Netflix's The Sandman adaptation is anything but straightforward, but audiences may have come away with more questions than intended. One question hit yours truly so hard I almost stopped watching the show, and many folks who were more experienced with the series probably had a different question.
Fortunately, Netflix has answered my question, and executive producer Neil Gaiman (who also gave us the source material the series is based on) answered the latter. So, if you're wondering why The Sandman (which is the next addition to our best shows on Netflix roundup) looks the way it does, or why a certain aspect of the comics was ignored?
Well, we've got answers. And, thankfully, we can explain it all without spoilers.
The Sandman's aspect ratio problem explained
Soon after folks began watching The Sandman, we bet they were immediately hit by one question: "is my TV broken?" If you were a bit more confident in your setup, you might have asked that question differently, as in "why does The Sandman look so weird?"
If you haven't started the series, just look at the below (and above) images of Tom Sturridge and Kirby Howell-Baptiste. You may notice that both seem a little stretched. And throughout watching The Sandman, you'll possibly notice that the edges of the series seem to always be a bit askew and out of focus.
A Netflix spokesperson told Variety (opens in new tab) that this is entirely intentional, stating "As you'll note many of the environments are surreal in the series and we often say it’s quite what a dream would feel like."
This is both a good and bad thing. On the plus side, it does a good job of matching the comic books, as a friend showed me:
This is what I mean directly from the first issues. You can see how horizontal some parts are. pic.twitter.com/ecTItvN3zdAugust 6, 2022
On the bad side? Well, speaking from experience, it was a problem that kept me from getting into the show, distracting me multiple times per episode. I get that it's meant to make the show feel like a dream, but let's be honest: the talking raven voiced by Patton Oswalt and the fact that Lucifer is played by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) do a good enough job of making everything feel surreal.
Why does Netflix's The Sandman have none of its DC comics connections?
As seasoned veterans of The Sandman comics may know, the original The Sandman story begins within the DC Universe. But, as you may know if you've watched The Sandman, it offers not one iota of the world of Batman and Superman.
Why's that? Well, don't jump to conclusions. Yes, the DC Universe's state in our reality is especially fraught at the moment, what with The Batgirl movie getting made to get killed off and a new 10-year plan for the DC movies on its way. But that's not the rationale from this change.
Gaiman told Variety (opens in new tab) that it's all about how the DC world isn't the true identity of the series, saying "The Sandman itself started out in the DC Universe, the comic, and then it just sort of wound up wandering off into its own place ... Its world joined up more and more with our world and became less and less a world in which costumed crime fighters fly around and so on, which meant that by the time The Sandman finished, it had its own aesthetic which really wasn’t the DC Universe anymore."
And this choice makes a whole lot more sense than the decision to skew images. Gaiman continued, "We didn’t want a TV show where you felt that you had to have read a whole bunch of comics published in 1988 and 1989 to understand what was going on."
Analysis: Creative decisions led to a very unique show
I've seen all of Netflix's The Sandman, and I can say that it's a gorgeous show once you stop thinking about how everything looks bent out of shape. One of Netflix's better recent adaptations (RIP, Cowboy Bebop), the series is especially true to the source material.
Even if a story of gods toying with mortals isn't exactly your cup of tea (it isn't mine), The Sandman has something to offer. With a heavy history of lore, this must have been a difficult adaptation. But with the decision to cut out DC's part of all of this, it certainly feels like Netflix and Gaiman made some smart choices along the way. A warning up front about how it's supposed to look like that, though, would have made for much less confusion. Check out our reaction to The Sandman episode 1 to learn more.
Next: These 7 must-watch Apple TV Plus shows have 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes, and here are the 7 best new movies to stream this week. Oh, and is I Am Groot in the MCU? It's complicated.