Neil Gaiman fans already know the talented writer by his work, responsible for creations as profound and differing as the Sandman comics, novels like “Stardust”, “American Gods”, and even children’s fare like “Coraline”, among countless others. However, Patrick Meaney’s documentary Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously explores the mind of the prolific writer while exposing a more physically grueling facet of Gaiman’s life and his rabid cult following as viewers are invited to follow him on what’s been labeled his final-ever book signing tour for 2013’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Apart from covering the odyssey of Gaiman’s tour, the film focuses its lens at his exhaustive appreciation and dedication towards his fans. Gaiman is not one to turn down passionate fans nerding-out over autographs, and as commentary from actor Bill Hader illustrates, Gaiman isn’t one to shy away from an opportunity to satisfy his biggest supporters. But such respect has taken its toll: it’s gotten to the point where Gaiman uses a bucket of ice water to ease the pain in the hands after droves of fans stop-by for a moment with the author.
However mushy and overly idolized Gaiman’s portrayal may seem, surprisingly, it still comes off as authentically believable. The final moments of the documentary really show us the veracity of Gaiman’s claims that, while he enjoys making his fans happy, the moment of the final signing is a desperately needed break to do what he loves best: writing.
When not stalking Neil Gaiman we are allowed a window, albeit brief and sparingly, into an intimate exploration of the man’s ideas on writing and even slight insight into his life. Those unfamiliar with Gaiman or his work might be left with an unsatisfied curiosity upon watching, only because the film offers very little analysis or in-depth overview of his work merely acknowledging his influence and his major works.
Although the film focuses on allowing Gaiman’s actions during his tour dictate the personality behind his bibliography, a much more comprehensive analysis of his considerable body of work is greatly missing.
However, what does surface in Dream Dangerously is inspiration for up-and-coming and prospective writers embarking on what he calls a “lonely” profession. An early story recounts how he, in his early years he turned down the opportunity to become features editor for a major publication (Penthouse UK Magazine), resigning himself to settling in and living an unhappy future writing fiction. “Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe in which I said yes,” Gaiman laments, adding “I feel really sorry for him. I don’t think his life worked very well.”
Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously is an inspiring and reverent doc for fans of the author’s work, as well as an introductory primer for those looking to delve into Gaiman’s extensively impressive bibliography. The film paints an intimate slice-of-life portrait of the artist, who tends to get lost behind the legacy of one’s works, and director Patrick Meaney unearths the person buried behind the art and idolatry.