People keep praising Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels, so a few years ago I bought The Overture to familiarize myself with the complicated postmodern meta-narrative. Couldn't understand anything, not a word! Netflix just dropped a Sandman series, so I'm trying again. Hopefully they'll dumb it down sufficiently so someone with just a Ph.D. and eight published books can follow the plot.
Scene 1: An old-fashioned car driving through woods, while the King of Dreams (Tom Sturridge, left) tells us that the dream world and the waking world are interconnected. Its occupant hugs a mysterious satchel. Meanwhile, a bird flies into outer space and through a spooky graveyard to a castle, where the man in the car is waiting with his satchel. But it doesn't stop: on and on, into the castle, through the library, and into a chapel, where it lands on the King of Dreams' shoulder.
Flashback: in spite of the misgivings of his servant ("Dreams rarely survive in the waking world"), the King puts on a gas mask and ventures into the waking world to prusue a "rogue nightmare." Couldn't you send a dream-world cop, or rogue-nightmare-control officer?
Scene 2: 1916, Wych Cross, England. The driver awakens the man in the car, Dr. Jonathan Hathawy of the Royal Museum: they've arrived at Fawny Rig, a spooky old mansion. A boy named Alex answers the door. He wants to know if Hathaway has come to join the Order of Ancient Mysteries, but he's actually going to see the Magus, Roderick Burgess.
Alex leads him to a chamber where robed figures are performing a ritual, but actually the Magus is in the study! He led Hathaway to the wrong room just to mess with him!
The Magus (an old guy) enters, sends Alex scurrying out to fetch tea. Plot dump: the Magus wanted a book, the Magdalene Grimoire, to summon and trap the Angel of Death and force him to resurrect his son, who was killed at Gallipoli. At frist Hathaway refused to bring it, but then his own son was killed, so ok.
Scene 3: A procession of robed figures holding candles. Alex takes Hathaway's hand and leads him with the procession to a crypt. "Tonight we will capture Death," the Magus announces.
The scene abruptly shifts to Berlin, where a motorist, nattily dressed with a Panama hat, is shocked to see the gas mask-clad King of Dreams materialize. The motorist is the rogue nightmare, killing people in the waking world for fun. "Isn't that why you created us?" he exclaims. The King disagrees, and starts evaporating him -- but then he is evaporated himself!
Meanwhile, back in England, the Magus is offering various gifts to the gods or whoever, to draw the Angel of Death into a magic circle. After some chanting and fireworks, the King of Dreams appears instead, gas mask and all, unconscious! The Magus strips him and steals his magical implements: a ruby, a feather, and a bag of sand -- leaving him naked, helpless, trapped in the magic circle. The boy Alex is upset by his brutality.
Having the King of Dreams incapacitated causes havoc in the dream world and the waking world, like nearly a million people who were asleep not being able to wake up. Millions of others could never fall asleep again.
Scene 4: The rogue nightmare from Scene 3, now named the Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook), visits the Magus. He explains that the ritual accidentally summoned Dream, an Endless ("more than a god"). To keep him contained, put him in a glass sphere, and never fall asleep in his presence -- take amphetamines to stay awake. If he ever escapes, into the waking or the dream world, he will kill you all.
Scene 5: The Magus knows that he got the wrong guy, but he still orders Dream/Endless to return his son from the dead. If he can't do that, then how about providing "power, wealth, and immortality" instead? But Dream/Endless refuses to speak. Alex feels guilty about keeping someone prisoner. The bird from Scene 1 hovers around.
Scene 6: Ten years later. The Magus and his cult used Dream/Endless's ruby, feather, and sand to acquire "youth and prosperity," while the rest of the world languished. The 20-year old Alex (Laurie Kynaston) tells a roomful of people that the Magus can't see anyone else today. Two men get angry and start to yell, but the Girl scares them off by claiming that Alex has magical powers, too. She flirts her way into getting in.
Scene 7: Was it a magical consultation or a wild party? In the morning, booze bottles and semi-naked women are scattered around. The two daytime guards are late, so Alex offers to guard Dream/Endless.
After feeling guilty for the last ten years, Alex asks Dream/ Endless "Are you all right in there?" Dream/Endless stares: What do you think, jerk? "I would let you out, if I could...."
Uh-oh, the Magus overhears! He drags Alex upstairs, beats him, accuses him of conspiring with Dream/Endless, and tries to kill him. The Girl and Deram/Endless's pet bird intervene. "Ok, to prove your loyalty, shoot the pet bird!" the Magus yells.
Scene 8: While Alex is out hunting for the bird, it sneaks into the mansion, starts a fire, and uses the distraction to --- well, nothing. Alex shoots it, then feels guilty. Dream: "The savagery of my captors bespoke a world whose dreams in my absence turned darker still." What, exactly, is his job? Does he put people to sleep and wake them up again? Decide what people dream about? Or keep them from having nightmares?
Scene 9: Alex, dozing in the park while reading Evelyn Waugh, has a meet-cute with Paul (Christopher Colquhoun) Wait -- he's gay? I thought he was dating The Girl.
Later, the Girl (Ethel) tells Alex that she's pregnant. The Magus is irate, and wants her to get an abortion. So she's dating the Magus, and she and Alex are just friends?
Scene 10: Instead, she steals Dream's magical items and the Magdalene Grimoire (and 200,000 pounds) and vanishes. Snarling, the Magus uses this as a bargaining chip with Dream: "Give me what I want -- youth, wealth, and immortality -- and you can go after her and get your stuff back." It used to be power, wealth, and immortality. I guess he's getting older. Still, seems like an odd wish list.
He starts beating Alex, who pushes him away -- right into the glass cage. He bashes his head and dies.
So, now Alex can release Dream, right? No --- the Magus told him that if the Dream gets out, he'll kill them all. So -- "I have to think."
Scene 11: Alex is comforted by Paul. In the rain. They hold hands. Dream: "Out of loss, new love was born." Wait -- I thought Alex hated the Magus.
"And new life." Ethel, the Magus's ex-girlfriend, is still in the story: she tells her baby son, Johnny: "We're going to make our dreams come true. And nothing is going to stand in our way." Ulp, a villainess in the making.
Scene 12: Alex and Paul visit Dream: "Do you promise that, if we let you out, you won't harm us?" Dream refuses to answer. Many years pass, and Dream still refuses to answer. Alex and Paul get old. Darn, they'll be out of the story in the next episode.
I'll stop the scene-by-scene there.
Beefcake: The naked Dream. But he's a little too emo to be attractive.
Other Sights: Other than a glimpse of Dream's palace, just the mansion.
Gay Characters: Alex and Paul, but all they do is hold hands, and they probably won't appear again.
Inconsistent Motives: The Magus keeps asking for wealth, but he's already got wealth. Dream refuses to speak, even though he will be released by promising not to harm Alex. And the guy at the beginning vanishes from the story.
My Grade: B