Movie Review: Constantine

I’m not gonna lie. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from Batman v Superman. I had high hopes for Zach Snyder. Man of Steel worked. Surely he could breathe some life into DC Comics.

With the hope of sweet honey comes the crashing hammer of bitterness and disappointment, as Batman v Superman did for me and critics three weeks ago and now we’re supposed to move on, look forward to better products and leave it to fend for itself as the few of us that insist on beating it to death with a baseball bat continue to swing away.

I know I can come across as overly critical in my reviews, but I don’t enjoy beating a film up. Okay, that’s a lie, I savor it, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoy disappointment. If I watch a film and I can tell from the get-go it’s gonna be bad, at least I can attempt to have fun with it. With a film like Batman v Superman, you go in with hope, even if your mind tells you not to because you know it’s gonna fall and crumble like when a child realizes his role model is a mirage, a fantasy that you hung on a person and convinced yourself was a reality. Batman v Superman is a bottomless well of ambivalence, a film encumbered by its inability to make decisions.

Alas, it is time to move on and look at some more films and coming off of yet another Warner Bros. misstep, I figured one more misfire couldn’t hurt. 2005’s Constantine it is.

Keanu Reeves stars as a supernatural detective, performing exorcisms and general fantasy hocus-pocus, mumbo jumbo nonsense. It’s okay to call it this because none of it is going to be explained down the road. Constantine‘s story feels out of place from the outset because of its inability to create the fictional world we’re dealing with here. Its execution is suspect at best, negligent at worst and doesn’t seem all that concerned with creating anything. Constantine is based off a comic, but just as a comic seeks to illustrate a character and world through its panels, a film should seek to do something similar with its scenes. A movie centered on realism does not have this extra hurdle to jump through. It can make like Dorothy and be on her merry way. An adaptation of fiction does not have such luxury. Only the very best storytellers can drop the details of the scenery in the narrative and I would advise filmmakers to avoid leaning on them because sorry (think Canadian accent), there just don’t seem to be many who can successfully do that. There aren’t a lot of George Lucas’s or Ridley Scott’s walking around. That’s why everyone knows who they are.

The struggle of film writers is the battle of conciseness vs. clarity. By definition, conciseness requires efficiency, material that is short and crisp. In contrast, in order to be clear, one has to explain a topic as thoroughly as possible, removed from any length or time obstructions. The battle of scriptwriters is making these two elements sit together and have a cordial discussion. There’s been far more than one occasion where a film has suffered due to its inability to make these two qualities play nice. In my experience, conciseness is usually the one that throws the first punch. People are obsessed with speed and patience is becoming a dying commodity. I can only imagine how few people of this new generation will be able to look at slow dramas like The Green Mile and manage to hold steady as the film slowly reaches its extraordinary third act. Something tells me at least a third of today’s audiences would walk out of the theater long before it got that far.

Constantine‘s battle here is with clarity, not conciseness. First-time director Francis Lawrence, who is now known for his work with the Hunger Games franchise, has no qualms about the clock, throwing his work down the conveyor belt. The hope is that star Keanu Reeves’ John Constantine can prove compelling enough for us to overlook the sped up story process, as if holding a lollipop above a group of small children would cause them to overlook the gross rat infestation covering the floor. It’s childish, but that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is how blatantly complacent this film is with the quality it produces. There are some specific scenes that feel forced, roles that are there because the comic book people said they had to be, not because they truly needed to be and some more than questionable plot conveniences that just manage to make the pipeline to the sewage drain that much longer.

As hard as it is to say, poor Keanu is one of Constantine‘s best products. His emotionless couples well with a character that I think is supposed to be a guy who acts like a jackwagon. On the inside, he knows he’s doomed to hell anyway and doesn’t see the point of living anymore but still fears the end regardless. I say I think because through this film, this character is pulled in so many ways that it feels like Constantine is being drawn and quartered. After watching, I’m still not sure who Constantine is and that, paired with an unstable environment, leaves much to be desired here. The visuals from time to time are a causation for some fun, but the acting’s lethargic and the writing is incoherent at best.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (DeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellar)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe Martian)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: Genisys)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (RaceEverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury Road)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (War, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeaversCrank)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (CatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next Door)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Constantine: 57.

Constantine has some promise but the project doesn’t have the foresight to push forward and commit on that promise. Rachel Weisz is a moving and talking plot point, not a character, Shia LaBeouf is here because reasons and Lawrence can’t form the cement needed for the foundation of this film with the lukewarm material he’s gifted with here. As a comic, I can see how this character and fantasy realm might have an audience, but as a movie, Constantine doesn’t work.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Constantine

  1. Dan O. says:

    Fun and odd, if a tad uneven. Nice review.

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