Robot 6

Trying to be optimistic about a Sandman movie, but honestly …

Sandman1I have a confession to make: I had a complete geek tantrum over the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is finalizing a deal to produce, and possibly star in and direct, a feature adaptation of Neil Gaiman and company’s The Sandman. I actually blurted out, “Who asked for this?!” Quite loudly. In a well-populated room.

I’m not proud; I should be above such pettiness. In fact, I should be thrilled because we all know what this means: DC Comics’ recently remastered collections of The Sandman are going to get a nice sales boost from the movie promotion (see Watchmen, 300, Scott Pilgrim, Hellboy, et al).

That’s nothing but good news for the creators, retailers and DC. It’s also good news for a new generation of readers that will likely be introduced to the landmark Vertigo series. More people being exposed to such an excellent example of comics is great, and when it comes down to it, I just want comics to succeed. So my feelings should be put aside, and I should be trumpet the adaptation as good news. But …

I don’t wanna. I really don’t wanna.

The whole thing just seems completely unnecessary. I get the sense from some fans that a movie “legitimizes” comics, that the stories aren’t fully realized until they’re on the big screen. I’ve never subscribed to that. Comic-book movies have been an excellent PR vehicle for comics, but most fall short in capturing what made the stories special. A similar thing usually happens with movies based on novels, so I don’t think this is anything unique. Still, it annoys me when I see comic fans desperately asking creators whether their favorite story will ever become a movie because that would just be oh so awesome. I’ve gotten a thrill out of seeing Spider-Man web-slinging through New York City or Thor swinging his hammer and flying off, so I can’t say movies aren’t capable of representing or recreating a cool visual from comics, but they have never matched the storytelling experience. A movie has yet to capture what Steve Ditko did in The Amazing Spider-Man #33. It can’t, because they are two different forms of communication.

The Sandman is probably one of the best examples of this. With the many world-class artists who contributed to the series, there’s such a stunning array of visuals presenting people, settings and situations that are weird, creepy, moody, scary, trippy, funny and just plain not right. The very way the stories are told is so unique to comics, I can’t can’t imagine how one would translate that into a live-action movie that wouldn’t be a dull recreation. Obviously, film is capable of odd visuals — I’m trying not to cut short an entire medium — but modern Hollywood blockbusters can’t always attain what’s presented in the pages, no matter how much CGI they throw at  it. Even if they do get the visuals right, it often seems like all of the budget was used up on visual effects, and then the story suffers.

As an example, let’s look at The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes: We don’t know anything about the movie’s plot yet (if it even ends up getting made), but it’s a safe bet that at least some part of this first story will be used to explain how Morpheus ends up in our world. General consensus is that the series doesn’t find its footing until Issue 8, but Sam Kieth and Malcolm Jones III establish a lot of the world’s visuals: Morpheus’ eyes, at times beady black orbs with pinpricks of white in the center, other times solid black; his trip to Hell with all of the absolutely crazy demons; mystical battles, traveling through dreams; the corpse-like Doctor Destiny; decapitated dogs, drug use, nudity, self-mutilation, basically the entirety of “24 Hours.” Sure, a lot of this could be changed for film, or avoided entirely so it’s still rated PG-13 for maximum commercial appeal. Recreating Preludes & Nocturnes or any other Sandman story shot-for-shot is redundant, but enough of the haunted spirit of the comics needs to remain. It it becomes so bland, safe and moderated by committee, the entire exercise becomes pointless beyond cranking out product to be consumed.

It’s still very early, so there could be plenty of smart moves and surprises. David Goyer’s treatment is reportedly what led Warner Bros. to move forward with the project, but it remains to be seen who will write the script. I’ll hold out hope for Gaiman himself; that could make things more interesting.

It turns out there are people that want to see this, or if not specifically this, some kind of Sandman movie. So for their sake, I hope it’s good. For the sake of more buzz and more sales for comics, I hope it’s good. Regardless, The Sandman comics will remain unscathed.

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39 Comments

I agree with a lot of what this article says. This should not be PG-13. I am not looking for a bland, safe Sandman story.

I agree with what the article says, does this need to happen?

I’m share your sentiments Corey. If anything, Sandman needs long form storytelling like a TV series to even scratch the surface of why this is one of the most important/fantastic comics ever. I just don’t see how a movie–even done by great creators–can fully encompass the complex and grand storytelling found in the source material. If the news was that Gordon-Levitt was helping to develop a Sandman series for HBO, Showtime, etc. I would be through the roof with excitement, but this just makes me nervous.

Maybe its your personal hang-up about comics that’s making you feel this way. I don’t need a movie to legitimize my love the medium. I don’t need a movie to legitimize a wonderful piece of work.

