When I first started seeing advertisements for Constantine, I thought it looked like it was going to be pretty darn good. I was weary of it because of that though. It looked like it had a lot of potential because it was dark and sported some fantastic apocalyptic imagery. So despite the warning bell that was ringing in my head, I gave it a whirl. Constantine isn't a great movie. It seemed to be an average effort that came through on its promise of darkness, but I'll be damned if I didn't enjoy it anyway!
John Constantine is an exorcist of sorts. He spends his life trying to banish demons that are trying to find entry in our world, and corrupt the balance of good and evil. He shows up in extreme cases of possession for example, and treats the extraordinary as if it were just another day at the office.
John has terminal lung cancer, and as if he were part of a noir film, he sparks up a cigarette in a cool and slick fashion anytime he finds himself facing the odds. It's because of his terminal illness that he's doing what he can to save his soul. Time is running out for Mr. Constantine. John had done something in his past that was unforgivable in the eyes of God. As a way to earn his ticket to heaven, he's been trying to keep the balance between Heaven and Hell on Earth.
The world isn't what religions make it out to be. It's basically like a poker table for the Devil and God. The two ultimate forces in our universe have a wager, to see who could win the most souls through temptation. They aren't allowed to interfere with what's going on in our world, and neither are any of the other spiritual beings from either side. Half-breeds that are partly human are allowed to run around and set things up however. The fate of the world doesn't rest on the shoulders of the Creator, or on the pitchfork of Satan himself. It rests in the hands of those with biblical lineage that are living, and things are starting to look bad. Constantine is seemingly the only hope the world has got.
Things aren't going to be easy for Constantine however, and temptation is beginning to look better and better. He's fighting for a way back into Heaven, yet Lucifer is constantly gunning for John so that he'll stop interfering, even to the point of offering him cigarettes to push his disease over the edge. Lucifer also isn't playing by the rules, as demons are starting to push further beyond the boundaries they were bound to and start appearing in the world of the living.
Constantine has been able to see what's really going in the world, unlike most. His evil act in the eyes of God was the act of trying to commit suicide, and his near death experience makes him closer to the land of the dead than most. Eventually he acquires a partner, Angela Dodson, that is inquiring about demons for her own reasons, and John does an experimental drowning to prove to her how a near death experience can show you the world of the dead.
The pacing of the film at times can be sluggish. The plot can seem completely outlandish, but what can we expect from a film that's based on the Hell-blazer graphic novels? Keanu Reeves seems to have been a perfect fit for the role with his calm demeanor, and Rachel Weisz is always a pleasure. To put it simply, I'm not exactly sure what about this film hooked me. It was a mediocre film if I was to review this by the book, but it's got so many elements of things that I'm a sucker for. The films is dark, has some insane visuals that involve taking a peek into Hell, a very cool action/horror/noir style that depicts good versus evil, and the 'hero' isn't being a hero for all the right reasons. Despite this being an average film at best, the entire formula provides an undeniably good time.
It's not something I'd recommend for everyone though. If you've never had a chance to see Constantine as of yet, it deserves at least a viewing.
With all the fantastic special effects this film has to offer, I'm happy to say this movie has been given a great transfer. If you've had a chance to see this on HD-DVD, you'll already know what you're in for, as this is the same VC-1 encode at 2.35:1, in full 1080p.
The image is sharp and unlike a lot of fantastic looking high def content, provides a very nice sense of depth. It's a very dark film, so it's nice to see the black levels so deep and inky, while the contrast isn't affected by the overall dark tones in the film.
The print itself is flawless. There are no film specks or dirt to complain about, and grain? What grain? Well, OK, there's a little bit of grain. But it's not a flaw that was caused by the transfer, and that much is clear. There's so many opportunities this film had to create some blocking or artifacts, but not once did I ever see such a thing.
Color saturation is fantastic. There are a lot of mixed colors that are fairly close in hue, and also could have caused a potential issue with the transfer. This is not the case however, and with all the evidence added up, Constantine is a fantastic looking film that received the transfer it deserved. It's definitely worthy enough to show off your home theater in its heavily detailed CGI scenes in Hell.
Just like the HD-DVD, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track has been recycled for this release, but that's not really a bad thing. For the most part, this is a fantastic sounding surround experience. The highs are tight and the lows are punchy and fill a room. The rear channels are pretty aggressive in many moments of the film, and get a pretty decent workout. The dynamic range is impressive, although you would think it's a little off due to some low dialogue, but that's because of the mix itself. For some reason, they decided to make some of the softer dialogue to sound like whispers from time to time. You may find yourself needing to adjust the volume quite a bit for this release, but all in all it's a pretty vibrant track.
