Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Constantine

Constantine
Directed by Francis Lawrence
2005, rated R
2 stars

A recent trend in filmmaking seems to be remaking popular comics into feature length films. Such was the case with Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk, X-Men, Hellboy, The Punisher, Daredevil, and even Elektra. These films typically take after the comics from which they originate, in that they appeal to a particular fan base which finds them absolutely amazing. Based on the Hellblazer comic, Constantine, directed by Francis Lawrence, is the newest addition to this growing genre of comic book tales.

Keanu Reeves stars as the demon-exorcizing John Constantine. Constantine is one of only a few “gifted” people who can see demons, and thus is able to send them back to the inferno from which they came. Due to his sinful past, he cannot be allowed into heaven, although is trying as hard as he can to make himself worthy enough for God’s acceptance. Just as Constantine is trying to get to the pearly gates, Satan (Peter Stormare) is trying equally hard to drag him down into the flames as punishment for all the demons he’s banished from earth back to Hell. In his battle for divine recognition and against demonic forces, Constantine unwillingly finds himself fighting alongside detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), who believes that her twin sister Isabel was killed by unearthly forces. The two push onward, trying to uncover the mystery surrounding the forces at work, while the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) and evil-minded Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale)—both “half-breeds” allowed on the earthly dimension—try to tip the scales.

Lawrence has done a nice job making Constantine flow just like a comic book. The special effects and CGI make any scene easy to visualize in comic format. Creepy demons and possessed people leap from the numerous shadows, and the weird personages of the paranormal underworld are particularly interesting. Constantine’s methods of defending himself from these monsters, as well as his means of communication with them, are also interesting to watch. The dark, shadowy lighting used, along with the dark scenery and clothing, set the mood wonderfully for each scene. Unfortunately, as with comic books, the plot is fairly base and predictable, and the dialogue choppy and uneven.

Keanu Reeves shows a particular dedication to making his character seem as comic book-like as possible, in the sense that his acting is completely flat and can’t quite seem to reach that third dimension that so many other actors attain with ease. His performance is utterly emotionless, although this is nothing new for Reeves, since this has been his acting style for years. While his character is conceivably supposed to be detached from his surrounding world, Reeves makes the audience begin to wonder if Constantine is perhaps himself a member of the undead. Weisz makes a cute side-kick for him, but her character lacks substance and remains dim and underdeveloped.

Fans of the comic and of the comic book genre may find this film entertaining. Action buffs may also find it enjoyable for the special effects and demon vs. man fight sequences. Just appreciate it for these reasons, and recognize it for what it really is. Constantine lacks plot and decent acting, and even fails utterly with a romantic subplot. But those demons sure are neat…