REVIEW: CONSTANTINE (2014) THE TV SERIES

Image result for CONSTANTINE TV LOGO

CAST

Matt Ryan (Layer Cake)
Angelica Celaya (Dallas)
Charles Halford (Agents of SHIELD)
Harold Perrineau (Lost)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Michael James Shaw (Limitless TV)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal TV)
Jonjo O’Neill (Dragonheart 3)
Charles Parnell (Pariah)
Emmett J. Scanlan (The Clinic)
Mark Margolis (Scarface)
Lucy Griffiths (Winter’s Tale)
Skyler Day (Redemption MAddie)
Claire Van Der Boom (The Pacific)

DC/Vertigo’s John Constantine leapt from the sordid, scary pages of his Hellblazer comics thanks to EPs David Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) and Daniel Cerone (Dexter, Charmed). Matt Ryan, as the titular hero, was really effective in bringing Constantine to life on screen. Flippant when called for. Vulnerable when need be. All the while – whether casting out a demon from some poor body or battling one within himself – creating a very commanding, likable presence on screen. John Constantine was a the sort of hero you had to get right immediately and Ryan excelled.

John’s back up proved reliable from a charismatic standpoint. Chas and Zed were great characters and as the serious progressed we got to see their back story’s and what made them the way they are.


I really liked that Newcastle was used as the show’s jumping off point, and that throughout the season John would have to atone in various ways with scattered members of that ill-fated team, but his own team often suffered. Even though we’re only talking about 13 episodes here, the show still made good use of a seasonal arc format. Even using the “Rising Darkness” to both inform and be the cause of a procedural “case of the week” structure . The “Scry Map” gave John demons and ghosts to chase, all under the umbrella that hell was slowly encroaching upon the world of the living. And while not every “case of the week” landed, a couple of stories ripped from the comics came alive in (remixed) cool ways (“A Feast of Friends,” “The Saint of Last Resorts: Part 1” and “Waiting for the Man”). Along with some DC notables like Felix Faust, Eclipso’s Black Diamond, and Jim Corrigan.


I liked that Manny turned out to be the villain right at the end of the finale. Mostly because the “Rising Darkness” needed a face. The Brujeria were mentioned quite a bit, but never shown. Was the twist worth sitting through a handful of episodes where I wondered why Manny was even there at all? Maybe, maybe not. But the show needed a “big bad,” and whether or not Manny turns out to be Satan himself or just an evil angel, he still fits the bill nicely.

Constantine had a cool look, an awesome lead, and a confidence that you don’t see in most fledgling series. As the series went on it became an intriguing show with many dimensions that would of been worth exploring in later seasons, this is a show that was cancelled too soon and now with a unresolved cliffhanger we may never know where it will lead. On the plus side  Matt Ryan’s Constantine is coming too Arrow, so we at least get to see him at least one more time.

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REVIEW: CONSTANTINE (2005)

CAST

Keanu Reeves (Speed)
Rachel Weisz (The Mummy)
Shia LaBeouf (Transformers)
Tilda Swinton (The Chronciles of Narnia)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Max Baxer (The Island)
Pruitt Taylor Vince (Heroes Reborn)
Gavin Rossdale (The Blign Ring)
Peter Stormare (American Gods)
Larry Cedar (Deadwood)
April Grace (Lost)
Jhoanna Trias (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Valerie Azlynn (Julia X)
Kevin Alejandro (Arrow)
Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible 3)

Ever since he was young, John Constantine could see things – things that humans aren’t supposed to see. After a childhood spent in and out of mental hospitals, John finally discovered the truth behind his gift. After attempting suicide, the young man traveled to Hell, where he learned that demons are indeed real. So are angels. As he’s aged, John has become more and more aware of these “half-breeds” – part human, part spirit – that roam the planet, influencing the living. They are never really a threat to individuals, since the powers in both Heaven and Hell have an agreement. No real emissaries of good or evil can visit the plane of reality. It’s a truce between the sides called The Balance. And John tries to maintain said symmetry.

When the twin sister of police detective Angela Dodson kills herself, it somehow leads to John. It seems that the angel Gabriel and Satan’s emissary Balthazar both have a connection to the case, and the reasons are horrifying. It appears Satan’s son is trying to find passage into this plane, and it’s up to John to stop his progress. But with minions manipulating the forces toward a final showdown, all John can do is try and put the pieces together. It may not be enough to prevent the bringing of Hell on Earth, which is what Satan’s son would do if Constantine doesn’t stop him.

With all it has going for it, Constantine should be better. It has a powerful graphic novel lineage (DC Comics/Vertigo’s Hellblazer titles are no slouches, after all), a leading man with a track record in genre fare (even if the Matrix movies were more Wachowski than Reeves) and the aforementioned supernatural sensation of The Bible to tip the scales. But somewhere along the line the movie loses its way, failing to maximize the potential in its premise. What we end up with is a big budget spectacle that cries out to be epic, yet only ends up being enjoyable. Maintaining entertainment value is not necessarily a bad thing – there are dozens of clunky would-be blockbusters out there that would give their eye candy teeth to be half as engaging as this film.

A lot of the problem with the film comes in pacing. First time director Francis Lawrence  mistakes slowness for seriousness, trying to add gravitas to his narrative by drawing things out. Sometimes, it works, but more often than not, the languid plot velocity grows tiresome.

Surprisingly, Lawrence takes the opposite approach with his set pieces. Each of our leads (Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz) takes a trip to Hell, and each time, we more or less race through the region. Stunning shots of distant fiery landscapes barely get time to register on our retinas before Lawrence and his CGI minions make with another supped-up sequence. The notion of giving the Underworld a post-nuclear fall-out feel is indeed unique, and it is one of Constantine’s many marvelous attributes.