'Constantine' *** 033105
Theatrical Review (1975)

The Work = ***
'Constantine' is a special effects laden comic book adaptation that very nearly drowns itself in computer effects. Keanu Reeves stars as John Constantine, a remorseful, cigarette downing, exorcist who goes after demons with various tokens and prayers. I enjoyed the movie but it took me awhile to get into it.

I think a problem with the film may be the use of special effects and possibly the long opening that really, after you have watched the movie seems like it could have been a lot shorter. The film opens with a young man in Mexico discovering what appears to be a knife buried in the ruins of an old building. What happens and how it comes into play I will not say but I will mention that it could have been done faster or with a lot more cinematic weight.

Speaking of cinematic weight, another problem I had with 'Constantine' was events would happen and they would seem to have significance but then they were just forgotten. Other times something would happen and it would be given little acknowledgement by the characters but then it would turn out to be really important. When you have everyday exorcisms and then abnormal exorcisms and everyday demons and then abnormal demons it’s important to understand what the heck the difference is. Otherwise, well, everything seems just blasé.

I realize this is a rather cryptic review but I am trying to avoid giving anything away. Not that this film has any huge surprises I suppose but hey why ruin someone else’s fun? By the second half of the movie I was able to get settled into it and for me the last 1/4 makes up for the rest. Actually the last section of the film is the chief reason that I am recommending it.

SPOILER WARNING: BEGINNING OF SPOILERS: The devil in the film is something to see. Part smartly dressed man, part child (at least in personality,) all Peter Stormare. He reminded me of a stubborn, spoiled boy trapped in a mans body. The way he torments Constantine and makes sure even if he is going to loose a fight then he is sure as hell is going to have a little fun with Constantine anyway. Tilda Swinton too, as Gabriel, seems to be having a ball. Her last outfit with the medical tag armbands and thelaced up pants looks cool as heck for a villain. I may have enjoyed these last passages because the effects were more restrained (Well except for when Constantine blasts all of the demon people but that doesn’t last too long) and if nothing else the bulk of the time was spent with actors not digital demons. END SPOILERS

I suspect that this is a fairly faithful adaptation of the comic book although I can’t say for sure as I have not read it. I do know that they changed the location from London to LA so the studio would bite at putting it into production. I was pleased to see that they didn’t change John Constantine’s smoking as I was told it was a pretty integral part of the comic.

I saw this film with a good friend of mine and coming out of the theater we both commented that we liked that he smoked in the movie. I’m not saying that I am an advocate of smoking by any means but it has a certain cinematic quality to it. The way cigarette smoke trails up and out allows cinematographers to catch it and light it often for great effect. It’s just something I noticed and like I said, not advocating smoking here, just think it looks cool on screen.

This film is the first time that I can remember since the new 'Star Wars' flics (first two anyway, we shall see about the third,) where the use of computer animation, at times, was a real distraction. Still, the film ultimately worked for me. It is not one of my favorites but I enjoyed parts of it enough to recommend the whole. If you are a fan of the genera, I say check it out.


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