I openly admit – I like the film version of “Constantine” with Keanu Reeves in the lead role. To me, brother Keanu is a cool guy and a good actor (he was even before all this recent craze, which I’ve dubbed “Keanumania”). I can always watch his movies.
But again, many criticized that his version of Constantine didn’t have that comic book vibe.
So today, let’s focus on the “Constantine” TV series.
In this (TV series) version, John Constantine, our demon hunter, exorcist (and, uh, devil expeller), and a man who likes to dabble in the occult, tries to recover from a failed exorcism, which resulted in a girl losing her life and his soul becoming cursed (an event known as the “Liverpool Incident”).
Although trying to recover in, well, a mental institution (voluntarily), there’s no rest for John! The “Rising Darkness” is “something” spreading across the Earth, granting ordinary people and those who play with the occult supernatural powers (or enhancing existing ones), thereby “poisoning” them and slowly turning them to the dark side (often without their awareness).
Then, suddenly, a mysterious angel, Manny, appears and offers Constantine a chance for redemption if he continues his fight against dark forces.
And so our Johnny (we can call him JC or JoCo if you prefer 😀) embarks on a new detective-occult adventure, visiting locations where supernatural events occur, while trying to uncover who is behind the “Rising Darkness.”
He’s assisted by his long-time friend, the good-natured driver Chas (who, for some reason, always comes back to life… you’ll find out why I said this if you watch the series), and the newcomer to the team, the lovely and sexy Zed, who often has visions she can (literally) paint at great speed. Occasionally, Manny also appears (who irritates Constantine more than he is helpful).
In certain situations, John is assisted by some other friends from the past (who distanced themselves after the “Liverpool Incident”, and some of whom John deliberately pushed away).
Now, let’s get into more specific details about the series…
I really have no complaints about the acting. The series’ lead is Matt Ryan (John Constantine), who, according to comments from fans of the comic book version of the same character, was born for this role, and I think they are absolutely right. This version of John Constantine is a cunning, cheeky, sly, charming scoundrel with a big heart, who actually cares deeply about people, especially friends (though he shows it in odd ways). He is quite raw, sarcastic, cynical, bitter, sometimes very harsh, but there are also moments when you see how vulnerable he is, and how heavy and painful a burden he carries on his shoulders, and in his soul.
His enemies come from a diverse (mythological-religious) folklore, ranging from demons, ghosts, the undead, fallen angels, to witches and voodoo priests.
And against all of them, JoCo primarily fights with his cunning and magic. Jackie possesses vast knowledge of the supernatural, quickly figures out his opponents, and manages to outsmart them (although, given JoCo’s character, better terms would be “outplay” or “outwit”). Whenever you think of the English word (adjective) cunning, you’re actually thinking of John Constantine.
The magic is a story in itself. However, many will be disappointed if they expect a visual-magical spectacle like “Doctor Strange,” as JoCo prefers to rely on his occult knowledge, the use of (quite interesting) ritual artifacts, as well as deceits and “magician’s” tricks. I think fans will appreciate this.
My friendly advice is to do a little googling about John Constantine to better understand the complexity of this character. I think then you’ll understand why the series did a solid job presenting magic here.
But I would like to explain the character of John Constantine in a few words.
Yes, he’s a heavy drinker and smokes like a chimney, tends to get into fights here and there, and often behaves like an unsocial person and an idiot. But, he is also a genius. A master of magic and the occult. He rarely uses magic (prefers tricks) because he defeats his opponents with cunning and manipulation. I mean, how many (fictional) characters do you know who have manipulated and tricked the Lords of Hell (with a big L and big H)?! And why would such a man rely on magic? Even the greatest magicians admit they wouldn’t want JoCo as an opponent. And he is also a man who has the favor of some angels!
So, when everything’s so great, where did this series “fall”? Yes, “fall”, because it was canceled after one season. It’s hard to say. Maybe the series had a bit of a slow pace, and it’s not like there were any well-known good or bad guys (except Papa Midnite).
But, I think this series deserved more chances and more time. When you have a complex (and complicated anti)hero like John Constantine, you simply must give time for the character to “develop” in the series. I somehow believe that this series would have shown its full potential in the 2nd or 3rd season and that it would have been worth the wait.
Matt Ryan has shown his talent. His John Constantine guest-starred in the series “Arrow,” and later in “Legends of Tomorrow,” as well as in excellent animated films.
And that says something, doesn’t it?
And imagine if he had also met this Lucifer? Wow, that would have been a spectacle!
And you, dear reader, what are your impressions of this series? 🙂
(Originally reviewed: 06/10/2019)
Release date: 2014
Number of seasons: 1 (13 episodes)
Average duration of an episode: 45 minutes