Do you hear that *clunk* sound? That's the sound of the door closing, again, as another person walks out, forever leaving behind a project shackled to the fiery depths of development hell: #Sandman, the long-awaited but borderline hopeless movie adaptation of #NeilGaiman's graphic novel series.
The list of those who have quit is too long to mention here, but the roots of the troubled production stretch all the way back to 1996, when Pulp Fiction screenwriter left due to "creative differences." By 2013, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was on board to produce and direct. Earlier this year, he quit. Now, screenwriter Eric Heisserer has walked out of the door due to disagreements with the studio.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt Deserts 'Sandman' Following Creative Differences
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Sandman Is Perfect For TV
In an interview with io9, Heisserer announced his departure was because he had a different vision for how the story should be told. He said:
"I had many conversations with Neil [Gaiman] on this, and I did a lot of work on the feature and came to the conclusion that the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film, not even as a trilogy.
"The structure of the feature film really doesn’t mesh with this. So I went back and said here’s the work that I’ve done. This isn’t where it should be. It needs to go to TV. So I talked myself out of a job."
The trouble is, the Arrival screenwriter is right. The rich playground of the metaphysical is primed for television, and the studios stubborn stance is concerning. While Gordon-Levitt's departure was a significant blow due to his passion for the source material, Heisserer's is significant as it shows New Line Cinema are adamant on the feature format, despite this not necessarily being the best option.
Unlike years gone by, #TV is no longer second best to the big screen. If the source material is relevant, the format can be much more effective. It allows the story to breathe, encourages character development and, crucially for Sandman, it gives plenty of time to construct a fictional world, slowly building complexities and idiosyncrasies.
The Story Of The Seven Endless
Sandman focuses on the protagonist, Dream of the Endless (also referred to as Morpheus) — an omnipotent being who rules the world of dreams — and his quest to repair his Kingdom following 70 years imprisonment. Dream is one of Seven Endless, a group of all-powerful beings, made up of Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium (formerly Delight) and Destruction.
Each of the Endless serve as guardians of their particular realms, and the richness of Gaiman's fictional world lies within the depth of these worlds. Compared to a feature film, a TV show would allow each of these different destinations to be fully explored and beefed out, perhaps with an episode dedicated to each.
Across the 2,500 pages of material, there seems to be too much to compress into a feature, perhaps one of the main issues that has delayed the project for two decades. The necessity to change format is heightened by another Gaiman creation, #AmericanGods, which has been adapted for a TV show on Starz next year.
#HBO have shown how the increased budgets on the small screen can create vast, fantastical worlds in the case of Game of Thrones. Another comic book adaptation, Preacher, illustrated the need for expansive storylines. That's not to mention the strength of #Netflix's adaptations for the MCU.
Personally, I think the adventures of Sandman are perfectly suited to a 10 episode Netflix original. The streaming service has a great track record with TV, have shown with Marvel they can remain true to the source material, and the binge option would be an added bonus.
Sandman has the unfortunate label of "unfilmable." Setback after setback has made the project a point of frustration for fans of the graphic novel series, but it is possible to pull it back from the brink. And that requires being filmed for the small screen, not the theater. Hopefully New Line Cinema will eventually agree.
Should Sandman be a TV show or a feature film?