TV Review: ‘Constantine’

Constantine cancelled
Courtesy of NBC

For starters, “Constantine,” the TV show derived from DC’s “Hellblazer” comics, is better than “Constantine,” the 2005 movie starring Keanu Reeves, which amounts to damnation with faint praise. Matt Ryan is certainly appealing as the doomed-to-hell exorcist/demonologist, and the concept is perfectly positioned as a companion to NBC’s “Grimm,” premiering right before Halloween, no less. That said, the series — adapted by Daniel Cerone with an assist from genre specialist David S. Goyer — nearly chokes on its mythological mumbo-jumbo, and frankly, yelling at demons in foreign tongues seemed a whole lot scarier back when “The Exorcist” first turned heads.

Like all good demon fighters, Ryan’s Constantine is plagued by a dark past, haunted by the 9-year-old girl he couldn’t save, sentencing his own soul to hell. When introduced, in fact, he’s checked himself into an asylum, only to wearily — and wisecrackingly — rejoin the battle against demons visiting Earth, who manifest themselves by inhabiting unsuspecting folk.

Constantine has a few nondescript helpers in this endeavor, the most interesting being an angel (“Lost’s” Harold Perrineau, saddled with “Rosemary’s Baby” eyes) who speaks to him mostly in cryptic riddles. There’s also the little matter of the woman he’s trying to save in the premiere, who has inherited a legacy from the father she never met, a man who Constantine knew.

Those familiar with the comics won’t have the same trouble cutting through the arcane rules as the uninitiated will, although some fans have already griped about the character’s sexuality being sanitized for TV (in the comics he’s presented as bisexual). While departing from source material can be tricky, based on portentous warnings that “Things are crawling out of the shadows on a scale we’ve never seen before,” it’s difficult to imagine “Constantine’s” eponymous hero having much time to spare in consideration of his libido.

Dealing as it does with hell and possession, “Constantine” is spooky, and the visual effects (while perhaps slightly frontloaded for pilot purposes) are reasonably impressive. Moreover, NBC has exhibited a committed strategy to turning Fridays into a night for the macabre and escapism, with titles like “Hannibal” and “Dracula,” admittedly yielding somewhat mixed results.

Thanks to those aforementioned overflowing shadows, the program’s reluctant hero should have no shortage of threats to upend (the CW’s “Supernatural,” for one, certainly hasn’t lacked for plot lines). The challenge here will be keeping that formula fresh enough to prevent “Constantine,” the series, from prematurely sharing the same destiny that awaits Constantine, the man.

Put another way, it’ll likely come down to the very earth-bound matter of lead-in retention to determine just how long Hell can wait.

TV Review: 'Constantine'

(Series; NBC, Fri. Oct. 24, 10-11 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Atlanta by Ever After/Phantom Four in association with DC Comics and Warner Bros. Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Daniel Cerone, David S. Goyer; producer, James Spies; director, Neil Marshall; writer, Cerone; story by Cerone, Goyer, based on characters published by DC Comics; camera, Romeo Tirone; production designer, Aaron Osborne; editor, Avi Youabian; music, Bear McCreary; VFX supervisors, Kevin Blamk, Todd Shifflett; casting, Felicia Fasano. 60 MIN.

Cast

Matt Ryan, Harold Perrineau, Charles Halford, Angélica Celaya

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  1. Sherry says:

    Me and my Husband personally really enjoy watching it it reminds of charmed and we find it has more action then the walking dead at least it’s a different demon each time not like walking dead where for 5 seasons just zombies, zombies and more zombies OK we got it with Constantine there’s action and variety in the show i don’t care if anyone agrees with me or not i enjoy it every week that’s all that matters.

  2. Ivan says:

    You are totally wacked if you think that this series even approaches the movie which was dissed by the wanna be ‘coolites’ when in actuality it kicked ass. The TV series just gets worse and worse… as does the writing and so called ‘acting’.

