I’m actually pretty optimistic about this, I just really like using this image for Sandman stories.
The putative Joseph Gordon-Levitt-helmed adaptation of The Sandman has, in the way of putative movie projects everywhere, acquired itself a writer. Jack Thorne is the name now attached to the film, an experienced British television writer who remains a relative unknown in Hollywood.
Thorne’s body of work includes the original British version of Skins, The Scouting Book for Boys, Cast Offs, This is England ’86, and The Fades. One of the most distinct differences between Marvel Entertainment’s interconnected universe movies and Warner Bros. that I point to as a reason why Marvel is doing so well at this and Warner Bros. hasn’t is that Warner Bros. is choosing writers and directors who are known for their work in the superhero/blockbuster genre and who will respond to the concerns of marketing and executive. Where Marvel, for the most part, appears to focus on choosing a creative team whose body of work fits the particular genre of superhero they want to put on the screen. Get the guy who made The Rocketeer to make Captain America, get a Shakespeare guy to tackle Thor, forget that he has
never directed only directed one feature film (Edit: Sorry guys, momentarily forgot about Serenity) before, get a writer/director renowned for making ensemble casts work to make The Avengers.
Sandman is not the kind of comic book story that Warner Bros. was probably thinking of when it acquired DC Comics, I’m not even sure that it’ll be a summer blockbuster. And so I’m very interested in the choices the company has made so far: Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a history of choosing interesting projects carefully (ok, so on the other side of the room from Brick and Inception, you have G.I. Joe, but every actor has at least one G.I. Joe on their resume), but he’s only got one feature film under his belt as a director. (For what it’s worth, Levitt is so far only confirmed to be producing.) Thorne has a similar IMDB listing: lots of interesting projects, very little that makes a writer attractive to the Hollywood system.
The trends I do see in Thorne’s work, however, are ones that I think align well with Sandman. Skins, Scouting Book, Cast Offs, and This is England all concern counter cultures, or at the very least, the sort of adolescent adventures that are borne out of feeling alienated from those around you. When Sandman wasn’t depicting various historical eras or mythological characters, its modern setting was grounded firmly in the counter culture of the ’80s. Alternative music, BSDM clubs, runaway teens, strippers, struggling trans and gay artists, the sorts of people that proper mainstream society deliberately forgets, pretends to ignore, demonizes, or falsely victimizes. And, to be fair, there’s also an entire, amazing arc about serial killers.
It’s not as impossible to separate Sandman from the ’80s as it is to separate, say, Watchmen from the same period, but it would be a pity to lose the comic’s deliberate callouts to the underground scenes of the era. I’m intrigued by the idea of Thorne take a shot at the adaptation, and look forward to seeing the outcome.