Ok, so some of you guys might remember last year there was a lot of talk about the DC Cinematic Universe, around the time the first details of Batman vs. Superman were starting to see the light of day. The list contained all the stuff you'd expect, Justice League, Shazam (no), Wonder Woman, Flash etc. But one thing stood out like a sore thumb. The Sandman, Neil Gaiman's seminal tour through the world of the dreaming, was among those projects slated for a movie debut. Now, apart from the fact that this film had been doing the rounds for almost 15 years by that point, it seemed like such a bad idea. How could they translate what is possibly the best work in the comic book medium onto the big screen without it ending up being a hollow facsimile of the original (hi Watchmen and V for Vendetta). Well, why don't we take a look?
1. Get Neil Gaiman to write/ co-write the screenplay.
The first way you can avoid a Sandman movie from being a huge disappointment is get the guy who wrote it in the first place on board. Ok, he doesn't have the most experience writing for films (although he has written some amazing stuff for Doctor Who), but you're guaranteed to keep the same feel that the comics had, at least in the script. Plus it brings the film immediate credibility and makes the fans less likely to complain.
2. Get the right director.
This guy please.
Because come on, the guy who directed Pan's Labyrinth doing a Neil Gaiman penned project? Tell me you don't want to see that.
3. The right Morpheus.
Ok, so contentious subject here. Originally it was meant to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play Morpheus, until he dropped out in March. Now, let's be honest, JGL isn't exactly who you'd think of if you were asked to name the person who you could see playing The Sandman on film. He doesn't look the part, he's never really played a character as unusual as Morpheus before and he's also American, which, let's be honest, is not Morpheus. Neil Gaiman hardly ever visits America during the Sandman's 80+ issues and most of the story, when it happens in the waking world, takes place in Britain. So having a British actor makes more sense here. So we're looking for an actor who looks the part, is known for his unusual characters and is British. Anyone else thinking this guy?
4. Follow the comics
So, when basing a film off of a comic like The Sandman, you cannot half-ass it. This comic is considered a classic for a reason. Any film should not diverge from the story in any major way. Sure you can cut stuff out (we'll get to that later), but you have to keep with the flow of the major events in the story. And that means the film must follow Preludes and Nocturnes, the first of the collected graphic novels, where Morpheus escapes his 100 year imprisonment and goes searching for his emblems of office.
5. The right supporting cast.
With that in mind, there are 3 major characters that need to be cast besides Morpheus. John Constantine, Lucifer and Doctor Destiny Lucien, Cain and Abel are all important, but they aren't major players in the story. Obviously, John Constantine should stick to someone more in line with the comics than say, Keanu Reeves. The guy was modelled on Sting, from The Police, who is obviously too old for the part but is a good place to start, if you wanted to make the character a bit older. Lucifer is quite a hard one to cast. You need someone who can command the screen in such a way that they can compete with Benedict Cummberbatch as Dream. They also need to have an angelic beauty about them and still be a convincing threat. I kinda like Tilda Swinton for the role, but there are probably some better candidates that I can't think of at the moment. As for Doctor Destiny. The character as he appears in Sandman is decrepit, almost malnourished quality about him, from years of abusing the dream stone. This would lend its self to an older actor who looks old, haggard and weary, but also malevolent. Someone who can get the audiences sympathy whilst also completely and utterly repulsing them at the same time. My first thought would be David Bradley. He can play the sadistic b******* who kills people without a second thought (GoT anyone?), but he also has the acting chops to make people feel for this deranged killer, which they should do.
6. Condense the origin
Ok, going back to my point about keeping with the comic. There is so much to cover when it comes to the Sandman story in Preludes and Nocturnes that something has to be dropped. And that something is the Morpheus' capture and imprisonment. I'm not saying cut it completely, but covering it fully would take a good half an hour and the movie it's self would look to be two and a half hours anyway, so no way are you getting everything in if you keep the full origin. So montage it. 100 years in a montage. Start with the ceremony and his capture, then flashes of events, the sleepless and the endless sleepers, the Burgess family, the taking of the helm, stone and sand, until Morpheus escapes and we end the opening credits on Alex Burgess' endless waking scream. Then into Morpheus arriving back in the dreaming.
