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

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Original “Dawn of War” Reviews – Dawn of War: Game of the Year Edition

Dawn of War Game of the Year Edition

       Warhammer 40K is a fascinating world and the first “Dawn of War” does a great job exploring it in the campaign and story. I wish the Tyranids had been an added faction though, as they are more well known than the Eldar it seems. Sadly the Tyranids would not be playable in this series, only through a mod are they playable in “Soulstorm” it is a pretty good mod though. Enough on what this game doesn’t have though, how does it work and what is the story?

      The story involves the Space Marine Gabriel Tosh and his Librarian Isador going to the planet Tartarus to save it from the Orks. Things soon get out of control though as Chaos is seen to be working behind the scenes and the Eldar strike against. It soon becomes a race against time to get the Malidictum as an Inquisitor arrives to root out Chaos on the world.

The Pros: The Gameplay – The gameplay is much faster than “Starcraft” in regards to RTSs and reminds me a lot of “Warcraft III” where the name of the game is speed as you only have 2 resources to deal with and build times are fast. The factions are also unique enough in how they play too which makes it interesting as you capture points on the map and seek to take out the enemy’s bases.

The Factions – You have the Orks who are my favorite who like the Zerg can get a lot of units on the map and are mostly close range in their types of attacks and like fighting for the sake of fighting, you have the Eldar who are like a weaker Protoss but are good at hit and runs, you have Chaos who has a larger build time but some of the best end game units and has caster units as they are Daemon worshippers and you have the Space Marines who are the most balanced and serve their Emperor with religious devotion.

The Ending – The ending ends with Gabriel freeing the Daemon trapped in the Malidictum and vowing to get back at him. We never know if the Inquisitor was working for Chaos all along but the fact that the Eldar and Space Marines weren’t killing each other on the final mission was major progress which I liked. Tartarus is also lost and overrun by the Orks.

Okay: The Story – The story is alright but the Librarian’s corruption could have been handled better…everyone was way to naive and stupid with only the Eldar being the smart folks. The Space Marines were just as stupid about fighting as the Orks and Chaos was Chaotic Stupid as everyone turned on everyone and only the Daemon ended up winning as all his servants died in the fight which was enough to free him. I liked the Inquisitor, the Orks and the Eldar though. Gabriel was just bland, which is saying a lot given his backstory was destroying his homeworld after believing it had fallen to Chaos.

Orks and Eldar – The Orks and Eldar are okay. The mysteriousness of the Eldar and them knowing things about Chaos was handled great, but they had no named characters. The Orks weren’t much better but their love of fighting and being the biggest and meanest and loving Waghhh! Was done really well.

Chaos – Chaos was Chaotic Stupid though I did enjoy the Sorcerer trolling everyone and Chaos did have a great aesthetic and they were tough to fight at times…they actually felt like a threat!

Gabriel and the Inquisitor – These two are alright. The Inquisitor suspects Gabriel because he destroyed his homeworld but in the end trusts him after Isidor’s betrayal and we see them have a respect for one another as Gabriel distrusts him too since he is part of the Inquisition. They both have arcs though and in the end both lost to Chaos even though they survive.

The Cons: The Librarian – I didn’t believe in this guy’s corruption. He had no reason to seek power and we never saw him use what power he had for the Imperium. For this reason his excuse of using the power of the Warp and Chaos in that way was bs and in the end he was just a weak character with missed potential.

   If you like the world of Warhammer 40K, you will probably like this game. It is one of the few Original “Dawn of War” games with a campaign and it is a lot of fun! The 10th level is the most difficult and the final level is easier by comparison but there is still a learning curve for those unfamiliar with RTSs, and if you are familiar the missions are fun and are a great way of revealing the story.

Final Score: 8 / 10 Needed more exploration of the other factions outside the Imperium and Chaos could have been written much more smarter. Still a good game though.