Based on some of the hype and positive buzz this movie has received,
it appears that people have forgotten which studio claims responsibility
for this picture. The same studio responsible for the last two Batman
movies, Superman III and IV, and most recently, CINO (Catwoman In
Name Only). So there’s no chance that this hybrid of End
Of Days and The Matrix will fail as well? With actor
Keanu Reeves playing a character created by Alan
Moore in the pages of the “Swamp Thing” comics,
way out of his league and beyond his ability? Nah.
Sadly no, Warner Brothers’ and DC Vertigo’s Constantine
is not the comic book movie that sets the stage for comic book movies
of the year or for the future. I clearly remember when asked about
the extreme changes to the character, director Francis Lawrence
stated, “We are trying to stay true to the essence and spirit
of the character.” That’s not very convincing, especially
when Catwoman producer Denise Di Novi
and director Pitof said word for word, the exact
The film is a derivative and poorly told story about a nu-Constantine
who is now American, lives in LA, and was born with the power to…
see dead people (can’t fault Hollywood for lack of originality).
Along with his trusty cab driver Chaz Kramer (LeBeouf,
playing the same annoying teen sidekick he was in I, Robot)
performs exorcisms and smokes his lungs away. Taken directly from
the Garth Ennis story, the vices of Constantine’s
life have finally caught up with him. He’s been diagnosed
with terminal lung cancer, and due to a rather un-virtuous life
he’s got nothing but an eternity of the hot place and torture
According to the movie, a balance exists between Heaven and Hell.
Demons stay in Hell and angels in Heaven, but hybrids, for whatever
reason, are allowed to linger on Earth and can manipulate and inspire.
One such manipulation concerns Isabel Dodson, the twin sister of
a detective named Angela (Weisz). Seeking Constantine
for answers, they find a conspiracy involving the Spear of Destiny
that will eventually bring about the birth of Satan’s son
on Earth and make Earth not as cool a place to live (though I guess
for Constantine creator, Alan Moore, a more interesting place maybe).
The movie was not all terrible. The direction by Francis Lawrence
(coming from a background of directing music videos with his debut
feature) is strong, and Lawrence creates a visceral, moody, and
dark world for the setting. This movie is heavy on atmosphere that,
despite being overdone in certain parts, it is distinct and remains
the movie’s strongest aspect, along with the cinematography
by Philippe Rousselot. The film also contains some
great music by my second true musical love, Brian Tyler
(composer of Six String Samurai and Bubba Ho-Tep).
The problem is that the effort and strong film noir setting is wasted
on a lame and disappointing story—a complete betrayal of the
character of Constantine and the Hellblazer comics. In addition,
the final act in the film contains a ridiculous cinematic plot-twist
along with a rather muddled, poorly done conspiracy.
Keanu Reeves is his usual subdued, somewhat cocky self, but also
appears stiff and totally out of place for the character. He is
a bit of a bastard and a rude jerk, which Constantine is also…
but he just is NOT John Constantine. Without giving too much away,
if you know anything at all about the character you will understand
in the final act of the movie. Weisz is decent here, and unfortunately
plays the obligatory character who needs everything explained to
her. At certain points her character seems contradictory. She seems
to know things and is a devout Catholic, yet she goes to Constantine
for answers. When Constantine answers she goes into denial and says,
“I don’t believe in the devil,” to which Keanu
so cringe-worthily replies, “Well you should, he believes
in you.” Okay now, I know I don’t believe in Hell and
the devil, but aren’t devout Catholics supposed to?
The movie does have interesting supporting characters such as
Papa Midnite (Hounsou) and Beeman (Baker)
along with some not so interesting ones, such as the half-angel
Gabriel (Swinton) and the hanyou Balthazar (Rossdale).
Beeman and Midnite, Constantine’s more interesting acquaintances,
are cool characters whom I would have liked to see fleshed out a
bit more. Balthazar, the boring two-dimensional antagonist, merely
serves as a physical presence to the evil that is brewing, and would
have been better left unseen.
There are token action sequences in this movie that are ridiculously
out of place from the rest of the narrative and seem to be incorporated
just to appease Warner Brothers’ executives and possibly fans
of The Matrix who enjoyed the disappointing sequels. The
movie could have tried to take the high road by not including any
stupid, nearly pornographic (still not XXX porn guys) action scenes
that really don’t need to be there.
So at the end of the day, does Constantine suck? No,
it doesn’t suck, but it’s just another mediocre and
disappointing comic book-based feature that doesn’t do justice
to a fraction of the material from which it is derived. Maybe if
Warner Brothers’ hadn’t been such Nazis about cell-phones
at the screening, I wouldn’t have been quite as annoyed. But
considering their track record and history, the result of Constantine
was somewhat expected.
—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris