Vertigo and Neil Gaiman’s comic book property The Sandman (published from 1989-1996) ranks among the most widely-acclaimed works of graphic novel series ever produced – thanks to not just its visual splendor, but the way Gaiman’s over-arching Sandman narrative blends genres with rich themes and many a classic literature reference. As such, an adaptation for either television or the cinema has (understandably) proven to be rather difficult – for those who’ve even made such an attempt thus far.
However, Morpheus and the Endless may at long last be on their way to the big screen, thanks to the combined efforts of producer David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel), actor/filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk), and screenwriter Jack Thorne (The Fades, A Long Way Down). Indeed, that triumvirate has been collaborating together on The Sandman since at least early 2014 – and it sounds as though their version of the project is still moving steadily down the pipeline, going by the new update from Goyer.
Goyer, speaking with Collider at the press day for his Starz TV series Da Vinci’s Demons (which begins its final season soon), talked about how earlier this year Warner Bros. shifted its Vertigo comic book adaptations – which includes the Guillermo del Toro-scripted Justice League Dark movie – over to New Line Cinema, so that WD can focus exclusively on DC Comics adaptations. He then mentioned that a “fantastic writer than fans of your site will enjoy” is coming onboard to revise the Sandman screenplay – hopefully, keeping it on course to begin production in 2016:
I think that the Vertigo properties are a bit more quirky and off-center than kind of the mainstream superhero stuff at Warners. But I understand the decision because we’re not having to fight for release dates with the Vertigo stuff like we would have been having to do over at Warner Bros. But I feel confident that film will go into production hopefully next year.
Vertigo comic book properties are likewise known in general for exploring darker narrative material and mature subject matter that studios usually aren’t comfortable with including in mainstream big-budget studio fare; hence, such Vertigo series as Preacher and Y: The Last Man are currently being adapted as cable television shows, while titles like Constantine (which Goyer produced) and iZombie have gone to the small screen in recent years. The Sandman is also very much an adult-oriented work in term of its content and tone – which (as Goyer notes) is why the film adaptation stands to benefit from not having to directly compete with upcoming DC superhero movies for attention from studio heads.
The Sandman is also very much novelistic in term of its narrative design, which is part of the reason why many fans are wary of a film adaptation – whereas a TV adaptation, by comparison, could include more of the finer plot details from Gaiman’s source material. However, Gordon-Levitt weighed in earlier this year, regarding why he feels Morpheus’ tale would be better served on the big screen, rather than the small one:
“I think a big screen adaptation is a better idea and here’s why. If you did the episodic version, I think it could very well end up as a not-as-good-version of what is already brilliant in the comics. But by reworking the material into a big movie, Gaiman’s brilliant characters and ideas get to take shape in a way they never have before. Also, I think Sandman deserves to look absolutely mind-blowingly awesome, just on a visual level, and as cinematic as some tv shows are becoming these days, they still can’t compete with big movies visually, just because they can’t afford to.”
Gordon-Levitt’s point – that fans have already been treated to the best possible long-form version of the Sandman narrative – is a fair one, though he has also admitted that re-contextualizing Gaiman’s writing has been anything but a simple task. Hence, it’s encouraging to hear that a second screenwriter (one who may have a strong reputation, by the sound of it) has been recruited to help Thorne out with the process. That still doesn’t guarantee that The Sandman movie’s reach won’t exceed its grasp – but if all goes right, this project could end up being one of the most unique comic book films created in recent memory.
We’ll bring you more information on The Sandman when we have it.