  3. Calico Buffalo says:

    As far as the name Constantine goes…He was a Roman Emperor who had quite a history. Look it up, it’s a good read.

  4. Andre says:

    It’s amazing how our views differ. I’d hoped, after the first episode, that things would improve for Constantine. They didn’t. They worsened. Matt Ryan definitely began to grate on my nerves and I can see that exacerbating..his character is one dimensional, the others are almost non-existent..the plot was juvenile or at any rate boring, and the special effects (for want of a better expression) bordered on the amateurish. Perhaps that’s a budgetary problem. As for Brian Lowry’s comment that this TV series is ‘better than..the 2005 movie starring (the awkward) Keanu Reeves’ – well, he and I are on different planets. But that’s individual perception for you..

  5. rz foster says:

    Terrible show. Much of the dialogue sound like something you’d hear in a British pub (not too interesting of a British pub). The main character is unappealing, and do we really believe he possesses the skills to send demons back to hell. We are rushed to quickly into the story and the characters. The show has none of the charm that we saw with Paul Blackthorne in the Dresden Files. And can’t producers find any female actors that have interesting personas. It’s a DC comics production so it will probably play for six years whereas a great show like the Dresden Files is yanked after twelve episodes.

  6. Josh says:

    This show is going to be the flavour of the month. Of course it’ll do well around Halloween. It won’t last. It’s best seen as a film. And it won’t get any cooler or interesting than when Keanu started in the movie version.

  7. Calico Buffalo says:

    Being born on Halloween, I naturally gravitate to shows of this type. Unfortunately I don’t see this show as usurping the Supernatural train wreck which has gone way off track. I neither like Constantine nor do I dislike him…….he’s just “there”. I thought I was watching a moment of being in an Amusement Park Halloween Haunt, throwing everything at you but the kitchen sink. I believe this show may appeal to a narrow range of people, but I can’t see many of them staying around for the long haul. Thirty minutes in, I turned it off and went to bed.

  8. john wont boink dudes like he did in all of 5 issues in the comics, better not watch the show….

  9. After NBC did not promote DRACULA and cancelled it after 10 episodes 1 season, most of us will not bother to watch Constantine or anything else on their Friday night line up!!
    DRACULA was and is AMAZING.. The sets, the actors were Downtown Abbey caliber!! Shame on NBC!!

    • C to the J says:

      This show was horrible. To someone who has no idea who Constantine is, all I got out of the pilot was that he can exorcise demons and he likes to play with a zippo.
      The whole thing was super boring to me. I hope he gets to do more than chant Latin while holding his arm up at a monster.

  10. Josh says:

    Better than the movie?! You high, or you getting paid to say this is better than the movie? Stick to TV, cause you clearly don’t know a thing about a great film, and it’s huge following. Stormaire, and Reeves were awesome in it. And this series looks terrible so far.

  11. Jacques Strappe says:

    Low ratings expectations to match the low interest on Friday night at 10pm. We actually don’t need another Supernatural or Sleepy Hollow wannabe on television.

  12. Why on earth, with source material called Hellblazer, make a film or a series called Constantine? “Who? Constantine? You mean the historical figure from all that crap I didn’t pay any attention to in high school? ” vs. “Hellblazer? Whoa. That sounds exciting.”

    • bbostick says:

      The current DC Comics title is called Constantine, so that may have something to do with the name they are using for the series. I’m not a huge follower of the series, but the show is miles closer to the comic than the Keanu movie was; it’s not really correct to call the movie the “original”. I hope the series has a long life, as it has the chance to bring in a ton of cool DC characters that may never see the screen otherwise.

  13. hmmanley says:

    I liked the original Constantine. Mainly because I like looking at Keanu. A little over the top though, but there were a few good actors: Swinton, Weitz, Stomare and Vince. Might watch this once or twice, but there are so many shows coming out with so many different themes. You have to pick a few. I can’t keep up with them all. The original could have used a better director too.

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