Adapted from the prominent comic series Hellblazer, 2005’s Constantine is not so much a superhero movie but a film about a man who has certain abilities in the league of the supernatural…and oh how he loathes it.
I tend to see Constantine take place in more of alternate dimension which still maintains the true aspects of Constantine’s character and his deeds but diverges from attempting to cover established story lines in the source material. Because of this shift of focus and intent, Constantine has the freedom to expand it’s narrative prospects, managing to find a fairly stable balance between a neo-noir, thriller and supernatural fantasy. Keanu Reeves is most certainly NOT the physical match of John Constantine, he maintains the integrity of the character; a man who is so jaded, so contemptuous of everything, who knows he is bound for Hell due to some poor life choices and has all but resigned himself to his fate. It is a subtle yet also tartly acerbic performance which by turns is bluntly cynical yet comedic even when the character is coughing up a lung.
The rest of the cast equip themselves rather well given the source with standouts being Rachel Weisz as Angela/Isabel, the indominatable Tilda Swinton as Archangel Gabriel, Djimon Honsou as Papa Midnite (who really should have had more screen time), Shia LaBeouf as Chas, Gavin Rossdale as Balthazar and Peter Freakin’ Stormare as Lucifer. Given this film deals with some very, and I do mean VERY heavy subjects such as spirituality in relation to death, suicide, mortality and the existence of worlds beyond our comprehension, the actors sell the world of which their characters inhabit extremely well.
Visually, Constantine remains fairly astounding, the standout for me being the Hellscape of Los Angeles (haaa, funny), how the presence of the supernatural affects the physics and the people of the world when in close proximity and the rules of the occult. While the CGI does stick out like an incredibly sore toe in places, the intention and relevance to the story keeps it grounded in the particular reality the film establishes.
While some plot elements and character motivations are not as fully fleshed out as I would personally prefer (and chances are it could be due to an element of bias given my intimate knowledge for the Hellblazer series), the aspect of the film which I felt really didn’t NEED to be there was the quite lame attempt at a romance between John and Angela. Both characters were both strong standing on their own that there didn’t need to be the prospect of romantic interest. Given everything else happening in the story and the strength of the characters, those ‘near miss kisses’ really had no place in what was already a compelling story.
While not exactly for everybody, Constantine maintains a special seat for daring to be different and retaining a healthy balance between it’s roots and the branches of potential. While it is a shame the possibility of a sequel fell through thanks to a modest though not wholly crowd-pleasing reception, Constantine nevertheless maintains a steady footing as as standalone film which operates on its own terms and defies typical superhero movie fare.
For your consideration: Comic John Constantine