandman series. In that time he worked on other adaptations to learn what he needed to.

And the result is freakin' brilliant on all levels.

Reading the Sandman comic series is one of several that is burned into my brain for eternity. Most of the others were read Up the Lake.  Some examples:

Alan Moore's Swamp Thing down on the dock in an actual swamp before anyone else woke up.

Kevin Smith's Daredevil by the fire one evening until Four AM.

The Emperor Joker individual issues during a building shaking thunderstorm in the bedroom.

Realizing I was negligent in not having read Gaiman's masterpiece I ordered the trades on eBay one winter, with plans to read them over the summer. 

Plans being what they are, shortly after the purchase, I got a horrendous case of the flu, was out of work over a week, and because of night coughs and exhaustion became completely nocturnal.  I read the entire series in the middle of the night over that period while stoned on cough medicine. It was a mind altering experience.

I have since read it and enjoyed it again several times under more normal circumstances and it retained the quality. It is also the first comic series Anabelle read by herself.

We both unreservedly loved the NetFlix series.

Yes, there are differences. If it were a movie, there would need to be a total focus on the main plot. Because it is a series, that need is reduced, which is good as the world building and asides are part of the wonders of the Sandman universe.

However, there is still an element of streamlining in play, leading to changes that combine certain elements.  Some is due to the medium, others may be that the series was originally written in serialized form with individual comic book deadlines. Plus the comics started out looking like a Horror Anthology and morphed (ha!) into the story about stories we know and love today.  Additionally, Mr. Gaiman has had a loooong time to think about how to streamline and clarify things. 

While some of the characters look different than drawn, they elicit the exact same feeling I remember from my first reading.
When Death smiles, I feel completely at ease and reassured.
Lucifer is terrifying, and powerful...with a hint of fatigue.
Lucienne is loyal and wise, with a deadpan snark that guides her boss.
Constantine is a foul mouthed, sketchy magician who will be more helpful than first appearances lead to.
And John Dee is...unsettlingly off somehow.

But because of the different medium, Dee is made more understandable. This is something I feel becomes more important in live action. His reign of terror at the diner had a purpose, and it isn't chaos for the sake of chaos.  

Lyta (who very coolly looks quite a bit like Wonder Woman) and Rose are connected sooner to keep the plot and characterization moving.

The Corinthian...he's just plain evil, and looks like he stepped right off the page.
That look is featured in many other characters like Cain, Abel, Merv, Desire, Martin Tenbones, Mathew, Hob, Hettie, Gilbert (Anabelle and I said, "We love Gilbert" every time he was on screen.) and many others.
Woo hoo!

The three who are one are outstanding, aren't they?

And Morpheus is perfect. 
His expressions, his cadence, his word choices- they all appear to come from an eternal, yet conflicted being.

Overall every scene in the show recreated the emotions I vividly remember from reading of the comic books. But sometimes in new and different ways.

And that's what a good adaptation is supposed to do.

Which is why I'll be watching it again starting this weekend...
And probably a third time after I reread the first two trades this season was based on.

(And the single issues that bonus episode was based on. Woo Hoo!
Considering how great the main cast was, it took a lot for me to go "Holy crap! Look at that cast!" for the bonus episode!)

Everyone needs to watch this series on NetFlix right now, because its outstanding, and I want to see how the rest of it gets adapted...
Also, we really need to see Delirium.

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