A concerned letter about the new ‘Sandman’ movie




Dear Warner Brothers,

I just want you to know that I’m writing this letter as a friend. I’ve long been a fan of your output, your cartoons are a staple of my childhood, and your films and television work have ranked among my favorites. However, I am concerned at the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has announced a deal to produce a film adaptation of The Sandman. I’m concerned, because I don’t think you know quite what you’re dealing with here. Let me explain.

The Sandman series is an intricate and complex story about the personification of “dream” called Morpheus, a demi-god that presides over the realm of the dreams of creatures great and small. He is also just one of many “endless” entities all having to do with aspects of humanity. The stories revolving around Morpheus and his family are intelligent, emotional and can be visually stunning. However, it would also be fair to say that The Sandman stories deal primarily in concepts and ideas, two things Hollywood studios have traditionally been afraid of because these amorphous things are difficult to express on screen.

To give you an example: in the story “Seasons of Mist”, Morpheus has to give his recently acquired key to Hell to one of several groups of gods/magical creatures but can’t decide who to give it to. This story takes place at a dinner party. A DINNER PARTY! In “A Doll’s House” there is a character who is a physical manifestation of a place. A PLACE! The whole series is like this. I bring this up, because I’m fairly certain that you, the executives in charge of this project, are not familiar with the project you have just green-lit.

You see, on the written page, you can tell the reader what the characters are thinking and feeling, without intruding upon the story. Readers simply take it as a necessary peripheral experience in order to get the story across; but in a film, you have to show audiences the intricate emotions of the characters, their hopes, dreams and ideas. This is a difficult task for any director and like it or not, this is the fabric of The Sandman and almost all of Neil Gaiman’s work.

Now on to the people involved. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the person to break the new via twitter on Monday and word spread immediately. He eventually came out and said that he just plans to co-produce, but that got everyone wondering, is he planning to direct/star in this thing? Levitt is a very talented gentlemen. In recent years, he has shown that he is an actor capable of great depth in both comedic and dramatic performances, his recent film Don John stands as a successful example of a performer putting his thoughts on screen from behind the camera as well as performing in front of it. He’s talented and sensitive and has vision, but is he really right for the project? What about his previous work tells you that he is the director/performer for this job? Aren’t there lists of directors out there (Terry Gilliam, Darren Arnofsky) who have previously dealt in in the realms of the conceptual and fantastique who would be better choices?

Also, David Goyer? Sure his work includes Batman Begins, but it also includes Blade Trinity.  The man is hit or miss and there’s but few projects on his resume that should lead anyone to believe that he would be ideal for adapting the complicated and emotional world of Sandman to the silver screen. He wrote Man of Steel for Pete’s sake! How in the hell can Clark Kent become a reporter for the world’s leading newspaper with nothing on his resume but dishwasher, and oil rig hand? Did he even go to a university? I hope you can see what I’m driving at.

Moreover, the built-in fanbase for The Sandman is a small but loyal one. These people are intelligent, sensitive and appreciate a story well told, but I don’t think that there are enough of them to make the multi-million dollar opening box office weekend you would want out of this. If the film doesn’t do justice to the source material, the fans will revolt and not even the warmth of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dashing smile will quell their ire. And if the film diverges from the source material to appeal to a mass market, it will lose what made it special and the general public still won’t “get it”. This is a lose-lose situation, either way you will not get the results you want, I can promise you that.

This whole announcement and deal smacks of Hollywood bluster. You want Levitt because he’s hot right now, and Goyer because he’s your “go-to” script guy despite a record that is spotty at best. While I am thrilled you are finally taking a proper interest in your Vertigo titles, you couldn’t have picked a more untenable horse to bet on.

Also, has anyone even asked writer and Sandman creator Neil Gaiman what he thinks of this? The last I heard he was hot to trot for a Death movie and had pretty much laid waste to the idea of a Sandman movie ever getting produced because he’d “…rather see no Sandman movie made than a bad Sandman movie”.

I might suggest adding to your stellar record in television by developing House of Mystery into an anthology show, or bringing American Vampire to AMC with a mini-series. You have a list of Vertigo titles to choose from for development, you just happened to have picked the most complicated one to adapt.

Take care, and thank you for ARROW.


P.S. Benedict Cumberbatch is the only one capable of playing the part of Morpheus with the sensitivity and gravitas the role demands, however that still doesn’t negate the fact that a Sandman cinematic adaptation is an ill conceived one.

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Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com