Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Preliminary Thoughts on Constantine

The movie Constantine opens on Feb. 18. In watching the trailer for this movie and undertaking background reading in preparation for the movie, I have become a bit worried about the movie and its likely presentation.

IMDB Plot Summary:
Based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer and written by Kevin Brodbin, Mark Bomback and Frank Capello, Constantine tells the story of irreverent supernatural detective John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), who has literally been to hell and back. When Constantine teams up with skeptical policewoman Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister (also played by Weisz), their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldy events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.
Being a fan of comic books and a mildly-avid reader of trade paperbacks, I remembered that I have 2 trades of Hellblazer, the comic book series that forms the basis for this movie. "Gee," I thought. "I should re-read the trades and reacquaint myself with the character and comics in preparation for the movie." After re-reading one of the trades, I picked up the next 4 after it since I was enjoying the stories so much. Now, a few more trades into the series, I'm concerned for the movie.

Hellblazer features the tales and exploits of a rather interesting and charasmatic Englishman, John Constantine. Constantine has strong ties to magic, from his background, heritage and experience. He deals with the occult in all manners, from voodoo to straight magic to demons to devils to angels. This in and of itself, while forming the meat of his adventures, is not the truly engaging part. The best part is Constantine himself. His character is that of a dark hero, one who follows, or more accurately makes, his own morality. He does what he does according to his personal code, fighting what evil he may, but not actually "clean" himself. Constantine rides a fine edge between good and evil, easily dipping from one to the other but always following his own code.

The character is a chain-smoking, beer-drinking, smart-aleck bastard. Very charasmatic and very likeable. This doesn't change the fact that he's a bastard. A complete bastard. He'll leave you in the lurch if it means saving his skin. He may or may not honor agreements. He's lost a lot of friends and has come to accept that he's going to lose more. Very dark, very magic-oriented, very dangerous.

If this is the comic book setup, I cannot rightly believe that Keanu Reeves has a snowball's chance in Hell of pulling this off. IMO, Keanu isn't a good actor. All of his characters are the same, with the same attitudes, same mannerisms, same expressions, same voices. They're the same!!! Constantine should not be played like that. The character deserves more. He deserves a good actor capable of playing a complex character with complex motives. I highly doubt Keanu can give this character one-tenth of the depth he should have.

Don't take this to mean I won't see this movie. Heck, chances are I'll be there opening night. From the trailer, the look and feel of the movie (dark, mysterious, foreboding, mystical, dangerous) is dead on. Plus Rachel Weisz is excellent. I like the look of the film and eagerly await its release. Even so, I'm worried for Constantine. He's better than Keanu and I sincerely wish the film's creators had considered this point.