“Constantine” Season 1 – A Procedural Show That Could Have Been So Much More

Constantine Show

     “Constantine” was a show that could have been so much more, and really should have been brought back by the CW given that they’ve saved “Supergirl” and shown they are really good with DC properties (though I can’t stand “Arrow”). Hell, Constantine was even a guest star on “Arrow” so I hope they bring him back for a mini-series as this series is very incomplete. With only 13 episodes, this is a show that never really found it’s footing, even if the main cast were pretty great.

    The show was created by David Goyer and Daniel Cerone and based off the DC comics of the same name.

    The premise of the show is Constantine (Matt Ryan) is a part time practitioner of the Dark Arts and master of all forms of magic who is commissioned by Manny (Harold Perinneau), an Angel to help in the fight against the rising Darkness, as Constantine’s soul is already condemned to Hell and this is chance for redemption and doing some good in the fight.

The Pros: The World – The World of “Constantine” is an amazing one in which so much more could have been done. We introduced to different types of demons, magic and spirits…and I wanted to know and see more.

The Premise – The premise of the condemned man trying to redeem himself is one that has always intrigued me, especially when they are bitter and fed up with everything they’ve been through like Constantine is. It gives room for them to grow and to critique what they are being asked to do.

The Cinematography – I liked the cinematography. It clearly looks like effort went into creating a world that felt like a comic book, though I think the look of the comics is better and darker, this at least captured some of the spirit for network television. Romeo Tirone did a good job.

The Characters – The main characters kept me interested and coming back for more, even as the procedural nature of the show was grating on me and my attachment to the overall story.

Chas – Chas is from Constantine’s original crew where Constantine first got his soul condemned to Hell when he let a girl be taken to Hell. Chas took in all the souls around and is near immortal in his own way. He is really cool as he is alien because of what was done to him but still holds his humanity and keeps Constantine grounded. He also is a father. Charles Halford is good in the role.

Papa Midnite – Midnite is one of my favorite characters in the comics and was in the Keanu Reeves “Constantine” film as well. In this he is an antagonist up until the end as he is traditionalist practitioner of voodoo and honoring the Spirits and Lao and Constantine respects nothing and dishonors his traditions, leading to him trying to kill Constantine until he is called off at the end. I wanted to see their relationship develop as it is an intriguing one in the comics. Michael James Shaw added so much power to this role.

Zed – Zed sees visions and is our audience stand in at first as her mysterious backstory is slowly revealed, as well as the price she pays for sight, given that she has a tumor in her brain. Angelica Celaya gives this role both strength and compassion as she is also one of the people who grounds Constantine and helps him see beyond himself. Like Chas, she is his humanity he tries to push away.

Manny – Manny is the Angel who is using Constantine to his own ends as we see him call off the hit from the organization Papa Midnite serves as we learn Manny is the one calling the shots and maybe the one bringing the Darkness. He has a complex relationship with Constantine as we see him stay out of things but help in his own ways, at one point even being put into a host’s body and having to experience humanity and mortality. Harold Perrineau gave this role so much and if they bring back the series, he is the character I don’t want recast.

Constantine – Matt Ryan nails Constantine’s cynicism so well, as well as him being the deal maker who walks to line between good and bad and does everything he can to survive…but try to do the right thing. His arc is really that of getting invested in the bigger fight against the Darkness and finding his humanity through past members of his crew who got him into magic in the first place (and usually losing them) or finding his humanity in their acts of valor and in the actions of his friends. He really is a great anti-hero. Matt Ryan captures the man from the comics better than Keanu Reeves which is partially due to look but also in how he speaks and interacts with others.

Okay: Jim Corrigan – Minor character in the show who is a doubter who later joins Team Constantine against the Darkness. More could have been done with him so he felt unfinished. His comic book history is rather large and I didn’t get any of that from the show.

Okay/Con: The Ending – Manny is manipulating everything is the most interesting part but it feels unfinished and you can tell the show got canceled. The Finale felt rushed and we still really knew nothing about the coming threat or how it related to Manny.

The Cons: Inconsistent Tone – The tone was all over the place…some days Constantine would lose a friend, another episode they’d try to do comedy that wasn’t quite dark enough to fit the tone. It felt like a “Monster of the Week” when there are great arcs in Constantine they could have done in full.

Procedural When Could Have Been More – The show in the end felt like procedural that wasn’t going anywhere and I think that is why it got canceled. We learn nothing about the Darkness really and for a huge world full of demons, angels and monsters…we don’t actually learn all that much about it. It is a glimpse into a world that could have been so much more if it had taken advantage of the amazing source material it was pulling from. Sadly it became like any other “Mystery of the Week/Monster of the Week” Procedural and I think that led to it being canceled.

     This is a show where I enjoyed the characters and premise but felt that it never lived up to the potential of the source material. I’d still recommend it at this point as this is sadly the best adaptation I’ve seen of the character “Constantine” and I hope he gets a second chance, as Matt Ryan does a great job capturing this amazing character from DC comics. If you like the comics, it is worth watching just for Ryan’s performance…beyond that there are better supernatural, procedural and shows adapted from DC comics out there. I’d like to see the CW bring back the character for a mini-series and either do something cool with the Darkness from this show or give us a full fledged adaptation of one of his best comic arcs. Constantine deserves that, and this show sadly couldn’t give us that.

