It’s Movie Time: Constantine

As always, Spoiler Alert

Keanu Reeves is one of the few actors who’s enough of a draw for me to watch a movie simply because he’s in it. I’ve by no means seen all of his work, but I find he usually chooses interesting projects, and I always enjoy his performances. (This has been the case since back in the ’90s, long before he became the internet’s darling, but finding out how nice a person he is has only made me more likely to watch his films.) It’s why I saw Constantine in the first place. I remember knowing nothing about it, and going simply because Reeves was playing the title character.

Speaking of actors, the cast around Reeves is spectacular, and is one of the reasons the film is so entertaining to watch. Rachel Weisz as Angela (with brief appearances as twin sister Isabel) is the heart of the movie, the character we care about because Constantine is just too much of a prick to be likeable. Djimon Honsou steals his scenes as witch doctor Papa Midnite, as does Tilda Swinton as the angel Gabriel. Bush singer Gavin Rossdale is creepily excellent as villain Balthazar. Hell, even that annoying little shit Shia LaBoeuf is good, staying true to type as Chas, Constantine’s annoying little shit of an apprentice. Add to that several great character actors – Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Peter Stormare – who heighten the atmosphere of Constantine‘s world.

Speaking of Constantine‘s world, I have found over the years that while I don’t much enjoy graphic novels, I do tend to like their screen adaptations. Constantine was, if not the first, then certainly among the first of these adaptations I ever saw. On paper, I can’t get into graphic novels. There’s something about the format that just doesn’t work for me. But on film, the effort put into the look and feel of the worlds they create comes to life in a way I find very engaging. Constantine’s apartment over the bowling alley – a place I would love to live, by the way – Midnite’s bar, the pool where Isabel dies and the film’s final confrontation takes place, even hell itself. All of them work together to create a believable world in which angels and demons walk among us.

Speaking of angels and demons, Constantine‘s plot appeals to my blasphemous little heart. I’m an atheist and an anti-theist who has done a tonne of research into religion, and as far as I’m concerned, the Bible is just another work of fiction – and not a particularly good one, at that. But parts of it have potential, and I tend to eat up pop culture that picks out some of the interesting bits and imagines them more richly than the source material. Constantine is one of my favourite examples of this genre, in which the Catholic Angela is confronted with many realities that her religion has never taught her – that hell has its own Bible, and the Devil also has a son, for example – all while trying to save the world from some form of Armageddon.

Plus every time she tries to justify what’s going on with some platitude about Mysterious WaysTM and God’s love, Constantine shuts her down with replies like …

God’s a kid with an ant farm. He’s not planning anything.

… and I damn near cheer.

I remember Constantine not being very well received when it came out, garnering a lot of criticism and bad reviews. Much of it had to do with the casting of Reeves as the title character, as Constantine in the graphic novels is blond and British. It’s one way that not reading the books works in my favour – I go into the film adaptations with no expectations and nothing to compare them to, and so am more apt to like what I see.

And when it comes to Constantine, I like what I see very much.

To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.

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