Sunday, February 20, 2005

Constantine (warning, Spoilers)

Ok, y'know what? It wasn't that bad. Yeah, Keanu can't act. The movie would have been a LOT more sensical if they had just named the main character something else, becuase it had NOTHING to do with the comics.

Well...almost nothing.

There were some glimmers of plot. Constantine having lung cancer and tricking the Devil into curing him is a plot right out of the original run of Hellblazer. Papa Midnight made an appearence (though I think he was more of a Swamp Thing villain than anything else), though notably as a very Christian sorta occultist, and without any sort of "computer fetish" to be seen. There's also the appearence of a bug creature that is reminiscent of the creature who's name I can't remember from Hellblazer: Original Sins.

Still, discounting Keanu and a few scenes (the crossbow was stupid...but at least he had to look up how to make it), the movie was decent. It had a very John Carpenter-feel to it. Gabriel was just COOL, and Lucifer wasn't too bad either. The Spear of Destiny being lost at the end of WWII is a nice nod to both DCU continuity, and to the movie version of Hellboy...though I swear that they used the exact same prop from that film for the Spear.

What was nice was finally seeing an occult movie that didn't involve pentagrams, candles, or invoking deities with silly names, or reciting badly rhymed spells. While they failed to really show John Constantine as he is in the comics, they certainly bring across the very direct route that he takes to magic. It wasn't quite chaos magic, but it was far closer to Morrison's Invisibles than to something like Charmed or Buffy. The heavy Christian imagery worked well, since it IS a big part of Hellblazer. And it didn't have the same feel that "God loves you, the Devil is just plain EEEEEEEEEEVIL, and Jesus is the only path to salvation" that many other Christian-inspired occult movies have. There was a much bleaker tone, like the one taken in the comics, where Heaven and Hell are quite a bit similar than many feel safe admitting.

At the same time, the movie does have some obvious annoying points. Keanu is a big one, as the man basically repirses the same set of facial expressions and dialogue characteristics that he used for Neo in the last two Matrix movies. The crucifix gun still irks me, even with the rationale included in the movie...and not just for the addition of a wand containing "dragon's breath". His sidekick was equally annoying...Constantine doesn't NEED a sidekick. Though Chaz's name WAS similar to "Gaz", who, as I recall, is the poor sod that Constantine buries alive at the end of Original Sins. Then there's the "big fight scene" where Constantine shoots out all the half-breed which the special effects for their deaths is basically stolen from Blade.

In summary, while the movie has some very nice aspects to it, there's a real problem with the fact that Keanu Reeves plays a character that is much more like Blade or Hellboy than John Constantine. If you just ignore the name, or have all the references to his last name dubbed over with "Smith", the movie is a lot more acceptable.

Another review of this movie can be found on JasonK's blog.

I give this movie 2 and a half would have three if Keanu weren't there. I think I'll pick up the DVD when it comes out.


Anonymous Jason said...

Well, Chaz is a character from the Hellblazer books - Constantine's friend and frequent ride (he's a cabbie there, too). The usual riff for why Chaz can't help John out is "your missus hates me enough as it is." Chaz is a bit older in the books, see.

I was glad for seeing the devil take out the cancer which is, yes, most definitely a part of the comic continuity. But it didn't seem to me that Constantine had at all tricked him into so doing. Maybe it's just the look of perpetual shock on Keanu's face, but I felt that he was pretty much surprised by it. Which is a little disappointing. But, as you say, he really wasn't quite John Constantine.

1:07 p.m.  

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