Published Mar 01, 2005The key to any successful adaptation is to, obviously, successfully adapt it from its source material (in this case DC/Vertigo comic Hellblazer), keeping the soul while expanding it for its new format. Unfortunately, while the Hellblazer comic isn't the easiest to follow, Constantine has little in common with it and is fragmented and unfocused, diverging greatly from its inspirations. However, that doesn't make Constantine a horrible movie, if it could establish its own world/mythos and go it alone, which it attempts but with mixed results.
Keanu Reeves plays a neither English nor blonde John Constantine, a sort of occult detective "cursed" with the ability to see the supernatural (angels, demons, um, lions, tigers, bears), who battles the forces of Lucifer in an attempt to placate the man upstairs and gain access to the pearly gates. Constantine is a hard-living, self-obsessed, damned asshole seeking redemption not out of nobility but fear. Luckily, redemption is offered via Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), a detective attempting to uncover the mystery surrounding her twin sister's death, which leads to convolution and a plot involving the spear that killed Christ, the arch-angel Gabriel, Gavin Rossdale (seriously) and the son of Satan.
Where Constantine falters most severely is in its creation of its supernatural world (specifically with establishing Constantine, his past and powers, which it doesn't do well), and its uneven, haphazard plot. An experienced director would have their hands full attempting to weave Constantine into more a focused narrative, but Francis Lawrence (who cut his teeth doing music videos) isn't up to the task. Although, granted, the film has an almost noir-ish feel at times and the hell visits look good, even if the CGI demons don't hold up their end of the bargain, looking like mutilated Gollums.
Considering that many Vertigo titles gained notoriety with excessive language and violence, and the potential for a supernatural movie to exploit these themes, and even the more horrific, Constantine is disappointingly tame. But while many rag on Keanu's acting ability, he makes Constantine at least watchable, if not good. (Warner)