Final Score: 6.5 / 10

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Constantine (2005): A Decent Adaptation Buried Under Weird Pacing and Stilted Dialogue

Constantine

       “Constantine” is one of those strange films that doesn’t quite work. There are some great moments in it, especially when it felt like the amazing character Constantine was there (Keanu Reeves managed to pull it off when he was given good dialogue), but the weird pacing, clash of tones and overall stilted dialogue keep this film from ever reaching good. Constantine is a fascinating character who is driven by outsmarting the greater powers than himself, he’s a deal maker and cynic and I wish we could have seen more of that, as well as the personal nature of most of the stories in the “Hellblazer” series where his story is told.

     The film was directed by Francis Lawrence, written by Kevin Brodin and Frank Cappello and produced by Akiva Goldsman, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Uslan, Benjamin Melniker and Lauren Shuler Donner.

     The story involves Constantine (Keanu Reeves) facing his mortality as he learns he has terminal cancer  as Detective Angela is pulled into his world after the mysterious suicide of her sister (Rachel Weisz plays both characters). As Angela discovers the magic that exists in her family forces plot against the world as Constantine and his allies must work to save it and prevent the end.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is one of the best parts of this film! There are half-demons and half-angels, and it takes place on the world stage in a world full of broken people. There are not heroes in this and that is part of what it makes it so fun.

Cinematography – The CGI is a little dated but the style of it is still amazing. I loved how Hell was done and how they presented seeing things that are hidden from us in our world. Philippe Rousselot did a great job.

Introduction to Constantine – We are introduced to Constantine as he kicks a warrior demon out of a girl. His interactions with the people and the demon is straight up Constantine. He’s standoffish, business all the way through and after takes out. Even his friends  give him space.

Hell – Hell is a twisted version of our world above and further below you have people consuming and being consumed. It was a very creative take on Hell and added terror to the demons we met.

Luficer – This Luficer is the threatening salesman and it works. He has power to how he speaks, with an heir of threatening kindness. I liked the white suit and the detail of him leaving behind black wherever he walked was great at giving him an otherworldly feel. He ends up punishing his son for breaking out and dealing with the half-angel Gabriel to try and take over and nearly takes Constantine until God protects him when he offers his life for Angela’s sister.

Chas Kramer – Shia LeBeouf was so much more likeable before “Transformers” and his later stuff. In this he’s Constantine’s driver and shows that he’s been studying up on how to fight demons too in the final fight, even though he does die he gets a lot of humanity and shows he isn’t just a fan, he wants to be respected.

Papa Midnite – This character is cold and cruel and after is chill and acts like an old friend again with Constantine. I like both versions of the character and just wish he’d been written more consistently. Djimon Hounsou does a fantastic job.

Constantine – Keanu can act when given the chance and he shows it here. We see him mad, sad, empathetic and all the emotions of a man dealing with death. His character also gets an arc too as his friends all die to Gabriel and Mammon but God protects him in the end when he finds belief and stops smoking since he got 2 chances as he kills himself twice over the course of the film (first to end the torture his parents were putting him through, second for the meeting with Luficer).

Okay: Constantine’s Arc – the arc was too easy, he is a cynical guy who knows that there are tons of higher beings out there but knows they can’t be counted on (even God drops the ball on letting his friends die and all the people who died from the fallout of Mammon and Gabriel getting their plans together) so him becoming a sudden believer made sense in the simplest of arcs but didn’t feel quite true to the character…so putting it at okay.

The Cons: Angela Dodson – Rachel Weisz is usually always the damsel and she is here too. She learns how to have psychic powers and is used by the villains almost immediately. It’s annoying and I hated that her character only seemed to exist in this role.

The Dialogue – The dialogue is stilted and sometimes characters will make comments that are meant to be jokes but it just ruins the tone of the scene and makes the pacing feel choppy.

Tone – The tone is thankfully largely dark but the moments of attempted humor don’t always work when they try go light hearted, I almost think this was meant to be a PG-13 movie but because they went for the R it just made the tone jarring.

Pacing – Thanks to tone and dialogue the pacing doesn’t flow all the time. The pacing of the opening and middle are fine but right around the end and leading up to the climax there are scenes that linger and it ruins the pacing.

    This is a film that is worth seeing once or renting and that is it. The great moments where Constantine is the cynical anti-hero of the comics make this film a lot of fun, and Keanu has more range than he is given credit…I think he suffers from having films with bad scripts or off tones, as this film does, but he is still a positive of this film. There were moments he felt like the Constantine in the comics, even though Constantine finding God and quitting smoking felt out of character, in all the “Hellblazer” comics I’ve read, nothing close to that happens. He makes deals and cons higher powers, he doesn’t give them worship. Still, I get why they did the arc, Constantine’s growth when it happens is hard write, so these writers took the easy way to write growth rather than writing something more complex, but given that they wrote the dialogue, the story is going to be brought down regardless. Rent it if you like Constantine, DC and Vertigo comics and films or like Keanu Reeves, but don’t go in expecting a good film.

Final Score: 7 / 10