I can not understand what is so hard about John Constantine that filmmakers can't seem to get the vision correct when it comes to film or most recently TV. I really don't get it, because to me it seems like such an easy concept. I wrote an article shortly before the show came out stating things that the show Must Have, and even excitedly reviewed the first Episode. They try to make him out as if he is some sort of witch doctor with a bag of tricks - he goes off into the nether that is the world and solves crimes of the spirit like some sort of long lost Scooby-doo gang member. The cast is clean and shiny, the scope is clean with a film of sepia like glow on everything, his clothes are perfect and clean, the lighting is light and almost remenicant of a fuckin sitcom. Why is it so hard to see what is going wrong with all of this??
When I was 17 I picked up a comic called Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits and it changed my life. It was my first antihero comic book. I was introduced not to a superhero, not even to a hero really, but a sharp tongued magician with a wit so strong he could out-wit the devil, a dress sense better than any noir classic detective, and on top of it all he used occult magic to battle both dark and light sides as he shows a atheistic disdain for both. He walked alone, truly, damned to hell just for knowing Heaven and hell were real and for his past sins. In the comic he was dying, so getting to see him in action didn't really happen that often, but when it did it was some serious shit. He tricks the devil into healing him of lung cancer. Does he do it by sacrificing himself like in the movie? Fuck no he doesn't! He draws some summoning circles, gets the lords of hell to deal for his soul one by one, and then creates a situation where the devil can either let him die and throw hell into war or heal him to prevent it all. It's perfect and a perfect illustration of the character, because once he is healed he gets back up, throws on his coat, lights a cigarette, and gives them the finger... That my friends is John Constantine: a crass, witty, smoking, noir magician with ZERO fucks to give about anything but keeping himself alive and making it into heaven on his wits alone. He doesn't quit smoking, hell no, he keeps it up because he knows what the game is about and how to play it. Being a grandfather is not in the works for John, and he knows it. He lives to be a thorn in the side of the supernatural, both good and bad. That's the Constantine I want to see, but for some reason everyone inside NBC grew up on shitty TV and turned Constantine into some sort of TV show more akin to "The Spiritual Adventures of Young Nash Bridges" where Cheech is replaced by a very confusing version of Constantine's driver/friend Chas.
One of the big mistakes I see them making, besides giving him a fucking hide out (What the fuck?!?), is the fact the story structure is so old and not Constantine's style it blows my fucking mind. Right now it is as follows:
>Constantine is doing A
>Message arrives about B
>Constantine stops A to go do B
>Constantine builds his bag of tricks (WHAT THE FUCK, IS HE FELIX THE FUCKING CAT?!?!?!?)
>Constantine leaves to go do B with Bag
>Constantine gets in trouble and is rescued by a lesser character, as if its is his first day on the job.
>Constantine regroups and remembers A
>Constantine solves the mystery of B with the help of the info from A
>Constantine gets a drink and thinks about cigarettes
It is like that almost every fu...cking episode. "But BJ, What about the overall storyline?? What, an evil is coming?" How many times has that been used in a supernatural TV show? Granted it is used in the comics, but when they say it you know it is a for real threat and is taken as seriously. Not shoved to the back like some independent narrative that is only present to be convenient later.
Also when it comes to the story, Constantine should be the side-main character, that is the only way I can describe it really. The story should be going on, whatever evil is trying to push through should be happening in a town or village or whatever. Then out of no where, in the back of the smokey bar, a crass English voice should be heard. Then he should be challenged in some way. After he shows his face the storyline should continue and Constantine should be somewhere in the background. Like an anthology series with a connecting factor, Constantine should come in and throw the fuck down out of nowhere instead of being the center piece of the narrative. That's because it is his roots. Should we follow at times, yes, and there should definitely be a voice throughout voicing over the episode that is John's voice. It would be magical for it to be more like this:
>People of Smallville are having an issue with A, you get some main characters from Smallville who you follow here and there
>Whomever is in town doing A hears about something coming its way to challenge it (i.e. Constantine)
>People of Smallville are scared and banding together to figure out what to do about A
>Out of no where Constantine speaks up about what they should do and is challenged by the people of Smallville
>Constantine proves he should not be fucked with and learns a little more about A
>The main characters from Smallville try and fix the problem or investigate and run into Constantine who does some ritual shit that he does not explain and freaks them the hell out and he fights A
>Constantine has to stop, either because the thing got away or one of the people is going to be hurt or gets hurt while he is fighting
> Constantine helps the person or tracks down the escaping A
> Constantine has a final showdown with A, small things about the overall storyline of the coming evil are sprinkled in here and there but not explain
> Constantine wins and keeps on going, as the main characters of Smallville comment on who/what he actually was.
Its so much simpler this way, and would be super creative for the writers. Plus there wouldn't be any other real starring characters. Chas could go back to being in there here and again, and John could just wander Kung Fu style into supernatural pearl. Storylines already present that Constantine is thrown into by his ability to be around when weird shit goes down. In the comic he could not escape it, and eventually embraced his aptitude for being in the wrong place at the right time. You get to have a kickass show with weird shit happening in each episode, and a mysterious main character who throws down with gods as far as the normal populace is concerned. If you go into him having a hideout, a bag of tricks, and go around explaining his method you reduce the mystery all the way down to nil and are left with a supernatural Felix the fucking human who hates cats and needs help from some dog-like scooby character to save his shaggy ass again and again. It is saddening, because the spirits and demons should be afraid of Constantine and not the other way around - unless its the First of the Fallen, in which case they have never seen eye-to-eye. Instead though it looks like we are presented with John getting scared or into trouble and having someone bail him out. He walks alone damn it, being bailed out doesn't help anyone but bankers.