JGL is a very talented guy. Good for him for wanting to do something with this work. All there is left to do is see what happens next, what gets produced. Why get hung-up on the whole “legitimization of the artform” thing. That’s old news. Comics are for everyone. Comics are a medium that produces art.

Yeah, I agree.

Sandman was hands-down my favorite comic series from when I was growing up. But I don’t care AT ALL about seeing a Sandman movie.

It might be neat. I might buy the DVD for $5 someday. But I’m not excited about it. I’m definitely not looking forward to it being “a whole thing” like the Watchmen movie was, with everyone bending over backwards to love it, only for it to slip out of the collective consciousness about one week after it was released. And now everyone’s like “Whoa, remember how there was a Watchmen movie? Did that really even happen?”

What excites me about comic book movies is not that it legitimizes them, but that I’m able to enjoy the stories and characters with friends and family who don’t read comics and never will.

I kind of wish that their could be a sort of “test the waters” kind of movie. Something that would be safe for the studio (low cost, high return) yet get the fans excited and bring along those who don’t know much about the series for the ride.

The best way could be a movie adaptation of Death: The Time of Your Life. Next to Morpheus, Death has to be the most liked and known character from the Sandman series. Not to mention that as a character, she is very relatable and easy to understand. The plot isn’t overly complex in that she is Death and every 100 years takes on mortal flesh to see how it is for us. She’s perky, pretty, down to earth and just plain nice. Add a crazy old lady looking for her heart, a very ominous bad guy and a young man who doesn’t even understand how great life could be….and you got a very good movie. And at the end of the film, when Death is her normal self again…they could have a quick moment with Dream coming by.

Something like that could really gauge how people might like the Sandman universe. It couldn’t possibly cost that much to make in comparisson to an actual Sandman film and if the profits are really good could get the studios to put out Avatar kind fo cash to get Sandman done right.

I don’t really feel the whole movies legitimizing comics thing. To me, it’s all about adaptation. Adapting the source material to another medium and enjoying it on those merits of cinema/tv. Same as when a novel is adapted. I can read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and No Country For Old Men and take them on their merits as novels, then watch the respective movies that adapted those works to the screen and take them on their respective merits, as well. In that regard, I don’t feel the films legitimized THOSE novels or vice-versa. I just take them as what they are, adaptations. While I will say, I AM rather guarded on this adaptation, I am also intrigued. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t my first choice for the lead role of Morpheus (I’m a longtime fan of Gaiman’s series since it first hit in ’88), I do think he’s a talented enough guy to do something interesting with it. My choice is Benedict Cumberbatch. As for Gordon-Levitt directing, I’m not that sure over that one. A more accomplished and seasoned director would be better, in my opinion. The BIG worry of mine is on David Goyer having a hand in the writing. He’s really hit or miss with me, but seems to have more success on the stories he does when another writer does a polish over his drafts than when it’s just him. His writing’s not really my cup of tea. To me, the only choice to write a movie version would be Neil Gaiman himself and for WB to let him fly on it with total creative freedom.

From what I’ve been seeing of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Twitter comments, Gaiman will indeed have a hand in the adaptation, and that’s a plus in my mind. Hopefully he can reign in Goyer or better yet, deliver a final polish on the movie’s story as has just been announced today with the writer of Argo on Batman Vs. Superman being brought in to polish and shape up Goyer’s draft to get it finalized before the start of filming early 2014. If it were my perfect vision of The Sandman on any screen, it would be on the small screen as episodic television on HBO, written and directed by Gaiman. But that’s just my take. ;)

I love Joseph Gordan Levitt, especially after the Dark Knight Rises and Inception, but this does have me worried. Not because of him or David Goyer, but I don’t see how they can fit such an epic within how many films? Warner Brothers would have to commit to about seven or eight films to completely encompass the saga. Gaiman did something magical with Sandman and I don’t know if a couple of movies could do this any justice.

It seems adapting Preludes & Nocturnes outright would be a logistical nightmare. Given that for the most part each chapter was essentially a self-contained story with a b-plot that eventually gets resolved at the end. None of the stories were written with cinema in mind and there would have to be some big changes required to make the first volume work as a movie.
On the other hand, you have to start from there because it sets up the rest of the stories.
I would think the most likely approach at this point would be streamlining the story down to the necessary components and reworking that into a movie. So we might lose some of the cooler aspects simply to make the movie work.
I realize I am borderline rambling now. I want to be excited for this movie but not at the expense of what made the stories so great to begin with.