7. Cut the extraneous stuff.
More stuff to leave out will be anything that doesn't directly impact on the end of the entire Sandman series. With The Sandman there are 5 distinct arcs, whilst the rest are scattered stories to tie the whole thing up. Of these only 4 really need to be considered for the film, Preludes and Nocturnes (as the basis for the movie), The Doll's House, Brief Lives and The Kindly Ones. These 4create a full arc for the character and anything in addition to these don't need to be included. That means cutting out any interactions with hell that don't pertain to Morpheus retrieving his helm, and that means cutting out the character of Nada. The arc where Lucifer abandons Hell is great and all, but if they were to make a series of Sandman films (which would undoubtedly be the end game because money) it wouldn't make for great viewing for an audience that haven't invested themselves in the comics and their lore.
8. Keep it away from the DC cinematic universe.
Another thing to cut is any interaction Morpheus has with the Justice League. At this point, there's no reason for Morpheus to go looking for the Justice League for information in finding the dream stone, the League won't have been around that long and won't have fought Doctor Destiny, the only hero who is likely to have done so would be Batman and do you want to pay Ben Affleck's appearances fees for a cameo? So best just have Doctor Destiny arrested by the ordinary police and have Morpheus observe the dreams of some detective to find the location of the ruby. Plus it saves more time that can be used else where. Also...
9. Keep it R-Rated.
Anyone who's read The Sandman knows that it's deeply routed in two things. 1. Greek Mythology and 2. Horror. There is no getting away from the fact that Sandman can be incredibly graphic at times and deals with some very mature themes. The film should keep it this way. They managed to keep Watchmen true to the comics in terms of how unrelentingly violent it was, so keep Sandman true to it's disturbing horror routes.
10. The question of Death
Now, here's the thing. Do you make Sandman as a standalone film? It's hard to see the film being a box office smash, even if they do it perfectly. However, there is money to be made and 3 more stories that are just begging to come to the big screen. And obviously, comic book movies just love to leave us with a little something at the end, just to say "hey, go see the movie we're making to follow this one", even if said follow up doesn't happen *cough*Green Lantern*cough*. Now the biggest problem we have with The Sandman is Death. She is easily the fan favourite character from the series (and she's freaking adorable), but does she fit in with the film. In a way yes, because it provides the story with a natural conclusion that works better than just dumping Doctor Destiny back at Arkham. However, the inclusion of her scene may mean something else from earlier in the film gets cut, which isn't great. And her scene would be too long to be a mid/ post-credits scene if they want it to be worth anything, so they can't do that. But if they don't include her then it makes her appearances later on in any potential sequels (specifically The Kindly Ones) less impactful. Plus her scene at the end leaves the entire thing very open ended, which it wouldn't be if it was just; Morpheus takes Doctor Destiny back to Arkham, resumes his role as lord of the dreaming. So is it better to just leave her out and make the movie self-contained incase it doesn't do well? I have no idea.
So yeah, that's my list. What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Who would you have playing the major characters in a Sandman film? Am I an idiot for my suggestions on who I think who direct and/ or act in the film? Let me know in the comments below.
I say that you have put in a lot of careful consideration. The script writers should definitely defer to Neil Gaiman. Of course, Guillermo del Toro! Benedict Cumberbatch has that great bone structure which gives him that Morpheus vibe. I’m leery about him playing Dr. Strange. No particular reason. I just am.
Maybe Dominic Keating as Morpheus? Tilda Swinton has the angelic androgynous look which is perfect for Lucifer. To contrast Morpheus and the overall vibe, I would like to see Death played by an American or a non-British actress. Just for that little hint that something is askew.
While many fans have pined for “Sandman: The Movie,” bring it to the small screen. There is so much material. I worry that the necessary cuts to shorten a full-length movie would make it convoluted and cheap. Whereas a TV series would have a minimum 5 or 6 year run that would fully explore the characters and their world.
Save the best for last. After the series runs its course, then have a full-length movie. A fan-gasmic requiem. Alas, so many great stories and characters stuck in development hell.
well it would be Vertigo movie Universe then…personally I would want to see the original version of Sandman the powers of Sandy the Golden Boy…And stay away from Tim Burton
Mostly, I agree, though I think it might be a FAR better idea to stay way the heck away from trying to capture The Sandman on film in the first place.
Biggest problem I have is with Doctor Destiny. Yes, I liked him as a Justice League villain, WAY back when… but Gaiman clearly didn’t understand the character, admitted as much, and was sorry he ever tried to incorporate ANY of the DCU in his work, so, why not just drop him, entirely?
You’ve already got enough material for at least 4 movies, likely more…