As far as the production goes, it is way too clean. Everyone's clothes look as if that was their first time wearing them - to the point they all look fake. Yes I know, it is a TV show, but come on and put a little time in making it look like the clothe's, car's, and black occult magic actually belongs there. An example would be each time Constantine draws a summoning circle with alchemy symbols throughout. The thing about it is, as seen in the very first episode, they are too perfect. In the episode I mentioned he draws a giant circle on the top of parking garage, and as much as this is not out of Constantine's depth, the fact that it is a perfect circle bothers me, and someone had to okay it. I don't give a shit how many magic books you read growing up, none of that would help you draw the impossible - yet he does it and marks a 50 ft circle, complete with perfect symmetry and symbol's throughout. That's the thing they are missing in the occult concepts they have for the show, it's blatant cleanliness. Occultism is dirty, scribed in dark places, and never perfect - pick up any book on the subject and you will see what I mean. Even more, the origin of Constantine's power is not in the spells he knows, I am sure he knows quite a few, but in the fact that he knows what it takes to do real magic - and it has nothing to do with dancing around, chalk, or a special goblet to capture a spirit inside. It has to do with will power, and yes words help, but he knows the nature of magic lies in will power and most of the other things (i.e. candles, dancing, magic beans, etc) are all just for show. Magic is supposed to be mysterious man - dark and gritty - filled with knowledge and secrets only a few should or can know without going totally insane. John Constantine just happens to be one of the few. They need to preserve that, because that is where the true power of the character lies, both within his mystery and as a mystery in his self.
When it comes to the to the other characters i really do not have much to say. I feel like the female lead that the show started out with was only there because they lazily wanted dialogue to explain John and what he does. Fodder for the plot to build off of, and that was soo very shitty. I was glad when they got rid of her, because just like in the movie the female lead served no purpose other than to intro Constantine, and to me that does a disservice to the whole script. Why introduce characters for that purpose unless your to lazy to trust the audience to follow along with the story and leave the shit John can do in the wind unless absolutely needing to explain it for the sake of the development of the character or complicated plot? Instead they put an ignorant person who needs their hand held through the storyline so the audience can follow along and all be on the same page. Fuck that makes me gag, because unless the main character is the center of this ignorance it makes the dialogue tired and boring instead of witty and enigmatic. I would go into what they did to Chas, making a killable character, again only for convenience it seems, but fuck it I don't have the finger strength. Just know that I believe that to be bullshit as well, and still tries to make Constantine into something he is not - which is into a Adam West-like superhero who fights crime.
Manny, the unhelpful Angel is played by an actor I really like. The thing is though, in the comic the Angels are way shittier beings. Both Angel and Demon are illustrated in extremes of Good and Evil, and in the comic they are much less likable because they do not give two shits about humans except as sheep, and the demons only like us monkey's because they get to torture the shit out of them later. A fact the God in this universe is okay with, because to him it is a game. The fact is, Angels are just looking out for their interests and they are interested only in seeing what they can get out of humans. They are MPC's, and hide behind a vale of righteousness that borders on megalomania. In the shows version there is a hint of that self righteousness, but not enough of it. Manny seems to border between this ideal and one of the divine from "Touched by an Angel". I just want them to go hard in the paint here, because it is an alignment of character that is unshakable. Angels are "Neutral Good" while the demons are "Neutral Evil", and Constantine is the hard middle: "Chaotic Neutral". I know I am using D&D alignment systems, but who can argue with that line of thinking? The audience should see the extremes of both good and evil, so as to perceive that Constantine might be a bastard but he is the only one really giving humanity a chance in this struggle between good and evil that they were born into and are looked on as pawns. Constantine is the pawn that rallied all other pawns, rolled off the board, and is hated by the fat chess player who can't seem to get his chubby hands on his piece and place him back on the board under his control, no matter how hard he strains. Constantine is an island, an anomaly within a game of Gods, and the only person who can have this knowledge and laugh in their face no matter how much they promise eternal pain and torment.
I just want to see the show do better, and the last episode sort of gave me a glimmer of hope, but my narcissism will not let me enjoy it really. Matt Ryan was a grand choice, and they even had Goyer get in there and write a bit, but they are really missing that shadowy mystery of a Garth Ennis kick to them that the comics had/have. That darkness and mystery that entangles you into trusting where it is headed. With a pull of questions and a reason to root for the bastard. John Constantine is not perfect, but he is a great character if they delved into his spirit a little more it just might show itself. Who knows, but if the show IS really canceled... well, maybe next time someone with some vision will pick it up in the future. He is apart of the New 52 now, so at least I will be able to follow him into DC's dark cabal of a supernatural universe. So i shouldn't miss out on much, but I will tell ya - until it happens I will always wonder how cool it would be to see a character I enjoy so much be presented in a visual medium with the gravitas he holds in the comics.
THANKS FOR READING!!!!!
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