Sandman isn’t a comic like Batman or The Avengers, it has a very clear beginning, middle and end. Trying to put that entire run into one movie, hell even a trilogy of movies, wouldn’t do the thing justice. It NEEDS to be a tv show, maybe just a finite number of episodes shot as an extended film, or multiple seasons. Either way, i don’t see how they can make it as a movie.

Yeah, I thought the news was the height of silliness. Nothing in the careers of Joseph Gordon Levitt ofDavid Goyer lead me to believe they could make an effective Sandman film. I think a Sandman movie or series could work, but you would need someone very good and very capable of working with unconventional story constructs. You would need a very confident director, someone like a Cronenberg or someone less well known but equally disciplined and capable of t aking chances and making them work. Not an actor directing his second movie in an entirely new genre.

The ONLY way this would work is to create a stand-alone Sandman story like some of the self-contained issues Gaiman wrote. In fact, it might be interesting if they consulted with Gaiman to write an original, self-contained story for the movie. That’s the only way I see this working. What makes a comic special doesn’t always translate to the screen. In those cases, you get stuff like Watchmen, which looked like the comic on the surface but missed the point at the heart of it.

Also, I’m glad to hear more from others who don’t feel their favorite comics and novels need a movie to legitimize them. I’m very happy movies and TV shows can generate interest in the source material, especially if they’re actually good adaptations, but the original work is what counts.

We’ve had enough comic book films already.

given how long hollywood has tried to do sandman . will believe this actully happens when a trailer shows up . though if one good thing about the thing is that jgl says he is only producing. and neil is involved. even though sandman is really one of those things that hollywood should leave alone since they will somehow screw it up . plus the fact they will leave out the diner scene with doctor destiny

Sandman is not the type of property that will translate well to movie format. It needs to be done as a tv show on a channel like FX, AMC, or HBO.

Sandman just doesn’t work as a film. It would work best as a television series like X-Files or Twilight Zone where you have weekly storylines going hand in hand with an overarcing storyline somewhat more behind the scenes. I would much prefer to see HBO tackle this in a manner similar to Game of Thrones with each season focusing on one trade paperback. The wait for Season of Mists would be excruciating, but it would be worth it to do it right.

To be fair, no comic book movie is needed.

Your speculation and disinterest is not needed and unwanted. If you don’t want to see it, dont see it. Don’t complain about it on your blog because you don’t want it to ruin YOUR feelings about the story. This is such a selfish thing to write when this hasn’t even got the green light and you already have a distasteful curse on it.

I remain convinced that what Sandman needs is an series on HBO (or possibly AMC), but an ANIMATED series in which the animation style changes from season to season, reflecting the multitude of artistic directions used in the original comics.

I think there’s a really good way to adapt Sandman for the screen, and maintain the look and feel of the comics. The answer is simple – it should be animated, not live action. And preferably painted-cell animated, not CGI. Better yet, contract it out to Studio Ghibli.

Who wouldn’t like that?

I thought long and hard about this, because I have a deep love for Sandman. That said, I do agree that I am a little apprehensive about the whole thing. BUT as stated, if it brings more people to those comics that is great in my eyes no matter how it turns out.

I don’t like the idea of a TV series or a movie, because I know neither would capture it well. One would have the budget to capture what is needed for visuals, and the other would have the ability to tell and ongoing story. Both would crap out on one end, or the other when it comes to Sandman. This isn’t like the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones…The Dreaming is a very visual place, along with numerous other venues within those books.

I do like the idea of Gaiman being on board, and I hope he is willing to put himself out there for Sandman. A lot of the time he takes a creative backseat for others who adapt his work etc…because he doesn’t want to interfere, because honestly the dude is super humble from what I have seen of him.

I think a well budgeted and scripted movie series could do it justice. Something along the lines of what they did with Harry Potter. I know that the Sandman series will have to be adapted and things will be removed/changed to condense…that is fine as long as they handle it right.

But honestly, I will have to wait and see. I don’t want to hate something I haven’t even given a chance yet, or tell people they are worthy of being part of the adaptation; especially if Neil is on board with it. I like to think he knows what is going on, and wouldn’t jump on board unless he was certain it was worth his time.

I think it’ll be a hard sell all around. When people think comic book movie they think fist fights and mass collateral damage; Sandman has none of that. Which means there will be huge, forced action sequences, which will piss off fans of the comics and water down all the stories. Morpheus vs Lucifer? Gaiman purposely didn’t have them duke it out; he gave the audience something they weren’t expecting that was better than what they thought they wanted. The movie? Morpheus punching Lucifer or some kind of Scott Pilgrim psychic battle. Warner Bros would never allow this to be the movie it should be.
Not to mention Levitt’s directed what, one movie? Can he handle a big budget? I like the guy, I just fear a lack of experience on his part.

