DC Comics’ Hellboazer, John Constantine, comes to TV with a show that looks to redeem the 2005 film of the same name and expand the DC Comics television universe. Does it deliver?
The DC entertainment universe is shaking out to be a pretty interesting place. With several shows spread out across three networks and a separate major motion picture universe just getting started (that may be linked to the TV shows through a Crisis at some point), there’s a lot for fans to get excited about now and for the foreseeable future.
Joining the trio of Arrow and The Flash on the CW and Gotham on Fox is the latest of the DC Comics TV shows- NBC’s Constantine. Radically different than all the other DC shows (and really the Marvel ones too), Constantine is steeped in magic and loaded with the supernatural. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual superheroics and military/secret agent stuff honestly, but does it work? In a word, yes.
Constantine opens to find one John Constantine, exorcist and master of the dark arts (a title he catches a lot of flack for), locked away in an insane asylum. He’s there voluntarily after a botched exorcism cost a young girl her soul. Constantine blames himself (and he should since it’s his fault) and wants to get out of the biz.
This doesn’t last too long though, as trouble tends to find John wherever he is. I won’t spoil too much more of the plot here though, because it’s a good one, other than to say that there are demons, an angel, and tons of (really good) special effects throughout. Episode #1 director Neil Marshall (who you might know from Game of Thrones) has gone on the record as saying that he felt a “wrong needed to be righted” with the Constantine TV show, contrasting it against the oft-maligned movie from 2005, and he’s definitely done that and more here.
The scope and tone are spot on for the source material and the show actually feels like Hellblazer/Constantine, which is something of a miracle after the Keanu Reeves flick. Marshall has additionally said that he wanted the program to have an X-Files feel to it, and he’s achieved that with gusto in the first episode, an episode that actually has a few honest to goodness scares in it and more arcane imagery and elements than you could shake a pentagram at. Oh, and the casting- Matt Ryan plays the title character flawlessly and basically brings the same exact same character that you know from the comics to the small screen. He’s that good.
All of the supporting cast are pretty terrific as well, like Harold Perrineau as Manny and Charles Halford as Chas. I’m a little bummed out that Lucy Griffiths won’t be back as Liv, since the show’s creators Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer changed their minds about her character. I thought she did a great job with the role and could have been a much more innocent companion for Constantine and his crew, providing a different view on events, but oh well. It’s certainly nothing that’s going to keep me from tuning in.
It’s actually pretty hard to complain about anything here, since it’s all done so well. If I was going to throw one little ‘issue’ in there that I had though, I guess it would just be that there’s no way of knowing right now if Constantine will be linked in any way to the rest of the DC TV shows or the movies. We know that Flash and Arrow exist in the same ‘universe’, and the the events of the films and Gotham are separate, but what of Constantine?
It certainly could be linked to the other two shows, but does being on a different network (NBC) preclude that possibility? The character himself has moved from the Vertigo label to the now standard New 52 universe in the comics, and stands along with DC stalwarts like Superman and Flash on regular occasion. Going back to X-Files, I remember a cross-network crossover there with cop show Homicide, could there be something similar at some point here too? It’d definitely be a nice bit for comic fans.
Constantine is just a flat-out great show for anyone who’s into the comics, or ‘X-Files’ type supernatural elements.
I’m not all that big of a fan of Gotham, but DC is on a roll with stuff like The Flash and now Constantine. There’s rumors of lots more to come on Constantine as to the supernatural side of the DCU as well, and in the first episode we actually get a good look at the helmet of Dr Fate, so I seriously hope there’s more to be seen of him at some point too.
Bottom line – Matt Ryan is excellent, the show’s super-well done, and -most of all- it gets Constantine ‘right’, which is something that Hollywood had stumbled with previously. Definitely add this one to your Fall/Winter viewing schedule.