While The Flash started off the preview pilot screenings, NBC's Constantine closed it out (with an unaired episode of Teen Titans in-between). The TV pilot is based on one of the popular on-going comic book series of the same name from Vertigo Comics that has a strong and loyal fan base. While the film adaptation of Constantine - with Keanu Reeves playing John Constantine and played by Matt Ryan on the TV show - was a moderate hit film, it was also savaged by critics in 2005. [Constantine](movie:874314)'s story is long and complex, and was not really suited for the big screen, but supposedly fits for the small. That's the key word there, "supposedly."
Simply put, the TV pilot is weak. The story of Constantine is really complex and almost convoluted, but works better as a comic book series where a reader could take their time with the story, rather than being thrown in directly. The pilot starts out with our titular character in a mental institution. It's eerily inviting and almost engaging, but once the pilot's exposition kicks in, you soon realize that almost all of the pilots dialogue is expository. Constantine is not inviting and almost intrusive with its limp characters and hard-to-follow story.
It really seems that if you're not familiar with the source material, then you'll be lost throughout the whole pilot episode. And when you do catch on to what's going on, it just doesn't seem as important and urgent as it should be. Keep in mind, the pilot centers on the fate of the world.
While John Constantine also appears to have been through this all before, his female companion Liv Aberdine, played by Lucy Griffiths, seems that she could care less. Griffiths has the same reaction to seeing the most bizarre things like her friend returning from the dead, after crashing a van into her office, as she does to spilled milk. It's a terrible case of miscasting and with the latest news surrounding Constantine, it sounds as if her character was dropped and replaced with a new character and actress.
Actor Harold Perrineau shows up every now and again to serve the plot as Constantine's guardian angel of sorts, but feels so tacked on and not as organic as a story should unfold. In fact, a lot of the Constantine pilot feels unnatural. Considering the re-casting on the series, it might give Constantine an added boast or depth. While watching the series in its current state, I just feel lost and detached from the story and characters. That said, Matt Ryan, who plays John Constantine, does a fine job playing dark and mysterious, while at the same time the role with some humor. I'm just afraid that would get lost with almost everything surround the pilot.
While Constantine might appeal to hardcore and casual fans of the comic book, it's hard to fully recommend it to someone without any pre-existing knowledge of the source material. The pilot doesn't serve the general public in that respect and it's overly complicated narrative might turn someone off looking for something either more engaging or something easy to manage.