Tracks also included are Dolby Digital 5.1, French 5.1 (Both Parisian and Dubbed in Quebec), Spanish (Castilian 5.1 and Latin Spanish 2.0), German 5.1, Italian 5.1, and Japanese 5.1. Subtitles are included in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. Warner Brothers is really hammering out an impressive number of surround tracks and subtitles for this release!
2 Commentaries - Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Akiva Goldsman/Screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello - I'm covering these together because with the knowledge of the major people that brought Constantine to life, we're getting a lot of great information that covers everything from coming up with the idea to bring this to the big screen, right up to the final product we have on screen. There's a lot of great insight, although a lot of the same material is covered between both tracks. The conversations aren't the most entertaining I've ever heard, but if you're looking for a wealth of information, you're going to get it here.
In-Movie Experience - Much like the commentaries themselves, this picture in picture feature is very informative, but not really as entertaining as some of the other In-Movie Experience features you may have had the pleasure of seeing. As usual, this feature acts like a highlight reel that takes up some footage from the rest of the special features, as well as using audio from the commentary tracks that have been provided. If you aren't one to normally sit down and push your way through featurette after featurette, this is the going to be the best way to get all the best information delivered to you in a relatively painless shot. Especially since there are a ton of features on this release.
Channeling Constantine - This is an exploration of the ensemble cast.
Conjuring Constantine - This feature covers the history of the comic book that inspired the film, right up until the movie was ready to be made, script and all.
Director's Confessional - Francis Lawrence sits down to tell us about his numerous concerns in attempting his first major film.
Collision with Evil - This has Lawrence talking to us once again, but this time he's talking specifically about the scene near the beginning of the film where John is performing an exorcism on a girl in Los Angeles.
Holy Relics - Kirk Corwin shows off a bunch of artifacts that appeared in the film.
Shotgun Shootout - This focuses on the choreography behind the explosive shotgun scene in the film.
Hellscape - This feature details how most of the effects were created and implemented in Constantine.
Visualizing Vermin - There is a pretty gross looking insect creature that appears near the beginning of the film, and this featurette shows us how this monstrosity was created.
Warrior Wings - Following the pattern of showing us how little things in the movie were crafted, this featurette shows us how the wings were crafted for demons in the film.
Unholy Abduction - A scene in the film has Angela being yanked out of an office building, through glass and walls, everything. This featurette shows how that was accomplished.
Constantine's Cosmology - Author Phil Cousineau sits down to talk about why the world needs a hero. It's kind of an interesting listen, but I can't help but think about Constantine wasn't really doing anything to be a hero. He was doing what he could to get back into Heaven.
Foresight: The Power of Previsualization - If you couldn't guess from the title of the featurette, this shows us how some early animatics were used to enhance the final product that we see.
Demon Face - This is a short look at creating the Demon Balthazar through time lapse cinematography.
Writer's Vision - Frank A. Cappello had come up with an early piece of animation that basically acted as the template for how he wanted certain things to appear in the movie, and this featurette is him telling us about it.
Deleted Scenes - There are fourteen deleted scenes available, none of which really made me say, 'Oh wow, that should have been in the movie'! There are a few scenes that show us a character that never makes an appearance in the final version of the film, but they would have felt like an intrusion for the sake of including the character. They wouldn't have added anything to the movie, except an unnecessary use of time. There's an alternate ending that's here as well, but again, it's nothing that had me wishing to see an alternate cut of this film. I suppose it's entirely possible someday we could be milked of our hard earned cash to see an 'unedited cut' that features the new character and ending, but Constantine seems to do well enough in its theatrical form, and I hope that doesn't get tainted.
Also included is a music video from A Perfect Circle (Passive), as well as a couple of theatrical trailers.
It sounds like there's a whole mess of featurettes here, but the list can be deceiving. Most of these featurettes are short, and if they were edited together as a feature length documentary, they could have had more appeal. Instead, it ends up being a pain to watch something for a few minutes, just to have to go back to the menu and select something else. The material here is all pretty good, but wears out its welcome due to its exhaustive reliance on having to use the menu every few minutes. Another thing to note is that there is a second disc included with this Blu-ray, and this holds a digital copy of the film.
Constantine in every right feels like it's probably a worse movie than I realize it to be. However, a movie doesn't always need to be masterfully pieced together in order to be enjoyable, and Constantine is a perfect example of that. There are some highly enjoyable action sequences, insanely detailed special effects that bring Hell and demons to life, and there's a lot of dark atmosphere that fit the film to a T. Although this isn't a film that I see everyone being able to enjoy, Constantine at least deserves a rental for those that are curious.
I'm going to recommend this Blu-ray release to you. The picture quality is definitely demo worthy, and the soundtrack is immersive. There are plenty of extras here, but often only being minutes apiece, end up being presented in a pretty poor fashion that forces you to keep your hand on the remote at all times. You may finish this movie with mixed feelings, but I think its overall charm is going to stick with you, and beckon you to come back soon for another viewing.