Review: Constantine

Published 10 years ago by

By Mike Reiter

Short version: Very forgettable, but fun while it lasts. Unfortunately, a hole-riddled story squanders a thought provoking theme.

constantine Review: ConstantineI guess there is something to be said for instincts. When I first saw the trailer for Constantine I thought the concept of a character devoted to destroying evil, but who was too tainted for heaven was an intriguing idea… however, the cartoon-like CGI demons set off my alarm bells. Now that I’ve seen the film, after two hours I find myself wishing the visuals had been the only deficiency.

For my money, the theme of Constantine is its greatest asset. Because it had such great potential, it?s poor execution is cause for even greater disappointment. Movies that tackle important subjects like “the meaning of life”, “the reason for evil”, and “the after-life” can cause one to reflect on a scene, a one-liner, or a captivating visual effect for months, even years later. Unfortunately you?ll be forgetting about this one on the way back to your car?

The plot also had real promise: A man with paranormal power, struggling to redeem himself to God and find meaning for Mankind?s very existence, stumbles upon a demonic plot to upset the balance of good and evil on earth. Sounds good so far, huh?

So how did Hollywood screw this up?! It?s hard for me to say whether it was the writing or the directing that was inept, but I suspect the latter. In any case, the result is a film not worthy of the subject matter. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

Constantine (a freelance exorcist) crosses paths with a female police detective whose twin sister has just committed suicide. We learn later on that both women are psychic. At the same time, he notices a disturbing increase in the blatancy of demonic attacks. Meanwhile, the spear used during the crucifixion of Christ (the “Spear of Destiny”) is found, and its discoverer possessed by evil. Still sounds good, right?! That?s what I was thinking 30 minutes into it.

The problem is that the various elements are not brought together in a consistent and cohesive story one can reasonably follow. For example, unseen spirits suddenly bludgeon one character to death. This is the only point in the film where they have such incredible “direct” power. Why?! I can concoct a reason why they might, but shouldn’t the movie tell the flippin? story?

Equally bewildering is the subplot where an incredible evil is traveling from Mexico (!?), where a homeless man accidentally discovers the aforementioned spear in a hollow in the ground, wrapped in a Nazi flag. My mind could not process how or why:

A. Nazis would be in possession of the spear (except for, you know, Nazis are bad).

B. They would go transatlantic and hide it in Mexico.

The looming threat of this seemingly indestructible evil adds suspense and excitement, but its execution creates more inconsistencies and confusion.

The acting was a non-factor. No one was so bad as to break my immersion into the film, however, no performance particularly stood out either. In going for a dark feel, many of the characters came across as simply being tired… which kind of worked actually! The characters that did shatter my immersion were the virtual ones. Here are a couple of hints for the special effects team… Please write these down and don?t ever do them again: When all the characters look exactly the same, that?s bad. When they all also move exactly the same, that?s bad too. Good rendering just ain?t enough post-Lord of the Rings. Now scurry along and go do it the right way.

There was one redeeming FX scene, however: A mass of insects possessed by a demon form a humanoid creature to attack Constantine. Nice special effect, but a note to the director: Crabs are not really insects, and where the heck did they come from anyway?!

And finally, why did Satan appear as a middle-aged disco reject with muddy feet? Did he possess a body from an earlier scene? This had me lost (and laughing), but here, as in the rest of the film, there was almost enough action to take my mind off such messy little things as consistency and cohesiveness.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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16 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. After I saw the trailer for this movie (which didn’t impress me very much), I asked myself three things:

    1) When was the last time I saw a good comic book adaptation?
    2) When was the last time I saw a good movie (other than The Exorcist) whose main character fought demons?
    3) When was the last time I saw a good movie (other than the original Matrix) starring Keanu Reeves?

    At that point, I had no need to see the movie. Thanks for enduring the mediocrity so we didn’t have to.


  2. Like Mike :P the concept for the movie intrigued me and I really hoped that it would turn out to be a good film. The vibe I got from the trailer was that I was watching Keanu as Neo in another Matrix sequel.

    Oh well, I may catch it during a matinee or do the old standby: DVD rental and watch it on my big screen. :-)


  3. I love the honesty of this blog when it comes to reviewing films. I’m a sucker for genre films like this but at least now I wont get my hopes too high for this effort.

    As for the Nazi flag thing I can only assume it’s there because Hitler (this crops up especially often in comic book adaptions) was supposed to be obsessed with collecting mystical and biblical objects.

  4. Rachel,

    Thanks for the compliment on the site. :D

    Yeah, I thought the same thing on the Nazi issue, but talk about using something that’s been beat to death. The first thing I thought about when I read that in the review was: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.


  5. This is for Brian…

    For a good Keanu Reeves movie, rent “River’s Edge”. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  6. Thanks, Bookman. I’ll check that out. The Bill and Ted series comes to mind as well, but all those movies are from the 80′s. Keanu’s recent work has left quite a bit to be desired.


  7. :shock: Oh, now I can’t let that one go Brian.

    The Matrix trilogy, while admittedly lack luster in its conclusion, was brilliant. Unlike ‘Constantine’, the Matrix has elements that I still ponder: It’s all about controls. When someone else decides what you get to ?choose?, they have you. Sounds a lot like our two-party system (and more), don’t you think? They have you Neo. ;-)

  8. Mike, Mike, Mike…. you are confusing the concept behind the Matrix trilogy with the execution of those films. :wink:

    The idea was awesome, killer, a real “makes you go: hmmmm” kind of idea. It was executed in an outstanding manner in the first film, but with the second and third movies it went from bad to worse.


  9. :blush: Yah, I guess your right… Please stike the word ‘trilogy’ from my prevouis statements.

  10. I finally watched this thing last night. You were WAY too generous IMHO. I would have given it 2 out of 5 at best.


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