"Constantine": Hellish Fun and Heavenly Extras
Constantine tells the story of irreverent supernatural detective John Constantine, who has literally been to hell and back. When Constantine teams up with skeptical policewoman Angela Dodson to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists in parallel versions of contemporary Los Angeles.
With the movie barely begun, I was already jumping out of my seat. A man gets slammed by a car that comes out of nowhere just minutes after finding a dagger buried in the ground only to stand right back up and continue walking.
Minutes later, a young girl, possessed by a demon, scuttles around on a ceiling in an apartment. Inside this crowded building, Constantine and the tenants rig up a mirror that allows Constantine to tear the demon from the girl’s body, freeing her from its grasp.
These two points in the movie are within minutes of each other and they set the tone for the entire film very well. Though Constantine falters in parts along the way, the conclusion had me smiling.
When I saw this film I hadn’t read the comic, but the trailers made it look like a fun flick, and though about halfway through I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing, I was certainly never bored. The main problem is the story seems just to keep going and never do much. Or so I thought; repeated viewings (I just finished my fourth) reveal an intricate story weaving throughout the film.
Though it may be counterproductive to complain about reviews in a review, this was yet another case where I wish I hadn’t read the reviews prior to seeing the film. The critics trashed the plotline and the acting and compared it to The Matrix. While some of the complaints are valid, a lot seem to be based off the fact that Keanu Reeves starred in two movies that shared similar plotlines (namely there being “one” guy who can stop everything from hitting the fan).
The movie entertained me. In the end, that’s all I ask of movies—to give me a good time. This is a movie I can see myself watching over and over again; it’s not overly complicated and gives off a great popcorn flick feel. I’ll definitely be in line (even if I’m the only one) to see the sequel.
The video quality remains consistent throughout. There’s some grain in the background of most scenes, but it doesn’t dance around and distract. There are also some edging/pixilation during the scenes in Midnite’s bar, due to the intense red contrast from the lighting. Very little compression is noticeable.
Audio is nice and loud. There are a few moments of intensely low dialogue, but that seems to be an acting choice rather than a fault with the DVD. Repeated viewing helped, and of course the simple solution is to turn the volume up.
The DVD edition of Constantine comes in three varieties: two-disc Deluxe Edition (for the fans/movie enthusiasts), single-disc widescreen (for the casual viewer), and single-disc fullscreen (for viewers who don’t know what “fullscreen” means). The only difference in the releases, besides the aspect ratio, is the special features. While the single discs contain only deleted scenes, the double disc adds a couple hours of extra material and an audio commentary. The choice in versions is pretty simple; you just have to decide how important the price point is compared to the special features.
There’s plenty of content on the Deluxe Edition. As with most two-disc sets, the second disc is where the real brunt of the special features is at; the first disc is just the film, film commentary, a music video and movie trailers.
In this case, though, what should have been the biggest special feature resides on the first disc. The feature length commentary with director Francis Lawrence, producer Akiva Goldsmith and screenwriters Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello can be highly entertaining at times, but the screenwriters rarely speak and it seems like Akiva Goldsmith dominates the conversation most of the time. I would have liked to hear more from Francis Lawrence, but instead Akiva Goldsmith rather obnoxiously blurts things throughout the commentary, chiding Lawrence for his artistic and moody shots. Of course, you could tell this was all done in jest; but it got very tiresome after the first thirty minutes. I can’t imagine watching this commentary ever again, despite the few interesting cast anecdotes and scene notes given along the way. For the most part, the same stuff is repeated on here as in the documentaries; you aren’t missing much if you don’t listen to it.
On disc two, we hit all the good stuff. There are ten total documentaries, split into five categories. The themes of these documentaries range from the comic book, to the film crew and visual effects. Multiple Easter eggs are also peppered throughout the second disc, all more of the same documentary stuff that didn’t really fit anywhere else.
All total, you’re looking at over two hours of special features: deleted scenes, documentaries, Easter eggs and another two hours including the commentary. In all, it should take you a day or two to get through, so there’s little to fault in the content department. The quality of the content, however, is debatable.
While this release does have a lot of special features, most of them only cover the technical aspects of the film. I would love to have heard and seen more behind-the-scenes content and more cast interviews. The technical aspects (especially on how the movie’s vision of ‘Hell’ came to be) are enjoyable, but there’s almost too much focus on them.
One of the weirder documentaries was “Constantine Cosmology.” While I’m all for discussing and taking movies more seriously, the man interviewed in this takes it to a whole new level. It’s short and really nothing more than a psychological analysis of the movie and its characters. Some may enjoy it, but for me it seemed to come out of left field and I found myself wondering what I was watching.
“Foresight: The Power of Previsualization” takes us through scenes that were pre-rendered prior to filming. For the most part, these scenes stay true to what we saw in the movie, but a few shots were re-arranged by director Francis Lawrence (who also commentates over this featurette, should you choose to listen).
Eighteen minutes of deleted scenes are the final feature on disc two and all include director commentary. If anything, a lot of these scenes would’ve made the movie feel disjointed; they were deleted for a reason and most of them show it. Also included is an alternate ending, which, as with the deleted scenes, I was glad wasn’t used.
If all of those special features aren’t enough for you, a bonus Hellblazer comic, which reprints three Hellblazer stories and runs 48 pages, is included. The stellar writing and art that I heard so much about in the “Conjuring Constantine” DVD featurette is all here and it’s great to finally get my hands on an issue.
The Deluxe Edition is the way to go for fans of the film. It provides significant insight into the production and most of it was worth the time. While it had fewer cast comments than I would have liked and lacked a poster gallery or production stills, the second disc is still thoroughly enjoyable and fans will love the “Conjuring Constantine” featurette, even if Constantine‘s creator never appeared.
If you’re not a fan, at least give the single disc a rental—despite what the critics say, it’s still an entertaining movie and, after watching every single thing on the 2-disc Deluxe Edition, I stand by that opinion more than ever.
All the various editions of Constantine will be in stores on Tuesday, July 19, 2005.