Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Constantine Review

SPOILER WARNING - I give a good bit of the movie away here, so read with caution if you haven’t seen the movie and intend to.

So I saw Constantine the day it opened. That’d be February 18th, 2005. I was quite disappointed. Perhaps it was because I was a fan of the comic before I saw the movie. Oh, perhaps nothing...that is why I didn’t like it. I was accompanied by two other people; one male, one female, one a comic book fan, one not, and neither of whom knew anything about the comic book Hellblazer before seeing the movie. And they both (and I quote) “loved it”. Albeit I’ve just begun reading the Hellblazer comic books in the last few months I feel that I have a pretty good handle on it. I’ve read 3/4 of the trades or so including “Dangerous Habits” by Garth Ennis which the movie is loosely based on. Here are the problems I found with the film Constantine.

The Plot:
The portion of the movie that was new (i.e. the stuff not taken from “Dangerous Habits”) wasn’t all that bad in my opinion. However I feel that the stuff taken from Garth Ennis’ first storyarc of the comic was poorly represented in many cases. First of all we get the idea in the beginning of the movie that Constantine has lung cancer. Then until the final confrontation at the end of the film it’s almost not mentioned again. Second that very confrontation which I just mentioned pales in comparison to the one in the fifth issue of Dangerous Habits. I got that feeling where you recognize someone, but you don’t know where from. Overall I feel that if I hadn’t read the comics (or at least not Dangerous Habits) that I would have found the movie much more enjoyable. But in comparison I just don’t think it stacks up.

The Setting:
The fact that the movie takes place in Los Angeles as opposed to London like in the comic book is a HUGE difference. However aside from the ways that the characters were affected by the change (i.e. Constantine’s accent; or lack thereof) this didn’t bother me all that much. This may be due to the fact that Constantine has traveled to the U.S. on several occasions in the comic (and occasionally to L.A. such as in the Mike Carey penned “Hellblazer: All His Engines”).

Where’s the accent? In case you didn’t know, John Constantine is very much English and sports the accent to prove it. In the movie this fact was tossed away like so much useless garbage. At no time during the movie does Constantine call anyone “Squire” or use the terms “taking the piss” or “bollocks” which (in my opinion at least) robs the audience of a large portion of the experience of witnessing John Constantine’s life. Where’s the blonde hair? Where’s the tan trench coat? These two things may not seem all that important. Look at any cool anti-hero and what will you see? The color black all over them. Dark hair, dark clothing, et cetera. In my opinion, two of the things about Constantine that really separate him from all the other “bad” good guys out there are the hair and the coat. He doesn’t seem all that dark until you get to know him. Tatoos? Since when? Not since the comics; that’s for sure. Then there’s the lighter. This may also not seem very important but in the comics Constantine does not have a zippo which he can whip out at any given time. My main problem with this is that it’s cliche. Zippos are cool. I think that’s the only reason he has one in the movie. Pointless...

In the movie Chaz is a child. Why? In the comic he’s in his forties, married, and has a daughter. What the shit was the point in changing that? The only similarities between the comic book version and the movie representation of the character are the hair color and the fact that he drives a cab. In the comic book Chaz neither wants anything to do with/nor cares at all about John’s knowledge of magic. In the movie it would appear that Chaz is to Constantine as Robin is to Batman which couldn’t be further from the truth. Also, in the film Chaz seems to be somewhat of a hesitant wuss whereas in the comic he is trained in several forms of hand to hand combat and has saved/stood up for Constantine’s ass numerous times. Then to top all of that off in the movie Chaz dies! He is very much not dead in the comic. Now, I didn’t stay for the credits myself, but the word on the street is that after the credits there is a scene in which Chaz turns into an angel...........re-fuckin’-tarded!

The Effects:
All around the movie was very pretty. I wasn’t all that big of a fan of the action scenes though as there really aren’t any to speak of in the comics. I especially felt that the fight with the “bug demon” in the streets towards the beginning of the film was forced upon the audience.

Keanu Reeves:
Bearable. I know a lot of people claim that he can’t act but if this movie achieved anything I think that it proved those people wrong. Aside from the changes the character went through during the transformation from page to screen I think that Keanu was a worthy choice for the role.

Shia LeBeouf:
Absolutely the wrong choice for this role. Maybe if this movie were made about twenty years in the future he’d have been able to pull of Chaz. I liked him in The Battle of Shaker Heights, but not here.

Rachel Weisz:
Quite attractive. I couldn’t have been more happy when Constantine said the words “fully submerged”. Unless of course he’d answered yes when she asked him if she had to take more of her clothes off to go to hell.