(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 31
3 out of 5 🐙
I went into this movie with mediocre expectations. I didn’t see it when it came out in 2005. I wasn’t super familiar with the comic book. And when it came to anti-heroes who made a deal with the devil, my boy was Ghost Rider. I’m a traitor to my generation because I never really dug Spawn. Also, strangely, I love fantasy, but I often don’t like fantasy comic books. I think they’ve gotten much better this decade, but I can’t remember any I liked in the 90s and aughts.
But wait up, I’ve gone on a really crazy tangent. The reason I decided to watch this in 2019 was because Keanu Reeves had ascended to new levels. I’m not saying he didn’t have great credits already. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), The Matrix (1999), Point Break (1991), and Speed (1994) are fantastic examples of their particular genres, with The Matrix being a seminal film that influenced effects and themes for years. It is a modern sci-fi classic. But he’s ascended to a new level in the last 5 years.
It’s not that Keanu has become a much better actor. He does deliver sincere emotions well, but he’s not exactly a guy with a wide emotional range. He used to be mocked for his monotone delivery but he’s evolved and now it comes off as a brooding, determined delivery. The John Wick franchise has brought him to the A+ list, and to top it off, all reports and anecdotes point to him being an extremely good person. It’s telling that being a good person and a movie star is such an interesting combination that it boosts said movie star’s fame.
Constantine (played by one note and ‘not so evolved yet’ Reeves), the titular character, is a supernatural detective who is trying to earn his way into heaven by doing good deals which include taking over exorcisms when the regular priest can’t handle them. He dispatches a demon in a pretty slick fashion, and it’s a nice opening set piece for him. Meanwhile, a great evil force is headed towards the United States to wreak havoc. Elsewhere Detective Angela Dodson (played with the usual fire, skill, and charm by Rachel Weisz) believes her twin sister’s suicide was actually a homicide and she is determined to find out who.
The movie continues these three parallel plots: Constantine trying to earn his way into heaven, the evil figure marching into the United States, and Dodson trying to find out the truth, eventually with Constantine’s help. We get treated to the work of a formidable supporting cast along the way: the energy menace of Peter Stormare as Satan, the ethereal Tilda Swinton as the angel Gabriel, and the force of nature Djimon Hounsou as Midnite, the witch doctor. The CGI is from 2005 so you have to cut it some slack, but it was well done for its ear. I don’t think they rendered hell badly and one of the baddies was a man made of locusts and he was pretty cool.
There’s not a ton of humor but one moment, when Constantine is explaining the supernatural nature of cats, says: “Cats are good, half in, half out.” Any cat owner can confirm this.
2nd spoiler alert: the ending is predictable, but it’s not. Gabriel warns Constantine early on that he will never do enough good to get into heaven because all those good acts are essentially done not for their own sake but to save himself. In the end, Constantine does commit a completely selfless act, saving Dodson and earning a ticket to heaven. Gabriel helps out and loses her immortality as a consequence. I would love to see a sequel or spin off covering Gabriel’s transition to earth dweller. To be fair, I’d love to see anything with Tilda Swinton in it.
Overall, it’ a fun ride. It’s alway good to see Weisz and Swinton work; they are masters. But the dialogue won’t win any prizes and the action set pieces, CGI, and story might have been great for 2005, but comic book movies now require a much higher level of quality. Still, say your prayers to ward off the demons and stream this joint.
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)