Anybody who has read my Blog in the last month or so knows that I was really looking forward to the new Constantine film adapting the Vertigo comic book not of the same name. I actually managed to catch the movie on opening day but got busy and away from the computer for the last couple of days, so I haven't posted my thoughts on it just yet - something I'll rectify post haste.
Where to begin?
The story was..I hate to say it...a really Americanized version of Hellblazer. Now, that doesn't mean that, as a rule, American's can't write for British characters. Brian Azzarello's run of Hellblazer was just as good as many of the other writers on the book, but when John heads into battle against evil forces with a shotgun that shoots blessed bullets or some such nonsense...I don't even want to go there.
After watching the film, I couldn't help but think of how I would have done things differently. All the ingredients were right there on the screen, I just think they got mixed together wrong. Kind of like when you're supposed to gently stir the eggs before you make an omelet and not beat the crap out of them, you know?
I mean, so many of the original elements from the comic book would have transferred effortlessly on to the screen, and probably saved them some money on SFX to boot. The mood of the comic book was more...creepy than noirish. The big bad was more...unseen than seen. The feeling of impending doom, or at least of general discomfort, was always more palpable in the pages of the comic book than what ended up in this film. Also, it was John's knowledge of what went on behind the scenes and his willingness to exploit those things to achieve his ends that made him an interesting anti-hero. Con-Job was one of his nicknames in the comic book, and I never saw that element of the character here. John was too busy playing the roving exorcist and occult detective to really stick it to the powers that be, I guess.
Anyway, as much as I hate to admit it, I should also point out that Keanu may have been miscast in the role of John Constantine. That's not saying he couldn't have done it, but the choices he made for the character could have been better as he tried to play up the Raymond Chandler, film noir aspect of the film and character rather than just delivering the lines. There was a point where I thought to myself, "if he does that arm jerk and flicks that lighter closed one more time I'm gonna scream!" On the plus side, I've heard a lot of critics say they didn't think Keanu looked the part, but I thought that the look of the character was fine (even though my wife thought he dressed too well for our John). Small comfort, I know.
In its defense, I don't think it was a bad movie, I just dont think it really lived up to its potential. I had no problem with bringing the character and story to LA, but the film should have been more parts The Exorcist than it was Exorcist: The Beginning. You know, less of a "ooo, bugs are creepy and demonic and I'm gonna give the finger to Satan because I'm too cool to care" kind of movie, and more of a "Holy sh** what the hell was that!?!" kind of thing.
You know, now that I think about it, I'd actually be curious to see the screenplay or read the novelisation of the film to see how things started off before passing through the hands of of Francis Lawrence and crew.
I'm going to try and catch it again either as a second run film or on DVD where I can see the stuff they took out with the character of Ellie who doesn't appear in the film but whose scenes were shot. Might spruce things up or change the pace. Who knows.
I would say that Constantine is a cheap night movie, second run thetre experience, or wait for video if you're really sceptical.