Constantine (2005)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 27. 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Roadshow (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 115 minutes
The Movie
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Keanu Reeves,
Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare
Screenplay: Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello
Country: USA
I am fortunate to be reviewing this movie as I have no comic knowledge to compare it to. I have not been tainted by the 'the comic book is better' creed that we hear so often (I, myself am guilty of such comments). I have always thought that Vertigo comics were for three types of people: Anne Rice Pseudo Goths, people who missed the Punk movement and the wannabees of both. Sure I have picked up the occasional Sandman or Swamp Thing, but didn't like the art or writing styles of them. Just my opinion, sorry to those I may have offended.

So onto the movie.

Keanu Reeves plays the titular Constantine, a man haunted his whole life by the fact that he can see the demons who dwell within the bodies of some humans. He, and the usual array of misfits and miscreants that comic heroes generally have, fights the good fight against these demons with their combined psychic powers and knowledge of the Bible and all its trappings. Unbeknownst to Constantine, a young Mexican has discovered the Spear of Longinius, the weapon that killed Christ, and the usual demon activity escalates, and to top it all off, he has just discovered he has contracted lung cancer due to a lifetime of 30 cigs a day, and the devil just can't wait to welcome him to Hell for his sins on Earth.

I was surprised at how entertaining I found this movie. It is deeply steeped in Catholic/ Christian religion and mythology, but also explains itself nicely, even if the line between good and evil wavers slightly. Luckily, Keanu Reeves, who still seems to be playing Johnny Nuemonic, has many excellent actors opposite his subtle Constantine (Rachael Weisz, Tilda Swinton, and the excellent Peter Stormare, amongst others) to help him along , and may I say how far CGI has come since Van Helsing was released, thank the Lord. The images of Hell are well designed, not the usual Little Nicky fire and brimstone but a terrifying place that burns constantly from a Terminator 2 style nuclear blast.

This movie may or may not appease comic Constantine fans, but I really enjoyed it. My one gripe would be the discs layer change, which is right in the middle of a breath taken by Rachael Weisz's during a monologue; I really think the bigger studios should find more suitable position to put it.
As you would expect from a company like Roadshow's releases, this DVD has picture quality written all over it. The colors are vivid, even during the night scenes and never become muddy. The burning images of hell will really give your TV's yellow and magenta diodes a good working out, but it too remains crisp and well defined.
The sound was excellent, from car motors to the deep booming sounds of Hell's minions, this disc really kicks arse. The movie is in Dolby digital 5.1, with the extras mostly in 2.0.
Extra Features
Disc one: The commentary by Director Francis Lawrence, Producer Akiva Goldsmith and Screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, and is both fun and informative. The usual array of trailers and a music video round off the first disc.

Disc Two: The second disc is where this set really shines. Conjuring Constantine is one of those usual comic to movie stories where everyone talks about the 'spirit' of the comics, but actually shows genuine concern for the tone of the movie. The Production from Hell documentaries, of which there is 4, cover all the production decisions and directorial problems. The Imagining the Underworld documentaries, of which there is 4, cover the special effects and designs of the relics and environments. Constantine Cosmology, which is about the legends of myths and the origins of heroics and why mankind needs it, and how Constantine is a classic hero. Foresight: the Power of Previsualization, which is a documentary and examples of how animatics help the design of the movie and how directorial decisions can be changed during this process. Of course the usual deleted scenes round this disc off.
The Verdict
All in all I think this is a pretty good movie in a kick arse 2 disc package. Fans of the comic may find reasons to nit pick, but I think the horror fans will enjoy it. This is one set that covers every aspect of the film production without becoming self congratulating and over proud. Roadshow are going to have trouble topping this package.
Movie Score
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