Is the Trademark “Netflix Look” Hampering the Viewer Experience of ‘The Sandman’?

Is the Trademark “Netflix Look” Hampering the Viewer Experience of ‘The Sandman’?

32 long years of anticipation did not disappoint. The audience finally received an on-screen adaptation of The Sandman worthy of its name. Netflix’s live-action rendition of the beloved fantasy comics by Neil Gaiman has exceeded most expectations, which were ridiculously high to begin with. From the writing and the performance to the world-building and overall packaging, the show is an excellent effort. However, there is something amiss, and it’s high time we address it. Hint: It’s the aesthetics of the show.

The infamous Netflix Look: Trademark style or conformity

The Sandman, like several other Netflix originals, sufferers from something dubbed the “Netflix Look.” It features dark imagery, a neon wash on the scenes, overly saturated colors, and an extremely distinct fault in the aspect ratio. Additionally, the shots are often composed in the most conventional manner.

They seem to be taken right out of a ‘Filmmaking for dummies‘ handbook with overuse of the medium close-up shot, a dutch angle frame to depict a ruse or a turning point, and other such tired tropes. And the skewed aspect ratio is yet another frustrating issue. In almost every shot, the picture appears stretched upwards. These often take away from the brilliance of the show to the point of distraction for the viewer.

The argument that the platform maintains uniformity to have a trademark style is completely counterintuitive. The Sandman, set in a dreaming realm with infinite potential, is conformed to archaic standards for depicting drama; medium shots galore! Obviously, graphic novels and live-action are two very different mediums. But it’s tragic to see sub-par color grading and grungy tones used to recreate the vivid color palette of the comics.

ALSO READ: Neil Gaiman Tells How Netflix Filmed The Unfilmable Comic, His Baby ‘The Sandman’

Cutting-edge technology undercuts The Sandman

Netflix has fairly strict parameters for resolutions and overall output that limit the use of non-approved cameras. According to J. D. Connor, an associate professor in Cinema and Media Studies at USC, Netflix initially signed off on only two cameras. While they were the best in the market and could do wonders, the platform’s “insistence” on the matter was one “way that the uniformity emerged.

The streaming goliath has since added several more to its list of approved cameras, yet it’s still restrictive. Netflix camera systems specialist Krys Pyrgrocki defended their position on the subject. Apparently, their reason for having a limited list is so that filmmakers are “encouraged to use the latest and greatest capture technologies out there to tell their stories.

Another major reason for the unsettling Netflix look is “what they call future-proofing their content.” According to Connor, the platform wants “it all to be shot in 4K HDR.” While this might seem like a great idea, it ties the hands of filmmakers. Moreover, while the large format videos look amazing on the big screen, compressing them for smaller screens causes an absurd aspect ratio.

So if one were to summarize the Netflix aesthetics, they range from having a distinct Hallmark-esque trademark to an almost disturbing “uncanny valley” situation. Neither of the two is doing the platform any favors. It’s not prudent to have a “one size fits all” approach to content. While these stringent parameters might produce beautiful romantic comedies and a slice of life films, a production like The Sandman deserves more attention to detail.

ALSO READ: Concepts of Dream and Nightmares Redefined By the Netflix Current Hit, ‘The Sandman’

What do you think of the Netflix look? Does it take away from The Sandman’s viewing experience? Perhaps you can re-watch the show and leave your thoughts in the comments.

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