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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Francis Lawrence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare
Writing Credits:
Jamie Delano (comic book, "Hellblazer"), Garth Ennis (comic book, "Hellblazer"), Kevin Brodbin, Frank A. Cappello

Tagline:
Hell wants him. Heaven won't take him. Earth needs him.

Synopsis:
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer graphic novels and written by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, Constantine tells the story of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a man who has literally been to hell and back. When he teams up with skeptical policewoman Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.

Box Office:
Budget
$100 million.
Opening Weekend
$33.624 million on 3006 screens.
Domestic Gross
$75.500 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $30.98
Release Date: 7/19/2005

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence, Producer Akiva Goldsman and Screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Capello
• Music Video
• Trailers
Disc Two
• Deleted Scenes
• “Conjuring Constantine” Featurette
• “The Production From Hell” Documentary Gallery
• “Imagining the Underworld” Documentary Gallery
• “Constantine Cosmology” Featurette
• “Foresight: The Power of Previsualization” Featurette
• Easter Eggs

• Exclusive Collectible Hellblazer Comic Book


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RELATED REVIEWS


Constantine: Deluxe Edition (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 11, 2005)

These days, most big-screen adaptations of comic books go for material that will appeal to the broadest audience. That means lots of characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men.

And there’s nothing wrong with that – those are great characters and fine movies. Still, it’s nice to occasional get something a little darker. The Blade series has veered into that territory, and now 2005’s Constantine follows suit.

The Spear of Destiny has been missing for decades, but an indigent Mexican (Jesse Ramirez) finds it wrapped in a Swastika. Though he gets immediately hit by a car, apparently its power allows him to survive and run off.

From there we head to Los Angeles, where demon hunter John Constantine (Reeves) gets the call from Father Hennessy (Pruitt Taylor Vince) to deal with a possessed girl in an apartment building. Cabbie Chas Kramer (Shia LaBeouf) acts as Constantine’s driver and apprentice. While there, he sees a drawing of the Spear, and it piques his interest. Other complications affect his life when Constantine learns he has an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Next we meet Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), a cop who apparently kills more than her fair share of criminals and who experiences much Catholic guilt about this. She also dreams of deaths before they occur, and that allows her to see the apparent suicide of psychiatric ward patient – and her twin sister - Isabel.

Their paths cross when both go to a church. Constantine speaks with the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) to warn of greater demon activity and to try to pave his way into Heaven, an apparently fruitless endeavor because he once took a life. Angela simply seeks a church burial for Isabel.

Their paths cross, and Angela realizes she needs Constantine’s help when she realizes Isabel called his name before she leapt. In the meantime, Constantine comes under attack from a funky insect demon so he goes to meet with Midnite (Djimon Hounsou), a neutral party in the battle between good and evil. He needs to use a device called “The Chair” but runs off after an unpleasant encounter with demonic influence Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale).

Angie soon knocks on John’s door to discuss Isabel. We learn Angela’s sister became paranoid and obsessed with demons before she was hospitalized, and she thinks someone brainwashed her. He doesn’t seem to care, but he does tell her about the demonic presence on earth. Angela doesn’t buy this until some demons come after them, at which point she starts to come around to his point of view.

Constantine helps learn more about what happened with Isabel. He also tells her more about his gift – or curse, depending on your point of view – and lets her know about the ways that “half-breed” angels and demons try to influence humans. All the while, the Mexican with the Spear winds his way toward Los Angeles. The rest of the movie follows their attempt to investigate what happened with Isabel and stop any issues related to Satan’s son Mammon’s attempts to cross over to the Earth.

When I first saw previews for Constantine, I thought it looked like an attempt by Reeves to resurrect his Matrix success. No, I didn’t think Constantine presented a bald-faced rip-off of Reeves’ prior franchise, but some elements of the trailer just gave me a feeling this film might mine similar territory.

Happily, I was wrong. Reeves continues to display his usual lack of dramatic range, but that doesn’t make John Constantine another Neo any more than Neo was another Jack Traven. Reeves doesn’t have a lot of depth as an actor, and that’s not much of a problem with iconic characters such as these.

Ironically, Reeves’ lack of dimensionality can be something of a plus for this sort of comic book personality. He manages to pull off Constantine as cool but uncomplicated. If one really examines the character, that’s probably a problem; I get the feeling we’re supposed to see more depth from the tormented and conflicted demon hunter. However, as executed, Constantine’s failure to come across as much more than one-dimensional suits him just fine, and Reeves does well in the part.