“the entire exercise becomes pointless beyond cranking out product to be consumed.”

Congratulations. You have achieved enlightenment.

I myself have also been torn up about this. I feel as though this is an unnecessary venture. The Sandman series remains one of the most beloved tales in comic book history and sometimes, i think think it might be better to just leave it alone. I do agree with your point that movies can be a good marketing tool to increase comic sales. But is that really what we want for the Sandman? Do we want THIS story to be commercialized and to become the next HOT TOPIC product fad? In my opinion, It presents a high water mark for the comic book medium. It is a treasure and provides a unique experience to almost all who have read it. This complex story cannot easily be summed up in 2 hours (and hopefully not a trilogy!). I love JGL in everything i have seen him in, and was terribly disappointed to read that he might be cast as Morpheus. I think this is a mistake…

We don’t need Batman, Superman, Spider-man or Avengers movies, either, but we have them.

JGL and Neil Gaiman are involved, so I’ll be there.
There’s no need to be a snob about your funny books.

I couldn’t be less worried about this. Anyone who has witnessed JGL’s work should feel secure in WB’s decision to turn the property over to him.
JGL is easily one of the best actor’s of his generation. Check “Brick” and “The Lookout” for some early examples along with “Looper” and “Don Jon” for more recent.
More importantly, he wrote and directed “Don Jon,” one of the most assured and confident debuts by a director I’ve ever seen. Yes, the story was simple but JGL’s grasp of tone and narrative structure was spot on. Half way thru the film it occurred to me “This is his directing debut…” yet there were none of the hiccups so commonly associated with such. The whole movie takes place in working class neighborhood of New Jersey. Levitt grew up and lives in Los Angeles. The whole thing just came from his imagination NOT his life experience. Really something when you think about it
The leap to “Sandman” is ambitious but judging by his past endeavors in acting, directing, writing not to mention “HitReCord” I’d say it’s in pretty good hands.

Any movie will be either bad fan fiction or a messy, watered down stew of good bits from the comic. The stories are so complex (and long), have so many characters, and so much action through dialogue, that there’s no way to make a cohesive film that bears any meaningful,satisfactory resemblance to the comic. They need to put an end to the comic book adaptation. Comics are a unique, glorious art form capable of much that others aren’t, and they need to be celebrated, not treated as rough drafts for Hollywood ego trips and corporate synergy.

The only good news about this is that the characters are so well developed that it could translate to the screen better than most adaptations. The adherence to the dimensions of the the source characters are usually to their detriment.

At least Keith and the family of Jones III will get some coin.

According to Neil Gaiman (on his Twitter) he has not been approached nor is he contracted to be a producer on the Sandman movie, let alone have writing input. They got JGL and Goyer before they even considered approaching Gaiman.

That in of itself does not make me interested in this to say the least.

-SJD

This article hit the nail on the head. To feel the hairs on the back of your neck and the surge of emotions you get when reading stories like Daredevil: Born Again or The Kindly Ones those feelings get lost in translation to the big screen. Budgets, movie length and a misunderstanding of the source material can cripple a good story. Granted there are good comic book movies and there are some moments in those movies that give you that feeling of being in total awe, but they are few and far between. I feel this movie going the way of Constantine in the fact that they will pull story elements from different tales from the series and slap the Sandman name on it, but hey at least they’ll pronounce his name right.

I think the appropriate way to do this is to take the basic framework of Preludes & Nocturnes with a few of the single issue stories integrated as stories-within-the-story using various types of animation (rotoscope, marrionettes, stop motion, etc.). Theoretically, you would pick stories that reflect concepts or themes that appear in the main, which I acknowledge would be the tricky part.

JGL draws box-office, he has demonstrated the ability to write a screenplay and direct and produce said screenplay, all the while earning profit for his financial backers. Hollywood loves these sorts and with good reason.

This idea would make a much better HBO series. It just feels wrong as an idea for a movie. But if they need to really make a about Sandman, at least do it in 3D so I can feel like I’m tripping balls.

Whether or not you think a Sandman live action project could work, I think we can all agree on one thing:

Cain and Abel should be played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The fact that it is being made is exciting because even if this one sucks, they will continue making it over again until they get it right and when they do, they’ll milk it for eternity.

3 letters: HBO (or AMC).

Laurence J Sinclair

December 23, 2013 at 4:31 am

Simple. Get Jane Goldman in to adapt.

I agree completely. Somethings should be left alone. I don’t think they could do sandman the justice it deserves. I hope the they leave well alone.

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