Netflix Explains 'The Sandman's' 'Distracting' Aspect Ratio

It's not a technical issue. It's art.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Jennifer Bisset
Dream stands in a misty landscape with crosses coming out of the ground

Dream (Tom Sturridge) enters the warped depths of Hell.


While watching The Sandman on Netflix, you might have noticed something a little off about the visuals. Everything looks stretched, elongated toward the top and bottom of the screen. Why? After user complaints flooded Twitter, Netflix has provided an answer.

"As you'll note, many of the environments are surreal in the series, and we often say it's quite what a dream would feel like," Netflix told Variety.

In other words, the wonky visuals were a deliberate artistic decision to represent the look of a dream.

The fantasy show is based on Neil Gaiman's lauded comic book series that ran for 75 issues from 1989 to 1996. It follows Dream (Tom Sturridge), the king of dreams and nightmares, as he sets out to restore order to his realm, The Dreaming.

While the show has been decorated with rare glowing reviews for a comic book adaptation, fans weren't overwhelmingly pleased with the skewed aesthetic.

Some called it "distracting" and "unwatchable."

One person gave a useful visual analysis of The Sandman's wonky look.

Another didn't even notice the distortion.

Will the creators change the aspect ratio? Netflix didn't provide any more explanation to Variety and didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. Basically, don't hold your breath.

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