Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Rev. Lick Reviews: Constantine

So, after staying up til 4am painting this morning/day/whatever it is, I took a break and went to see Constantine tonight with Crystal. My thoughts as we entered the theater were, "Bring on the disappointment!"

I was pleasantly surprised. Constantine is actually, really, Not Bad. It was worth the price of admission. I've been a Hellblazer fan for well over a decade now, possibly even going on two. I probably have at least a hundred back issues around here that I still haven't tried to sell on eBay. Even at my late age, I've been known to pick up half a dozen back issues, if available, as "reading material", every year or so. So, dear readers, I know what I'm talking about.

Don't get me wrong...this movie is certainly no Spiderman 1 or 2, Daredevil, or The Punisher. (the latest Punisher, of course). Those, however, were what I call "origin" flicks. They deal mainly with the origin of the hero involved, and how that leads them to take on one major bad guy. This is more like X-Men, where things pick up well past the "origin" of the person involved, and there are just allusions to the past while bad things happen all around.

Like every other Hellblazer fan, when I saw the promos for Constantine, I thought 1) Yesssss! and 2) Keanu Fuckin' Reeves..."Ooohhhh, Fuck!" This will suck.

So at this point let me enlighten you on my philosophy of "Things that are turned into movies":
Film and writing are two different things entirely. Everyone always complains about how things are so "much better in the book than in the movie", but they always, always, fail to take into account the difficulty of movie-izing characters from a book, or series, that are well established already. It's a different medium, and while you can transplant the characters, you just can't incorporate all the background in a form that will still be entertaining to a film audience. So when I see a movie of a book or something, I don't look for perfection, or the filmer-director/writer being completely true to the character. I look for them doing the best they can do to tell the/an original story, while making a movie that's actually going to be entertaining and marketable, while not completely offending the original fan base.

This is what I call the acceptance of "Based On". A "based on" movie is different from an "origin" movie in that while an "origin" must be faithful to the original story/medium, a "based on" movie can diverge wildly as long as it's still somewhat faithful to the original characters and intent. And is still an entertaining flick. Good example: The Three Musketeers from several years back, the one with Kiefer Sutherland. If you've read the book, the movie they made had damn near nothing to do with the original storyline, but it still worked. And was fun to watch. Comic example: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Still a really good film, but nothing like the original stories.

To sum up: An "Origin" movie must be faithful to both the characters and their original context, with minimal changes. (e.g.: Spidey's web shooters being a genetic change vs. mechanical contraptions being a minor, yet wholely acceptable, change for the medium). A "Based On" movie should be faithful to the characters, although may alter the context to present a still-entertaining story. Constantine is definitely a "Based On" flick.

Details and Criticisms: [spoiler alert!!!!]

1) My choice of actor would first fall on the guy that was the hero in"The Full M0nty" or "Trainspotting"...the kid that ran off with all the illicit drug money! I'm pretty sure it was Ewan McGregor, who would be an absolute perfect John Constantine. JC should be British and have the accent, no matter what city. Second, he wasn't smoking Silk Cuts, it was Chinese shit. Third, Keanu wasn't a decent smoker, although he did try, almost convincgly at times. The smoking seemed forced, while it should be a present-yet-unconscious habit.

2) The "gadetry"...this isn't a James Bond flick, or "Van Helsing". Constantine doesn't need much more than chalk to do his stuff. If that.

3) The magic itself, and the background. John Constantine isn't a fucking "suicide", and he didn't start off in the psycho ward as a kid who could see angels and demons. This part of the story was NOT in keeping with the character. It was not necessary to a "based on" movie. Although it did work, in a sense, JC still derived his powers from being a freakin' good Magus. Let him be one. It's only a few minutes of film-work to get him his powers through being a practioner as a kid, to getting a friend killed through his own inadequacies, to daring to go where angels fear to tread. That gets you the "sacrifice" aspect without him having to try and kill himself. Much closer to the original character.

4) "Chas" the flick he's a cast-off sidekick wannabe-apprentice, when in the books he's one of JC's few actual friends. This leads me into a deeper discussion of the fact that John Constantine is an Anti-Hero. The film should be really friggin' DARK. It makes JC into too much of a pure-hero, when he should be the anti-hero you're almost, just almost, rooting against.

5) GOOD POINTS: First, JC was an asshole, and while Keanu didn't make it quite as convincing as Ewan McGregor would have, he was stll an asshole. Second, he got the Devil to cure his lung cancer, and that is a worthwhile sop to one of the best comic storylines I've ever read. It really worked for the movie. Third, Gabriel was nicely androgynous, and the bad one, yet JC didn't take his heart this time. Fourth, the Spear of Destiny really looks like the real one, which is nice...and the historical throwback implied actual research into the subject. They should have made more of it, though.

No longer too drunk to edit, and soliciting your thoughts on the movie, dear reader. Leave comments!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review (I read up to the spoiler alert). I may actually go see it now! I'm a Constantine fan from the Alan Moore Swamp Thing days, and I had the same reaction as you when I first saw an ad for the movie.

I scanned the rest of the review & picked up your comments regarding the hero status of JC. One of the things that bugged me about the ads I've seen is that they seem to have dropped the whole good/evil/what the hell is he thing.
-Jefe (came here via your DL post)

7:40 AM  

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