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Slumberland SPOILER FREE Review: A Sandman for All Ages!

by Eve Andrews

Netflix really seems to be leaning into the dream motif lately! Their second comic book adaptation this year that places the intrinsic world of dreams at its forefront, Netflix brings us the film adaptation of Slumberland, based on the comic book fantasy series Little Nemo by Winsor McCay, which ran from 1905 to 1927. 

From Francis Lawrence, Director of the Hunger Games trilogy, Slumberland follows the story of Nemo, the 11-year-old daughter of a lighthouse keeper who is content in her remote, seabound existence. But when her life is turned upside down by her father’s tragic passing, she is thrown into a city-based existence with her estranged, downbeat uncle. However, she continues to find escapism in her dreams, where she meets a strangely familiar individual who needs help locating a wish-granting treasure. Desperate to be reunited with her late father, Nemo takes the bait – shenanigans throughout the dream world of Slumberland ensue!

The first thing I want to say about this movie is that it’s gorgeous to look at! Cinematographer, Joe Willems, does a fantastic job at capturing the whimsical nature of the comics and does not hold back in showcasing Slumberland’s bizarre dreamscape in all its startling, surreal and impossible glory. An abundance of VFX is to be expected in a grand-scale fantasy such as this, but never once did the visuals appear cheesy or overdone. Clearly crafted with the utmost love and care, the aesthetics of Slumberland are spellbinding.

The story follows a pretty basic globe-trotting plot line, in which Nemo and her partner jump from dream to dream in search of the treasure that will grant their respective wishes. Palatable to an audience of all ages, this classic adventure structure works, showcasing a variety of landscapes that each offer unique challenges to the characters and plot.

The cast that carried this storyline through were all pretty damn great. But the highlight performance for me was that of Marlow Barkley in the lead role of Nemo. A complex role that explores the effects of grief, loss and childhood trauma, Barkley’s performance was poignantly layered with all the believable pain and confusion that reflected her character’s jarring arc. Barkley also had some extremely entertaining on-screen chemistry with Jason Mamoa, who tried his hand at the surprisingly complicated comic relief role of Flip. A wonderfully endearing personality clash, the back-and-forth banter between the two was an absolute joy to watch! 

However, there were times when some of the dialogue in Jason Mamoa’s role was clunky. Whether this was the result of the screenplay itself or improvisation on Mama’s part is unclear. But some of the attempted comic moments came off more hokey than humourous.

Other honourable performance mentions go to Weruche Opia as the overzealous Agent Green and Chris O’Dowd as Nemo’s tired and downtrodden Uncle Philip.

While Slumberland did have a handful of hokey moments, it was, overall, an absolute delight! It was a whimsical romp through the land of dreams, laced with relatable human struggles and high-speed action sequences – what’s not to love?!  Furthermore, it stands as a very worthy adaptation of McCay’s original comics. While there are some notable deviations, such as the updated era and additional plot lines, Slumberland pays its respects to the source material by playing off a premise pieced together from a collection of the original Little Nemo comics. It makes a great fireside movie that will help warm you through the winter months ahead! 

Have you seen Slumberland yet? What did you think? Was it a delightful dreamscape or one big forgettable nightmare? Let us know in the comment section below!

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