Cinerama: Constantine

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

“It’s the end of the world,” REM say; but I angrily announce, “Why did it have to be on my shift?”

Centuries have passed, souls perished, empires crumbled, entire civilizations were ransacked and burned to the ground, yet still we yearn for more blood. Sure, Zeus rocks, but does any one remember his name? When legends die, do they all go to the Elysium or are they sent to Hades, where nectar is scarce in quality and quantity. John Constantine believes that earth is infested with demons more than it is inhabited by angels, who as they watch from above our fragile shoulders cry out in anguish, “Who will avenge the wronged?”

This week’s Cinerama prologue came to existence when a whirling tempest carried a rotten piece of paper up to the heavens, a paper on which America’s intelligence report regarding the Iraq’s alleged mass destruction weapons was indistinctly scribbled. It fell in the hands of a wandering Seraph that read the following headline, “dead wrong,” which was written in Arab blood.

Just like John Constantine, the antihero in the 2005 film Constantine, which is directed by Francis Lawrence, I believe that “Heaven and Hell are right here, behind every wall, every window. The world behind the world, and we’re smack in the middle.”

Based on a DC-Vertigo comic book entitled Hellblazer written by Kevin Brodbin, Mark Bomback and Frank Capello, Constantine can simply be described as The Exorcist meets Blade in the person of the heavy smoker Constantine. The man is simply cool that you’ll love his indifference, thanks to Keanu Reeve’s great character play.

One point though, a lot of people, especially the religious, might find this film a little bit controversial. If you’ve seen John Travolta’s Michael and you were able to swallow the image of a drunkard angel, you won’t be able to do so with this one. I personally liked watching Constantine, as ever since my childhood I was fascinated with the idea of demons and angels, heaven and hell, and life and death; but to most viewers, with a strict outlook on life and religion, the film will come across as blasphemous.

It will be a miracle if such a controversial film ever makes it to Jordanian theatres, since depicting evangelical characters in films according to the censorship codes in many Arab countries is insulting if not an act of heresy. But then again, films were made to break rules.

Along with Reeves, the 2005 Constantine stars Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare as Satan, who managed to add a very creepy, yet funny, edge to the tradesman’s nature of the devil that likes to buy and sell lost souls.

Now, remember the religious and political uproar The Matrix Trilogy caused among censors in Egypt, well imagine what would be the impact of a storyline where archangel Gabriel (Swinton) is depicted as an androgynous being, Satan is dressed in a white suit and has the ability to grant life, in addition to a human who can check in and check out of hell anytime he likes.

Dubbed the unforgiven—I was listening to Metalica when I wrote this review—Constantine has to buy his way into Heaven. Why and how? When he was a child, Constantine told his parents that he could see things mortals aren’t supposed to see—demons and angels living among us. As all parents would do when their child doggedly “insists” that there is a monster lurking under the bed, they took him to a shrink believing that he was crazy in the coconut.

As a teenager, Constantine tried to commit suicide. The result: He was sent to hell; but for some reason he was resurrected and was sent back to earth. According to the Christian doctrine those who commit suicide are automatically sent to hell, so no matter what Constantine did he was destined to go back to hell.

Having the ability to spot demons and travel to hell, he decides to serve God by performing exorcism (in a very unorthodox manner) and fighting Satan’s armies of darkness, believing that one day his soul will be granted entrance to heaven.

“What if I told you that God and the devil made a wager, a kind of standing bet for the souls of all mankind?” exclaimed Constantine to Angela Dodson (Weisz), whose twin sister Isabel commits suicide after being driven to do so by a demonic force.

A lot of films conceptualized hell but none were so scary and bleak as the one depicted in this film that has two great elements: Brilliant computer generated images (CGIs) and a very original plot, but if you are looking for great fight scenes then you are in for a bit of a disappointment. It seems that Lawrence wanted to establish the general outlines of Constantine’s personality more than the plot itself—enough to probably allow a more solid comeback for Constantine in a sequel with much stronger and darker material.

Just like any priest, Constantine fights demons using holly water and the bible; however, he is more of a man who believes in the way of the gun. In his fight, Constantine is assisted by supernatural characters, like Father Hennessy (Taylor Vince) and Midnite (Hounsou), plus the wannabe exorcist Chas (LaBeouf), who all added an interesting climactic development to a plot confined within a limited setting.

The son of the devil element that is unraveled near the end was a good twist but sadly was lacking in action. Nevertheless, Constantine is a worth watching film that a lot may dub in the near future as a lasting fictitious eye opener.


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