Director(s): Francis Lawrence
Writer(s): Kevin Brodbin, Frank A. Cappello
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf
As much as I am the keeper of the FearTastic Vault with all my entertaining macabre knick knacks, I’m also a huge fan of the idea of a superhero, more specifically, I’m always drawn to the anti-hero (like a lot folks, mostly angsty teenagers). If we get a bit more granular, I like the idea where someone is bestowed with power and ends up doing the right thing but that journey to get to that point is already an interesting one for them since they had no interest in doing anything in the first place. My favorite anti-heroes is when greatness is thrusted before them as a choice when they’re in a mind set where they want nothing to do with humanity. There is something compelling about doing the right thing even though you have a frown on your face. The common misconception about the right thing is that it’s often associated with joy and when you think of someone doing what is right there is usually a smile or a look of determination involved and for me, I’ve always admired the heroes that did not want any sort of situation on their shoulders, yet, there they are carrying the most weight on their backs.
On that note, the character of John Constantine has always been endearing for me since I was a child. Although I collected a wide range of comics, the horror themed comics always called out to me (well duh) and with a character like John Constantine, an occult detective that’s also a tortured soul, it’s no surprise that I felt like I got the best of both worlds, both in the horror and superhero realms. I had read several HellBlazer series starring Constantine and loved how this mortal walked amongst the world of the macabre and somehow always had a twist, the upper hand in outsmarting creatures from hell. I also liked the fact that more often than not, it came with a price that would leave the reader in a sort of morose and pensive state which is a true testament to how impactful the character could be to the reader. When I found out that a movie was coming out featuring my favorite anti-hero, I was elated…until I found out he wasn’t going to be British…or blonde…or wearing his usual red tie/tan trench coat. Slowly but surely, my excitement was starting to take a turn to Apprehension-Ville, population: ME. The only saving grace was that you had Keanu Reves at the helm and to me, the man can’t do wrong (yes, I even LOVE his romantic comedy personas…totally adorbs in Something’s Gotta Give).
Let’s be clear, I truly believe that Constantine is one of the most underrated movies of the superhero genre. Whatever preconceived notions about the film was wiped away clean once Keanu hit the screen with a face that looked like a man who had his soul ripped from his body (which is pretty much the case…but spoilers). Yeah, he looked and sounded different than what my imagination conjured up while reading HellBlazer comics but my goodness, Keanu in all his brilliance NAILED the tone of the character and somehow made it his own which I suppose is what all GREAT actors do in their roles. The story itself captured the flavor that made the HellBlazer comics so great; full of demons, intrigue and twists that kept me entertained throughout the entire flick. Hell, there were even moments of great horror with genuine suspense and a couple good jumps that makes you forget you’re watching a comic-book movie. You had excellent performances from Tilda Switnton as an angel, Djimon Hounsou as a powerful shaman, Rachel Weisz doing double duty as a cop and a victim, Shia LaBeouf as comedy relief/sidekick, Peter Stormare as the COOLEST version of Lucifer on film (yeah, sorry Lucifer TV show fans, Peter is WAY more cool) and Gavin Rossdale as a demon (yes, the singer from BUSH as a demon…for real)! What was once thought of a flick that Keanu had to carry on his back ended up being a SOLID ensemble flick that all pulled their weight to create this world that sadly, has never been looked upon again.
I felt it in my gut as I left the theater because although I was definitely satisfied, comic book geeks are finicky at best (and yes, I’ll stick with that because this will end up as a 30 page rant on the ridiculously narrow views of the common geek). I knew that the most fans of HellBlazer would write off this flick the moment they saw the brunette, not British Keanu Reves gracing the poster and the common movie goer would have a hard time whether or not to like a flick that’s in the horror realm but is definitely a superhero flick…yet not the kind of superhero flick that you can take your kids. It seemed out of place in a time where comic book movies were starting to become all the rage and about three years until the Marvel Cinematic Universe was going to change cinematic landscape. Alas, the flick itself wasn’t well received and certainly didn’t make the bucks that would get the studios excited.
HOWEVER, it seems like as the comic book movie universe has evolved to be more open and even hungry for the strange which has resulted in a renewed interest and appreciation for Constantine and even talks of a sequel have been going around (rumors at best but still, at least it’s getting love). I think the universal decision on this flick is that although this isn’t the John Constantine we know from the comic books, it is the John Constantine that everyone enjoyed and accepted because it captured the spirit of the character and the ensemble of characters created a world that was worthy of our macabre imaginations.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.