I was called at 3pm for 5pm call to work as a background actor (extra) in Downtown Los Angeles on a movie called Constantine in 2003. I had no idea what it was and it wasn’t until I was sitting around with the other background actors that I was informed this was a movie starring Keanu Reeves. We worked until about 5pm that morning and I remember being very impressed by how professional Keanu was. It’s no joke, he doesn’t have an entourage. He was dropped off in a large black car and he casually walked up to the set. He stood behind the camera (which meant he wasn’t on camera, which meant he didn’t need to be there) just so Rachel Weisz would have someone to interact with as she said her lines. Keanu Reeves has made millions of dollars and while I am sure he knows that he is a movie start, he certainly doesn’t act like one. When one of background people got bumped up and was given a line in the scene, Reeves was gracious to him throughout it and he never seemed to be above the situation. Other then the main freeway I was to take home being closed, it was a flawless night.
This could not be said about the movie Constantine itself. I was genuinely excited about it. Then I started seeing trailers and then I saw the actual movie. The tale of John Constantine, a man who is sending demons “back to hell” was just too dark for me. Not dark in a subject matter sense, just dark in the sense of how it was shot. It moved slow, I thought the acting was bad, the visual imagery wore me out and at the end of the day I was just happy when this film was over. I like stylized films if there is a decent amount of breather moments. If there is a respite from the bigness of the film. In between the really big moments there were just scenes of what I felt were convoluted dialogue and moodiness for the sake of being moody. I wish I had liked this movie more as I did feel kind of a connection to it. Sadly, that is where my reverence ends.
18 Minutes of Additional Scenes, Including an Alternate Ending
Compromised of 13 extra scenes you have to be a fool if you think this is going to be the only release of this DVD. A movie like Constantine is made for the DVD market. As such, I get the feeling that we are going to be seeing a special edition with a director’s commentary, more deleted scenes, storyboards and whatever else in the next 6-8 months. I found these scenes interesting and I think it’s cool that Director Francis Lawrence did a commentary track over them. In my opinion, I find that the reasons why a specific scene did or did not make it into a movie is many times more interesting then the actual scene itself. Overall, these scenes look really good and for fans of the film they are going to appreciate this little bit of extra effort to make this DVD memorable.
Widescreen Version presented in a “Letterbox” widescreen format preserving the “scope” aspect ratio of it’s original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. Constantine looks great. The visual style seems almost as if this movie was painted into existence. The lack of light does add a very picturesque quality, even if I personally prefer the movies that I screen to be a bit more illuminated. This film feels like a movie. It was made to play on the screen and thrill audiences. So why didn’t I like it more you ask? I just get worn out by all the visuals. Sure this movie looks amazing. It is lush, the scope is huge and in many ways it is the perfect film for the moviegoing experience (and the average moviegoer). However, the imagery and the action just loses me because half the time I am just trying to figure out what is going on. Francis Lawrence has a style that is perfectly suited for these kinds of films, I just hope that he can imbue a bit more substance into them because for the most part this film felt disjointed and cold.
Dolby Digital. English Dolby Surround 5.1. French Dolby Surround 5.1 As usual the sound for this film is big. Really big. So much so that by the end of the movie I just feel like somebody has beaten me up. Maybe that’s the problem? The action scenes are so big, that when things quiet down and they start trying to explain the story, I am too beat up to really get anything out of it. Add to this that Keanu (who I like and I think IS a good actor) talks in almost a whisper throughout the entire film. It’s part of putting across how dark his character is. This is fine, I don’t have a problem with it, but after your senses have been obliterated by an enormous amount of high voltage CGI, it’s really hard to sit back and decipher all this Devil/Religious mumbo jumbo. Make no mistake about it, the sound for the film, even on my crappy TV is top notch. I was able to hear everything fine without having to adjust the levels on my unit. One thing I did appreciate was the ability to turn down the sound when things got a little too out of hand, which is maybe an option that theaters owners might want to consider? Then again, I am not sure that is even possible.
Keanu Reeves, looking like a man on mission, seems to be walking between both heaven and hell. He is armed with holy water and a shotgun that is crafted from a crucifix. While I may not be that huge a fan of this film, this front cover, with it’s solid colors really looks good. The back features another shot of Reeves fighting with some demons in hell. This picture is actually a classic shot from the film that was used in a lot of the TV and print ads I think. There is a small description of the movie, a special features listing, a cast list and some technical specs. Overall, a solid piece a packaging but if I were a huge fan of the film, I am not sure that I would buy this because I think it is definitely going to be rereleased at some point in the future. The fact that Constantine was derived from a Graphic Novel only seems to underscore this idea. There are a bevy of approaches that the DVDs creators can take to make this seem new again.
My biggest problem overall is that I never got the feeling that the characters were taking anything seriously. Especially in the final climatic scene where Keanu is moving away from the devil and he gives him the middle finger, I basically realized that I had been had. I sat through the film expecting it to get better. I hoped something would happen that would make me change the way I was thinking. Sadly, this movie never rose above what the initial trailers made me think it was. There were just too many jokes, too much unneeded action and not enough of a good story for me to make this a film that I can wholeheartedly endorse.
Sorry Richard Corliss from TIME Magazine, Blade Runner this ain't.
Constantine was released February 8, 2005.