Joseph Gordon Levitt and Sandman: The Growing Concern by Alex Correa
With the holiday season creeping up and winter weather blasting away at the pre-winter landscape of Toronto, pop culture elements that tend to mark this time of year are sending many into a frenzy.
A Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movie coming out in theatres? Yes.
New consoles to reignite the war amongst gamers young and old? Check.
The latest teasers and trailers for much-anticipated science fiction movies slated for release next year? Oh my, yes.
Oddball comic book movie casting news to enrage everyone? No, that happened a few months ago when Battfleck was announced. Wait, what's that? Joseph Gordon Levitt has signed on as producer for Sandman? So he is automatically assumed (by many frantic fans online) to be directing the picture as his follow up to Don Jon? He is also expected (again, online comic fans are in a frenzy) to star as the anthropomorphic personification of dreams, Lord of the Dreaming and member of the Endless, Morpheus? Now THIS is what December needed.
While some are quick to judge Levitt's smaller frame and youthful physical presence many still remember, and perhaps resent, the bile directed Heath Ledger's way after the announcement of his portraying the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight. And we all know how that turned out.
But, as you know, the internet is the internet and people will hate needlessly, whether it's sincere or not. However, can it be said that JGL has displayed the range as an actor to convincingly play a character like Morpheus/Sandman? To be honest, no he has not but to also be fair, not very many have. With the names that get tossed around for the shortlist of possible candidates, Adrien Brody and Benedict Cumberbatch are the only ones that I would stand behind, and that would mostly be on a superficial level.
In reality, there is no clear cut way to properly cast a role for a character with many iterations, many forms, and several incarnations of those forms without resorting to CGI. Ah, CGI... Where would Hulk be without you? Stylistically, it's probably not necessarily since it's just Morpheus of the Endless and not a forty foot lizard tearing through a city. However, it is an option available in 2013, albeit a lazy option.
As I see it, Morpheus' physical presence is ever changing and ever morphing and that is largely dependent on the tone or direction of the story arc. A story about dreaming cats brings about a feline Morpheus. An Elizabethan era tale starring William Shakespeare will call for Sandman's attire to reflect that time period. When you consider that the entirety of Neil Gaiman's run flittered from grisly horror to romantic fantasy and everywhere in between, the possible choices for story direction may not matter much on the actor portraying the Dream King, but on the director that will be chosen for the project.
Maybe the most important question, and also most overlooked, is who has the directorial chops to craft this potential masterpiece? The gonzo, acid-trip style of Terry Gilliam that feels dream-like to begin with? A dark urban fantasy filled with intricately designed works from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro? The overtly gothic feel and look from Tim Burton that would no doubt star Johnny Depp? Or will Joseph Gordon Levitt step up and give it a shot despite being a relatively new face in the directing game?
Well, they all have distinct visual and storytelling styles that would fit perfectly into any given Sandman story. But this is THE Sandman story. The one which all others will be measured up against. Arguably the greatest graphic novel narrative of all time, critically acclaimed and widely beloved. It has crossed the line of being merely a "good comic story" to a literary text. It's almost like this has happened recently? Oh yes.
Many had their minds made up before the films release due to what Zack Snyder brought to the table (slow-motion action shots) and what he couldn't bring to the table (a subdued amount of slow motion action shots). After the film's release, many agreed that it wasn't THAT bad or, at the very least, not as bad as it could have been (with a staggeringly low amount of slow-motion action shots). The biggest problem with the film was that it was an almost exact replication of the book save for updated costumes for the latex fetishists out there. It may sound like a compliment but it was actually the movie's biggest flaw. Why watch a condensed and streamlined version of the greatest graphic novel of all time when you can read the book and enjoy all its subtleties, nuances, incredibly thought out panel structure and epilogues?
Sandman faces the same potential problem. Where Snyder got it wrong, Peter Jackson most definitely got it right in regards to faithfulness to the source material. Just how far do you go in the interpretation of one of the most impactful and inspirational graphic novels ever created?
JGL's involvement in this franchise does open up a whole set of concerns, especially at this stage of development and all the traction it is gaining. There are unfair associations, fears and critiques being made when the only thing fans know at the moment is that Levitt is involved in a project that he is very enthusiastic about. It is a shame that his name overshadows the other names involved, one of them being David S. Goyer. Not the most reassuring name to hear as screenwriter, that is unless you were a big fan of the made for television Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD movie starring David Hasselhoff. On the other hand, Neil Gaiman's name has been thrown into the mix and that should be comforting... Right? Or are we still worried about Goyer?