Warner Bros. and DC are just churning out projects left and right these days! The Hollywood Reporter recently announced that Joseph Gordon-Levitt had signed on to direct and produce a movie centered around Sandman, the popular and beloved work from DC Comic’s Vertigo imprint authored by Neil Gaiman. This was coming off the tweeted announcement by Gordon-Levitt last week:
— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) December 17, 2013
Sandman, for those who don’t know, is the story of Dream, Lord of Dreams, who was imprisoned by an occult ritual for 70 years. Upon escaping, Dream, or Morpheus, or any number of other names attached to him, goes about getting revenge on those who imprisoned him while trying to rebuild his fallen kingdom and adjusting to the present day. Dream made for a fantastic character study of the tragic hero since the god-like ruler of dreams, also one of the Endless, changed from the cold, cruel distributor of vengeance for the crimes committed against him to a softer, kinder hero committed to helping others as a means of making up for his own sins. He never lost the wit, though. That’s very important.
Sharing only the name of a previous DC Comics Sandman from the 70s created by Jack Kirby, Ernie Chua, Joe Simon, and Michael Fleisher, Sandman, as envisioned by Neil Gaiman, was part of a dense universe of characters, some of which included characters from DC Comics. Because Dream could occupy any time and any place, via his realm of The Dreaming, he could interact with whomever he wished, resulting in guest appearances by other Vertigo characters like Swamp Thing and John Constantine, as well as regular DC Comics characters like Etrigan the Demon, members of Justice League International, and even Batman. The interactions were infrequent, but spoke to a larger shared universe within the comics that crossed over from Vertigo to DC.
The popularity of Sandman is nearly universal amongst DC and Vertigo readers. Sandman ran for 75 issues from 1989 to 1996 and was one of Vertigo’s most popular titles. The book presented Gaiman with an opportunity to comment on art and culture through a character who could embody those aspects through the realms of dreaming and imagination. Sandman was the recipient of critical acclaim with the main book and many of its spin-offs winning a total of 26 Eisner Awards. Sandman #19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, was also the winner of the World Fantasy Award in 1991 for Best Short Fiction.
But what does all this background mean for the movie? Well, given Gordon-Levitt’s hashtag of #Prelude, the assumption has been made that he, using David S. Goyer’s outline, and consultation from Gaiman as Executive Producer, will be adapting the first collected volume, The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes. This would encompass Dream’s escape from prison and his pursuit to recover the lost totems of his own power. It’s not a bad place to start given there’s a clear story to follow, plus a character arc that can be explored as Dream reclaims his position as the Lord of Dreams. It also allows for the introduction of Dream’s siblings, The Endless. The first arc is all about revenge, so giving Dream a human element of interaction, specifically with his sister Death, offers an avenue for the audience to identify with the character.
The movie would also expand on the magical and mystical elements of the DC Universe. Given that David S. Goyer has already sold a pilot for a series surrounding John Constantine to NBC and Guillermo Del Toro is still attached to a Justice League Dark film, Warner Bros. may be trying to build up a separate, yet still connected, corner of the DC Cinematic Universe that isn’t exclusively populated by superheroes. Adapting Preludes and Nocturnes also opens up the idea of multiple Sandman movies since the first volume is a blip on the expansive universe available for adaptation.
One notable rumor still up in the air is whether or not Joseph Gordon-Levitt will star as Dream. Gordon-Levitt is definitely a Hollywood darling in both mainstream and indie films, garnering a fanbase that’s sure to see the film regardless of his actual appearance. But is it wise to have him star as Dream when he’ll already have to wear the hats of director and producer? Not that Gordon-Levitt hasn’t already accomplished multiple aspects of filmmaking. In his directorial debut, Don Jon, Gordon-Levitt was also the star and writer. Though it received high praise, especially for a first-time director, Don Jon was a smaller film in terms of its scope and scale. Sandman would ostensibly be a much bigger film in both its universe and its budget, a considerable amount of which would have to go to CGI in order to pull off the powerful magic and surrealistic landscapes occupied by Dream, the Endless, and any other characters inhabiting the film. With only one director’s credit under his belt, should Gordon-Levitt be stretched so thin before we know if he can even handle a film of this type?
The benefits of Gordon-Levitt starring in the film are the audience and the credibility he brings. Like Sandman and Dream himself, Gordon-Levitt has a large female fanbase, but his appearance in multiple big-budget films like Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, and indie films like Brick and (500) Days of Summer could bring in a mixed audience of men and women, young and old. He has a lot of mass appeal, but can he pull off the presence of Dream? He’s the personification of dreams and imagination and there has to be a sense of gravitas to him alongside the cold vengeance and rage he’s sure to carry in the film. I like Gordon-Levitt as an actor, but I’ve also heard Benedict Cumberbatch’s name bandied about as a possible contender for Dream, which makes a bit more sense. Not only does Cumberbatch look otherworldly, but in playing roles like Sherlock Holmes and even Khan Noonien Singh, he’s shown himself to be a genre actor capable of being imposing and sympathetic despite saying and doing things that are less than kind. This is just speculation for the moment. All we know is that the movie will be happening. If Gordon-Levitt does end up playing Dream, it’ll at least be interesting to see how he pulls it off on top of bringing the world of Sandman to the big screen.
So, what do you think about a Sandman film? How do you feel about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s involvement and should he be the one to play Dream? Let us know in the comments!