Overall, Constantine presents surprisingly complex characters for this sort of movie. Honestly, we don’t usually expect much from comic book adaptations, but despite Reeves’ lack of nuance, we get the feeling there is – or should be – more to Constantine that meets the eye. Deep characters like Angela and the others also flesh out the tale, and the actors who play them manage to bring greater depth to the parts. With talents like Weisz, Swinton and Peter Stormare, Constantine boasts some strong supporting players, and all help make this film more than just a comic book roller coaster ride.

Unfortunately, the narrative occasionally lets down the rest of the package. We don’t get the most clear-cut story, as matters become somewhat loose and tough to follow at times. The tale periodically loses track of various elements such as the Spear and doesn’t keep things terribly focused.

Despite that lack of clarity, the movie keeps us involved and moves at a decent pace. It provides an intriguing tale with enough action and mayhem to make things interesting. The story manages to come back together by the end, so that helps forgive some of its messiness. We also definitely get something different in the world of comic book movies with this darker, nastier take on things.

I do think Constantine features too much CG, though occasionally these techniques work well with creations like the Vermin Demon. Actually, I thought that character looked fake, but I liked the idea so much I could forgive the cheesy execution. I did find the film to be awfully CG happy, though I’m not sure how else they’d be able to make a flick like this.

Add to that enough humor to keep it from being constantly dour and Constantine becomes a minor winner. I wouldn’t classify it as one of the great comic book adaptations, though its stock rises when we compare it to other dark flicks like From Hell. There’s enough here to make the ride worthwhile, however.

Footnote: stick around through all the end credits for an interesting tag scene.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

Constantine appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No real problems emerged in this solid transfer.

From start to finish, sharpness seemed very positive. Even wide shots came across as tight and concise. I noticed no soft or ill-defined elements here. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and only a sliver of edge enhancement was apparent. Source flaws seemed absent, as I saw no kinds of defects.

I expected a stylized palette from Constantine, and that’s what I got, though not as severe or over the top as often found in this sort of flick. The colors stayed low-key, as the movie went with somewhat desaturated tones much of the time. We got occasional golden tints, blues, and an almost Matrix-like green dependent on the circumstances. These all worked fine for the film, as they fit the production design and seemed appropriately clear.

Given the movie’s darkness, blacks and shadows became important. Dark tones looked nicely deep and firm, while low-light images were easily visible and not too dense. I found little about which to complain in this strong image.

I also liked the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Constantine. With all its demonic activity, the movie offered many opportunities for the soundfield to kick into high gear, and it took good advantage of these. In addition to solid stereo imaging for the score, the effects were accurately placed and meshed together smoothly. Various elements connected to the demons zipped and flew around the room, and the rear speakers offered strong delineation and involvement. All of these combined to make the soundfield vivid and engrossing.

Audio quality always kept up its side of the bargain as well. Dialogue came across as concise and natural, with no signs of intelligibility issues or edginess. Music was rich and full, and effects demonstrated fine clarity. Those elements were tight and dynamic, and the whole package showed fine dimensionality. All in all, the mix worked well for the movie and accentuated the action.

This two-DVD package includes a good roster of extras. On Disc One, we start with an audio commentary from director Francis Lawrence, producer Akiva Goldsman and screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Capello. This splits into pairs. Lawrence and Goldsman sit together for one screen-specific chat, while Brodbin and Capello provide the other. The commentary edits the two together for one reasonably seamless package.

And a reasonably lively and informative one at that. Story and character issues dominate. We learn about deleted and altered scenes, adaptation topics, and various plot and personality concerns. In addition, we get some information about casting, locations, effects, visual design, and general production data. The writers provide the strongest data, especially since Goldsman tends to get silly at times. Nonetheless, the whole thing coalesces into a useful discussion.

Next we find a Music Video for “Passive” by A Perfect Circle. This combines the usual collection of movie clips with some heavily stylized shots of the band. It’s more interesting visually than most of these kinds of videos, but it’s not exactly fascinating.

The first platter ends with two trailers for Constantine. In addition, DVD One opens with ads for Alexander, Blade: Trinity, A Scanner Darkly and Seinfeld Season Four.

From here we head to Disc Two and its collection of 14 Deleted Scenes. These fill a total of 17 minutes and 40 seconds. Some of these offer alternate versions of existing segments, but mostly we see new footage, including two different attempts to make the character of Ellie the sexy demon work and some other clips with her. Mainly we get minor expository material from the cut scenes. We can watch these with or without commentary from Lawrence. He provides solid notes about each sequence and makes sure we know why he axed all of them.

For the 15-minute and 35-second Conjuring Constantine featurette, we find the usual set of movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews. The latter include comments from Lawrence, Goldsman, Brodbin, Capello, producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Michael E. Uslan, Vertigo Comics executive editor/VP Karen Berger, Hellblazer writer Jamie Delano, DC Comics president/publisher Paul Levitz, and actors Rachel Weisz and Keanu Reeves. They discuss facts about the source material, the comic’s path to the screen and adaptation issues, story and character topics, choosing a director, and casting and the various roles. The program ends a bit abruptly, but it goes through the project’s basics well. It avoids too much filler and sticks with the facts to become a tight, informative show.

