"My name's John Constantine, and here I stay: haunted by London. And London, haunted by me."
If you enjoyed the Buffy TV spin off Angel then you should go see Constantine as it plays a lot like an extended episode - better special effects but none of the laughs.
More so, if you've never read Hellblazer, the comic book that the movie is loosely based on, then you're in for a treat. Keanu plays a kind of supernatural detective asked to help out regular police detective Rachel Weisz after her twin sister takes a high-dive off the top of a hospital building into a pool (without waiting for the roof to get out of the way). The plot moves along with a little too much exposition from supporting characters (badly ported from the books), but is littered with some rather good CGI and odds are that if you liked The Matrix then you'll find plenty to enjoy here. Keanu is in slightly-battered Neo mode, calmly shooting demons in the head while worrying about the dark patches on his latest set of x-rays. Weisz is pretty good as the disbelieving cop in over her head (and a lot of water, but you can see that coming every time the poor actress puts on a white shirt). The rest of the cast are ok, but are only really there to give Keanu something to react to. It opens on the 18th and is perfect Friday night film fodder.
Sadly there's another John Constantine movie that was never made and it haunts those of us that are familiar with the books. It's this ghost that refuses to allow us any enjoyment in seeing an Americanisation of a very British, and more importantly, London bound character.
We actually went to two screenings of Constantine - not because we loved the movie and had to see it again and not because we were confused and went a second time to clarify a complicated plot point. We went twice because the first time we walked out after fifteen minutes because no one involved in the movie had bothered to research how to pronounce the lead character's name. Second time around we were more annoyed that any trace of magic had been removed in favour of messy Catholicism which painted the character as a lapsed God-botherer more than the down-at-heel mage that we wanted to see. By the time the 'holy shotgun' had come into play we had just given up, and by the roll of the credits we were already mourning what might have been.
Last year we saw a documentary on Alan Moore at the ICA (Moore created John Constantine) and were treated to brief realisations of some of Moore's most memorable characters. These included a quick shot of a blonde haired, trench-coated figure strolling through Soho surrounded by people burning, but oblivious to flames that only he could see. It captured everything in an instant that was lacking in the Hollywood version. The John Constantine of the books has always remained grounded in a city that is so old it positively weeps ghosts and has as many lost souls amongst the living as it does the dead.
London needs John Constantine and now thanks to Hollywood we can see what a shadow he becomes when cut off from his home.
The quote at the top of this post comes from the Hellblazer story Haunted by Warren Ellis.
For the record the name is pronounced Constantyne