On Constantine

Yesterday the Judge Dredd video game arrived in stores. Released eighteen months ago in Europe, its North American release had been delayed time and again as the game changed publishers and reviews savaged the game. In the back of my mind I couldn’t believe that the company spent the extra money to have Judge Dredd shipped to stores on a Saturday, but I knew of one person who would have bought it.

My friend Chris loved Judge Dredd, the comic character. And, he was one of the few people I’ve found who could say something positive about the Sylvester Stallone film–“Remember that the character Stallone plays has the same name and nothing else about the comic book character, and you’ll find it mildly interesting.” He passed away a few years ago, and I regret not having the opportunity to share Big Finish’s Judge Dredd audios with him. But I know, he would have bought Judge Dredd.

It was what Chris said about the Judge Dredd film that stuck with me when I went last night to see Constantine, the film based on DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer comic book. Accept that Keanu Reeves isn’t Sting, doesn’t have blond hair, doesn’t have a Liverpudlian accent, isn’t a total fucking asshole. Accept that he just happens to have the name “John Constantine” and performs exorcisms as the points of congruance between the film and the comic.

I walked out of the theatre slightly dazed. The film wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t even bad. I would have felt so much better had it been a bad film. Surprisingly, I actually found myself liking a lot of things about the film, more than just the lovely Rachel Weisz.

I did find Reeves a bit flat. He lacks range, and the last scene, frankly, upset me.

The story, though, actually made some sense, even if I did predict the plot twists pretty far in advance. The one thing that bothered me is that, until Weisz’s character comes to Constantine the supernatural encounters he has are random and have no bearing on the actual story despite some gloss thrown in that direction the first time Constantine goes to the Midnight Club. The revelation of the film’s villain came as absolutely no surprise.

Weisz was good. I liked Tilda Swinton as the Archangel Gabriel.

I wonder why the Spear of Destiny made all the cattle die? Why was it in Mexico in the first place? Why not Brazil or Argentina?

So, Constantine. The story is generally strong, develops logically, and has some interesting performances. But fans of the Hellblazer comic must accept that the John Constantine they know isn’t in the film and some dull dark-haired American bloke stands in his place. As a supernatural thriller I think it’s worth seeing, though I find it difficult to recommend. Unless I get a fantastic deal on the DVD I wouldn’t consider adding this to my collection.

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