DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/14/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/14/2008
Anti-heroes have always been popular in fiction, and recently we've seen a trend of these characters whose sole mission is to battle the supernatural. In Blade, Hellboy, and the TV showSupernatural, we see these often anti-social people battle baddies from the dark side. (Although, to be fair, Sam and Dean from Supernatural are probably too nice to be considered anti-heroes, despite the fact that they break the law from time-to-time.) It almost seems that the less likable these characters are, the more that we like them. Fresh from his roles in The Matrix films, Keanu Reeves stepped into the shoes of Constantine, who may be one of the darkest anti-heroes of them all.
The title Constantine refers to John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), a man who lives in Los Angeles and battles the forces of evil. As is performing exorcisms and knowing that all of demons in hell hate him isn't stressful enough, Constantine must contend with a pesky assistant (Shia LaBeouf) and the fact that he has lung cancer. He must contend with the fact that supernatural beings, such as the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) are always bothering him. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstance, LAPD officer Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) seeks the help of Constantine. By using this information, and investigating some other odd occurrences around town, Constantine is able to deduce that the rules between God and Satan, which prohibit demons from coming to Earth, have been broken and that something awful is about to invade our world.
Constantine is an odd film which, like the title character, walks in two worlds. On the one hand, the movie looks like the reported $100 million production that it is. But, on the other hand, the film is so unusual at times, that one thinks, "A major studio released this?"
This is a very dark film, and I'm not just talking about the production design. Again, this was a gutsy project for big-budget movie, and I don't know if Warner should be applauded or chastised for greenlighting a film where the "hero" is a chain-smoking exorcist who is doomed to go to hell. Keanu Reeves fans may be shocked at just how dark John Constantine is and there's little levity in the film. Instead, we get a nearly indecipherable plot about heaven and hell, angels and demons. Several of the main characters die, suicide is discussed, and to say that Constantine is an a*%hole at times would be putting it lightly. The movie almost dares us to like it at times.
But, if one can look past all of that (and it's not easy), Constantine reveals itself to be an interesting dark action movie. Music video director Francis Lawrence makes his feature film debut here, and as much as people cringe at the title "music video director", he fills the movie with strong visuals. I'm not sure that I completely understood the film's finale, but there was a lot to like as far as what was happening on-screen. Again, the big-budget shows here, and it's clear that the filmmakers did their best to put all of the crazy ideas from the script onto the screen. All of the action scenes in the film work and the unique designs of the angels and demons must be applauded. Heck, the movie is worth seeing for the scene in which Angela is abducted.
I saw Constantine when it first hit DVD and the only thing that I remembered was the scene with the cat (which is still my favorite scene). I'm glad that I gave the movie a second chance, as it's much better than I remembered. The movie is challenging to watch at times, as it's quite bleak, but the action scenes are well done and there are some fantastic shots in the film. Having seen it again, and putting together the pieces from the finale (and the scene after the credits), I can't help but think that it's a shame that we probably won't see Constantine II.
Constantine sprays Holy Water all overBlu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 15 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a mild amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The image is very well-balanced, as it's never overly dark or bright. As noted above, this is a dark movie, but this transfer handles that darkness well and the action is always visible. The colors which occasionally appear in this darkness look good and the image has a nice level of detail. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.4 Mbps. This may be one of the best Dolby TrueHD tracks that I've heard on a film which isn't a new release. The stereo and surround sound effects are very impressive, as is the bass response. The stereo effects are very detailed and the speaker separation is notable. The surround effects really punctuate the action scenes, such as the when the flying demons attack. As they fly across the screen, the sound goes from the front channels to the rear speakers. The action scenes also bring us a nice amount of subwoofer action. Overall, a nice transfer.
The Constantine Blu-ray Disc contains a wealth of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Akiva Goldsman. We then have a second AUDIO COMMENTARY with Screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank A. Cappello. The Blu-ray features an "In-Movie Experience" which offers picture-in-picture pop-ups where we see behind-the-scene info on the making of the film. (This is relatively scene-specific.) "Channeling Constantine" (8 minutes) examines the film's cast and their characters. "Conuring Constantine" (16 minutes) explores the comic book world of Hellblazer and features many comic panels and comments from comic writers. Francis Lawrence talks about his experiences on his feature film debut in "Director's Confessional" (6 minutes). "Collision with Evil" (5 minutes) explores the effects and stunts of the opening scene. Constantine's weapons are highlighted in "Holy Relics" (8 minutes). We see how one of the final fight scenes was planned in "Shotgun Shootout" (2 minutes). "Hellscape" (12 minutes) shows us how the scenes in hell were created. The creation of the bug/snake creature which attacks Constantine is uncovered in "Visualizing Vermin" (10 minutes). "Warrior Wings" (3 minutes) shows us how the angel wings were made and manipulated. The scene where Angela is dragged through the building is examined in "Unholy Abduction" (6 minutes). We see how the special effects makeup was applied to Gavin Rossdale in "Demon Face" (2 minutes). Phil Cousineau discusses the symbolism of the film in "Constantine's Cosmology" (5 minutes). Francis Lawrence discuss the use of animatics in "Foresight: The Power of Pre-Visualization" (14 minutes). Screenwriter Cappello comments on the script in "A Writer's Vision" (1 minute). The Disc contains 14 DELETED SCENES which run about 18 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Lawrence. Some of these are alternate scenes or extended scenes, but some of the new moments are interesting. A MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Passive" by A Perfect Circle is included here. The extras are rounded out by a TEASER TRAILER and a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long