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Constantine

I went and saw Constantine last night and I actually enjoyed it.

I've read the Hellblazer comic off and on for a while now and, though there was only the vaguest similarity between the film and the comic, I thought that the quality level of the film and comic was about the same. Good moments, bad moments, some nice scenes, an interesting supporting cast, a roguish and charming main character... well, that's the comic, the last one. Say what you will about Keanu Reeves, but he's always the same, monotoned voiced actor in all the films I've seen him in. I've yet to see him deliver snappy, quick dialogue and it would have been a huge bonus to the film if they had made him do this, or found an actor that could. Still, I can't exactly say I was expecting it in the film, and it's not like Keanu was any worse than he has been in previous films. The last thing I will say for people who have read Hellblazer is there's a lot more of Jamie Delano's run (the part of it collected in Original Sin) than I had heard, and there's a lot less Garth Ennis than I expected.

Now, to ignore the comic completely, because the film isn't the comic.

The John Constantine that we're introduced to in this film is a dark haired, slightly punk, slightly funeral styled dress sense man living in Los Angeles. He's not a particularly nice man, but he has a nice apartment, a young boy to drive him round in a cab, and a buddy who delivers occult relics like Q delivers gadgets to James Bond. Probably the only one of these little gadgets that is completely mock worthy is the shotgun shaped in a golden cross. I quite liked the look of the film and its gadgets in every other aspect, but this golden cross shotgun was just ridiculous, especially when placed next to a real shotgun at one stage of the film.

The problems with Constantine are simple. Firstly, the plot isn't particularly riveting or believable. By believable, I mean that here I am, sitting in a film with Keanu and Heaven and Hell and if you bring up the fact that the Devil has a son, and the spear the pierced Jesus, and I want to buy into it, but I don't. I just don't care. There's a bible in hell and the problem with this is that there's a bible in hell only because the plot requires this so it can continue. Would it have been that difficult to fashion a plot that didn't rely on so many plot coupons to explain it? I mean, there's a whole Bible there, a whole fifteen years of comics... a bible in hell just isn't very imaginative, not even for a plot device.

The other problem is, naturally, Keanu Reeves.

The problem with Keanu and Constantine is that the two don't mix. In the film, we're told the John Constantine is a selfish man, trying to buy his way into Heaven by doing selfless acts, which, naturally, is a selfish act. In film lore, Keanu doesn't have a long history of playing characters like that, and thus the audience knows that he's been screwed because naturally, Reeves is being selfless. The problem with this is when the climax of the film comes along: there's a moment when the viewer finds him/herself split along two lines, the first not believing that the character would make that choice, and the second believing that a character that Keanu Reeves is playing would make such a choice. Likewise, in the final scene of the film, you know that John Constantine would do one thing, but in the American film lore that Keanu is part of, you know he will react differently.

However, outside this two things, the film is largely enjoyable. It's stylish, and director Francis Lawrence has, despite the awful look of those trailers, given the film a life. Also, the main supporting rolls that are filled by Rachel Weisz and Djimon Hounsou, as latent psychic girl cop/damsel in distress and voodoo magician pub owner, are done quite well. Hounsou, especially, overcomes what is essentially the collection of every cliche in the voodoo magician pub owner handbook to provide a character who is still interesting to watch on screen.

The movie, however, is stolen by two performances: the first being Tilda Swinton's androgynous portrayal of the half breed angel Gabriel, and the second being Peter Stormare who, as Lucifer, leaves black tar footprints across the floor. The film is worth watching for those two alone.

In the end, Constantine won't go down as a great film, but it's a solid, fine little dark fantasy. If you've read Hellblazer, forget it when you walk in and you'll do okay, I reckon.

Comments

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ashamel
Mar. 4th, 2005 03:38 am (UTC)
Yeah, I pretty much liked it, whilst regreting some decisions they made along the way. I haven't read any of the recent stuff, so it was basically covering my time on the comic -- and while they could have done a _lot_ of things better, I didn't mind it.
benpeek
Mar. 4th, 2005 05:15 am (UTC)
yeah, some of the choices were regretable. chas as a young boy figured as one of the more prominant, to my mind.
ashamel
Mar. 4th, 2005 05:30 am (UTC)
My very thoughts.

(Though, as I have said before, at least he was driving a taxi and not that 'batmobile' thing that was doing the rounds a year or two ago.)
nihilistic_kid
Mar. 4th, 2005 05:12 am (UTC)
He's not a particularly nice man, but he has a nice apartment

That was a nice apartment? You must live in a tin shack in the Outback.
benpeek
Mar. 4th, 2005 05:16 am (UTC)
we call it the western suburbs out here.
bodhichitta0
Mar. 4th, 2005 04:08 pm (UTC)
I liked Satan and Gabriel too. Do you know why he could slam his arms together and do that hocus pocus there at the end?
benpeek
Mar. 5th, 2005 03:47 am (UTC)
cause the plot demanded it?


studebakerhawk
Mar. 8th, 2005 07:00 am (UTC)
I dug those brass knuckles and that whole "goodbye to your face" bit, but the whole bible yelling to the sky thing gave me the jibblies.

Was an ok film, though.
benpeek
Mar. 8th, 2005 10:56 am (UTC)
i reckon that's the thing about it in the end. bits not to like, bits to like, and in the end, it's okay. you don't feel like you've been raped for your money.
studebakerhawk
Mar. 8th, 2005 10:36 pm (UTC)
Totally agree. Which i must say was something of a bonus as i read Hellblazer casually a few years back, and was expecting total garbage. Now i just have to wait for someone to butcher The Sandman and cast, jeez i don't know, Freddie Prince Jr. Personally i'm kinda excited about batman Begins - Sam Mendes could do a good job and the source material is damn well written, so fingers crossed huh? Though i do admit the trailer isn't very inspiring.
benpeek
Mar. 9th, 2005 12:44 am (UTC)
i think the trailer looks okay for BATMAN BEGINS. sure, tells you the whole story, but there you go...

btw, i thought the director was the guy who did MEMENTO? isn't sam mendes the director of ROAD TO PERDITION? (i liked paul newman and even tom hanks int hat film, though i didn't think it worked fully. jude law's character was useless.)

it's a shame bryan singer left the x-men movies. i was hoping for a good third final to round out the first two. plus, you know, i couldn't care less about superman.
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