Three pieces show up in a “Documentary Gallery” called “The Production From Hell”. Director’s Confessional runs five minutes, 32 seconds as Lawrence compares making movies to shooting music videos and also discusses his experiences as a first-time feature director. He repeats some information from the commentary, but mostly he presents fresh notes here. I especially like his remarks about the learning curve required in his jump from videos.

Next we find the four-minute and 35-second Collision with Evil. It offers statements from Lawrence as we learn about the film’s opening sequence. It emphasizes the car crash shot as we see how they filmed it. Despite this myopic focus, the program proves valuable since we get a nice examination of the stunt.

”Production” ends with Holy Relics, an eight-minute and 18-second featurette. We hear more from Lawrence plus Reeves, production design Naomi Shohan and property master Kirk Corwin as they discuss some of the movie’s props. The show gets into the props featured in the flick. These range from the Spear of Destiny down to Constantine’s cigarettes. The show offers a fun close-up look at the pieces.

Another “Documentary Gallery” entitled “Imagining the Underworld” follows with its four clips. Hellscape goes for 11 minutes, 55 seconds and includes remarks from Lawrence, Shohan, visual effects supervisor Michael Fink, Tippett Studios visual effects supervisor Craig Hayes, lead animator Simon Allen, CG supervisor David DeBry and lead compositor Matt Jacobs. We learn about the design influences on the movie’s representation of hell and all the elements that went into its execution as well as the demons. This adds up to another tight and informative show. After this comes Visualizing Vermin, a nine-minute and 32-second piece. It presents notes from Lawrence, Fink, lead effects artist Adam Martinez, and visual effects supervisors George Murphy and Greg Juby. As one might expect, this show concentrates on the Vermin Man sequence. We learn about his design and related issues. It offers a concise exploration of the effects challenges and other issues created by the character.

Warrior Wings runs three minutes, 15 seconds and features remarks from Fink, Lawrence, Murphy, and Juby. As the title implies, it goes over the look and creation of angels’ wings in the film. It’s not a great piece, but it delivers the basics fairly well.

We finish “Underworld” with the five-minute and 45-second Unholy Abduction. It includes info from Lawrence, Fink, Weisz, and stunt coordinator RA Rondell. This looks at the scene in which Angela gets yanked through the walls of an office building. The shots from the set are the best part of this piece, as they give us a great look at the practical stunts and effects.

Constantine Cosmology gives us a five-minute and 20-second chat with author Phil Cousineau. He looks at the literary base for heroes and takes a particular look at how John Constantine fits that mold. It’s too short to be substantial, but it comes across as thoughtful and intriguing.

The last program comes from Foresight: The Power of Previsualization. This shows 13 minutes and 50 seconds of previsualized sequences, with or without commentary from Lawrence. We watch the final film on top and the previs shots on the bottom. These allow for a good comparison for nine scenes. In addition, we get to check out three “abandoned scenes”. Lawrence lets us know how he used previs both in general and in specific.

Some Easter Eggs appear. First, click to the right from “The Production from Hell” on the main menu. This allows us to access a 74-second animatic created by writer Capello. He narrates this to let us know when and why he made it. This offers an interesting footnote.

Within the “Hell” area, click left from the “Main Menu” listing. This opens a two-minute featurette with stunt coordinator RA Rondell about the choreography of one sequence. Under “Imagining the Underworld”, head right from “Hellscape” to get into a one-minute, 56-second piece with actor Gavin Rossdale as he goes over his makeup effects and his work on the film. Keep an eye out for a glimpse of Rossdale’s wife, Gwen Stefani.

Finally, the package concludes with an Exclusive Collectible Hellblazer Comic Book. This includes three stories: “The Beginning of the End”, “The Gangster, the Whore and the Magician”, and “The First Time”. It also features some character biographies. The comic acts as a nice complement to the rest of the package.

Like many, I’d never heard of the Constantine character until this movie hit screens. I don’t know how the film compares with the comics on which it’s based, but the flick provides a pretty entertaining and intriguing experience on its own. The DVD presents excellent picture and audio along with a very nice collection of supplements. I recommend Constantine to those with a taste for dark comic book fare.

Note that Warner has released two separate versions of Constantine on DVD. In addition to this two-disc affair, there’s a single-platter edition. I assume this simply drops DVD Two from this set. The deluxe package retails for a mere $2 more, so I see virtually no incentive to go with the bare-bones release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0857 Stars Number of Votes: 35
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