It's Constantine. John Constantine, asshole.

Kelsey and I went to go see Warner's newest attempt at a comic book adaptation, Constantine, at the Westown Ultrascreen last night. On a related note, if you need to see a BIG movie in Wisconsin, this is the place to go. I will see Star Wars: Episode III on this screen, even if I have to fight someone. I will fight you, if I have to. Anyway, I'm rambling again.

Now Constantine is based on Hellblazer, the Vertigo (A DC imprint) comic about John Constantine, a sort of independent contractor exorcist and all around badass. He was born with the ability to see the half-breed angels and demons that surround us, and after committing suicide, he returned to life to try to earn his way into heaven. So he tries to maintain the balance of good and evil, and send to hell any demons (or angels) that get out of line. The cool thing is that he does so in stylish and inventive ways, and smokes his cigarettes and drops his self-deprecating one-liners throughout. He's kinda like the anti-Blade, wherein he's not interested in kung-fu chopping all the bad guys individually, but he'd rather just feed some holy water through the sprinkler system and wreak havoc that way. It's very cool, in a way that other comic adaptations have tried to be.

Look at Warner's disastrous Catwoman. Pretty much everyone hated it, and it failed at the box office. Now Constantine opened with around 34 mil on it's first weekend, which is pretty good, and the Wb has almost redeemed themselves with this one. Now I haven't read Hellblazer, so I can't comment on the changes made from the comic, except for the change of venue from England to the US. While I understand how the fanboys will go on crazy rants about how this is an outrage, and Keanu Reeves is a disgrace to the name Constantine, I dig the move. The comic's creators have said that they based the look of Constantine on Sting, and had pegged him to play the title role if a film was ever made. But since the studio went with Reeves, which I get, they had to make him American. Do you really want Keanu to try a British accent? Are you dumb?

Speaking of Ted Theodore Logan, he reprises his role as Neo, the One who will save Zion from the machines. What's that you say? This isn't a Matrix sequel? Ohhh.. well then he plays Keanu Reeves. Which is what he does in every movie. I do place some of the Matrix blame on the costume designer, who obviously never saw The Matrix, or just didn't realize they were dressing him exactly the same as "Mr. Anderson" Neo. I know I'm nitpicking, and I don't care. Keanu does turn in a serviceable performance, but he is outshined by Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton, Djimon Hounsou and Peter Stormare, a super-talented ensemble for a comic book movie. Stormare, who I didn't know before this movie, plays Satan himself, and is so fun and seductive in the role that I ended up rooting for him to just kick everyone's ass and be done with it. Rule of thumb: if a movie can get you to cheer for Satan, the Prince of Darkness, it's doing something right.

Director Francis Lawrence makes his big-screen debut here, having previously directed music videos. Like fellow MTV alums Spike Jonze and David Fincher, Lawrence has a definite style, which is a necessity for a flick like Constantine. But his inexperience shows at times, as the narrative gets pretty confusing, and "payoff" moments are not fully explained. I could see how Joe Moviegoer wouldn't like this movie, since it does require a lot more thought than your average popcorn flick.

When it comes to superhero movies, I always find myself comparing them against each other. So is Constantine better than Catwoman? God, yes. Is it better than Hellboy? I think so. But it is better than Spiderman 2? Not so much. It's good, but not great. I can see it as a franchise, perhaps a trilogy like X-Men will be, as there's a lot of material with the whole religious angle. Constantine is a fun movie, and an intelligent one, that appeals to me, the sometimes fanboy. That's an accomplishment in and of itself, so Constantine gets a B.


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