There’s no shortage of great comic book movies on the market today. But the challenge in adapting these characters, is to do so with enough reverence to the source material, while reaching as wide an audience as possible. Sometimes it works, such as in the cases of Batman, Mystery Men and Hellboy. And sometimes it fails, much like with films such as Green Lantern, Supergirl and Catwoman.
And then you’ve got a chance to adapt an edgier comic book, one that has more adult themes and tones. Constantine is just such a film. As a comic book adaptation, I absolutely detest it. But as a movie all on its own, I absolutely adore it.
Constantine tells the story of irreverent supernatural detective John Constantine, who has literally been to hell and back.
It sounds superficial, but changing the character of John Constantine to be less of a British rogue and more of a surly Yank is one of the damaging aspects of this film. I’ve never been a big fan of Keanu Reeves, and while he’s more than capable in this film, he certainly wasn’t the first actor that people thought of when the name John Constantine was mentioned in Hollywood circles.
The whole idea behind John Constantine though, is that he’s a liar, a con man, a thief and generally the most untrustworthy of blokes to hang around. But give him a chance, and he can also be a hero. And that’s a character that Reeves just wasn’t capable enough to play.
Hell, I don’t even mind the fact that Constantine wasn’t blonde in the film, but just take a look at the talented actors from across the pond who could have handled that role with ease. Marc Warren, David Tennant and Jude Law, just to name a few.
But while getting used to Reeves as the lead character was a challenging concept, the rest of the movie was actually pretty damn well realized. Rachel Weisz as obligatory female lead number one. Tilda Swinton as the angel Gabriel, Djimon Hounsou as the Voodootastic Papa Midnite and Peter “Freaking” Stormare as Satan.
It doesn’t get better than that. Hell, even Shia “The Shia” LaBeouf was tolerable before he embarked on a coke-fuelled spree in three Transformers films, while Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale was fun as Balthazar. That’s a pretty solid cast, acting in a world that was really well conceived and realized by director Francis Lawrence and the rest of crew. This is a world where a cat can literally take you to hell, where a mirror can hold a demon at bay and where Lucifer himself arrives in a crescendo of bullet time and broken glass, dripping tar onto the floor.
And yes, some aspects of the movie are indeed cheesy, such as Constantine Ramboing up an arsenal of Vatican approved weapons. But I’d be lying out my butt if I didn’t mention that I wish that I could own a pair of holy knuckle-dusters.
Constantine isn’t a great comic book movie. But it is a rock-solid supernatural movie with an imaginative world and a cast that more than makes up for the lackluster performance from its lead actor.