Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Superhero Media: Constantine (2014)

The Hellblazer comics are something of a masterwork in urban horror and mysticism. Penned over the years by some of the best comic writers to come out of the UK, Hellblazer is a unique beast that sits best in the Vertigo line, just outside the world populated by Green Lanterns, the Suicide Squad and Lex Luthor. The protagonist, John Constantine, also works best operating out of England, as the "fish out of water" element of a Brit in the USA tends to be distracting, putting a larger focus on the hilarity of British slang and idiosyncrasies that seem "odd" to Americans. So once again, the chosen adaptation places John in the USA to fight monsters and do some magic. The problems with this approach are not merely cultural, John really should be swearing and chain-smoking, which are big problems on American television and there is also a sense of a divine plan and a loving god, something else typically missing from the pages of Hellblazer. So it seems, once again, we're looking at an American take on a British classic. 

In it's favour, Constantine is well cast. Matt Ryan seems pretty much born for the role, carrying the programme in many places where the writing and effects let it down. It sounds a tad backhanded, but Ryan seems to be doing the best he can with the material he's given; I'm keen to see what his appearance in Arrow is like and how that gels with the brooding, shirtless, buff guy patrol. I'm in two minds about the inclusion of broader DCU elements, such as Felix Faust and Doctor Fate's helmet. On one hand, I like the idea of heroes being part of a whole world, rather than an isolated, "chosen" few. On the other hand, John always seems a bit out of step with the rest of the DCU. I can not really, for example, picture him in the Champions of Tomorrow or a Justice League variant. It's like having the X-men fight Dracula, sure they're in the same universe, but the tone is so off, it fails to "feel" right.  
I should probably talk about the programme at some point, right? It's ok. About on par with the first season of Supernatural. I can't say I'm disappointed that it wasn't renewed, but I would have watched more of it. The third episode "The Devil's Vinyl", is worth checking out, featuring an infernal Robert Johnson recording and Constantine blasting Sex Pistols and shouting "Gimme some juice, Johnny!" as a battle-cry. Makes the music nerd in me very happy. One of those oddities where less familiarity with the comics will make for more enjoyment. 

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