Sunday, October 24, 2010

'Constantine' smokes demons in good adaptation

Constantine (2005)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounso, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare
Director: Francis Lawrence
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

The Spear of Destiny has fallen into the hands of a cabal of half-demons and only supernatural detective John Constantine (Reeves) stands between humanity and literal Hell on Earth.

"Constantine" is a nice adaptation of the long-running "Hellblazer" comic book to the big screen. It retains just enough of the original series to not make one go "why did they even use the character's name?" while creating a standalone work that can be enjoyed by the vast majority of film-watchers who have never heard of the series. (Even better, the filmmakers chose to give a nod to my favorite "Hellblazer" storyline, now some fifteen years gone, where John Constantine is diagnosed with lung cancer and is facing certain death.)

Far more comic-booky in nature than the comic book ever was back when I read it, the film nonetheless captures the vibe of John Constantine's world, a place where conspiracy and theology mixes easily and even the most innocent facade may hide vast occult power. It's a film that should appeal equally to fans of superheroes, the supernatural, and "Coast-to-Coast AM" style of paranoid thinking. The icing on the cake is some pretty good acting by Keanau Reeves and Rachel Weisz. Tilda Swinton also plays a sufficiently menacing Angel Gabriel, while Peter Stomare takes a decent turn as Satan, even if I wish they'd found a more handsome actor to play him.


  1. I too liked the film Constantine, despite the fact that it’s central character is an Americanized brunette working out of Los Angeles and the Constantine of Hellblazer , the comic on which the movie is based, is a British blond working out of London. I don’t know enough about the back-story of the development of the film to remember if the reason for the changes were because Keanu Reeves was hired to play Constantine before a script was written, or if the studios decided an American audience wouldn’t relate to, nor understand a Brit with accent. Either way, it did not help gain fans of the comics series – which I was, but no longer am – to embrace the film adaption. Taken on its own merits, Constantine is a good supernatural film, with an excellent cast. Still, it would have been fun to see a Sting, or a British actor play the lead in a more faithful rendition of Constantine.

  2. I agree that the casting of Reeves was an odd choice. I'm too lazy to research why that might have been--Reeves having a multi-picture contract with Warner springs to mind as a possibility, so he could have ended up in almost anything--but in the annals of adaptations with arbitrary changes, it's a pretty minor offense.

    I agree with your comment about a British actor in the role of Constantine. The good choices are legion.