Constantine Is Faithful To The Comics, But To A Fault

Marshall Lemon | 25 Oct 2014 10:00
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Then there's Liv Aberdeen, the woman Constantine arrived to protect. She appears to have psychic abilities that allow her to perceive spirits, but that's also alerted a demonic presence that wants her for.... something. To kill her? Possess her? It's not really clear, she's mostly just an excuse to bring Constantine to America and generate a demonic antagonist. She's also the character meant to represent the audience, an ordinary person shocked by Constantine's dark world. Surprisingly, the final scenes suggest Aberdeen is being phased out in favor of Hellblazer's Zed Martin, a last-minute decision made after test screenings. That means most of Aberdeen's psychic contributions won't be developed further anyway, or at least will be replaced by Martin's.

But if Aberdeen is leaving, I hope her dad's house sticks around. This magical home would make for an impressive base of operations complete with protective shielding, tomes of magical knowledge, and mirrors that perceive across time. But its most significant feature is an unassuming gold helmet covered in dust, which comic book readers will recognize as Dr. Fate's helmet. I cannot emphasize enough how huge that detail is, even in a lackluster pilot like this. It heavily implies that DC's magical continuity is going to make regular guest appearances; even something simple like introducing Zatanna could go a long way to drawing an audience every week.

For this episode, there's very little to recommend. There are several interesting threads and concepts that could have gone somewhere, but mostly it just fails to come together. Part of that is a pacing problem; individual scenes constantly blaze by without connective tissue linking them, and lots of big reveals don't have enough context to be significant. Like that moment where Constantine lights his hands on fire in the trailer; we don't know who he's fighting or why he needed to do that. It's just a cool-looking shot that's there because reasons.. Given Aberdeen's departure, I suspect this episode was heavily edited to lay seeds for a new direction, and that led to these structural problems. That means there's a slim chance the next episode will pick up the slack, but right now I'm having serious concerns.

Thankfully, Ryan looks the part as Constantine, even if most of what he does is stand around being John Constantine and provide backstory. There's even a great moment where Constantine lets his inner bastard shine, blackmailing an ally by threatening to have him arrested for the Newcastle debacle (which by the way, was Constantine's own fault). While a lot of the pilot is unrealized potential, it is still potential, if Warner Bros. can salvage the good ideas moving forward.

Bottom Line: So far, Constantine is not the adaptation long-time Hellblazer fans were hoping for. It's poorly paced, the characters aren't very engaging, and most of what occurs is pretty forgettable. That said there are a few very promising hints of things to come, specifically a larger magical continuity and a faithful depiction of Constantine as an utter bastard. With some effort Warner Bros. might just salvage the adaptation readers were hoping for.

Recommendation: Only die-hard fans will want to watch this one, and they probably won't be impressed. Maybe next week we'll find out if that's worth it.





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