Thursday, February 24, 2005

Constantine - Villainous Heroism in Action!

(Disclaimer - Before anyone has a freaking heart attack, this is a not a movie review per se... This is MY (a writer's) opinion on what worked for me and my theories about why it worked - or didn't.)

An Essay on Character and Motive

CONSTANTINE - WOW! This movie Kicked Ass! I totally LOVED this movie! Wow…oh wow.

The story is that heaven and hell made a bet on who could get Earth – the only rule is, no direct influence. Half-breeds, half-demons and half-angels can walk on earth but no full demons or angels.

In this movie, John Constantine’s personal mission is saving lives by taking out the half-breed demons that interfere with people – for a completely selfish reason.

The movie CONSTANTINE is a Vertigo Comics rip-off of 'HELLBLAZER - Dangerous Habits'. The comic book character’s personal talent of shaping synchronicity – coincidence – to suit him, is utterly missing, and so is the fact that the guy is supposed to be blond and British…

But I don’t care. I LIKE this story. In fact, I like This story Better than the comic's story.

In this version, Constantine is so very Not all that special. He’s pretty much a normal guy with a few fancy toys, a smoking habit that’s literally killing him, a few interesting friends, and a few very interesting enemies. His talent is seeing demons, angels, and the dead – but anyone can see them things if they have died.

“You see them. They see you.”

-- which of course, is what causes all the trouble.

Constantine is presented as a very interesting, and very complex character… Until you discover his motive, and then he’s not quite so complex -- only very, very human.

In this story, it’s not “magic powers” that wins the day, or even faith – but brains and heart.

The climactic ending -- John verses Satan -- is actually quite subtle. It’s not a battle of wills with fighting and such, but a battle of wits. If you don’t pay attention to John’s real motive – which is presented over and over, but never said out loud – you won’t get what actually happened.

I got it.

I sat back in my chair and went: “Damn…! That was better than the book!” Because it was. The movie’s ending was MUCH better because it was deeper. The ending in the movie actually meant more than the same (kind-of) ending presented in the book. For once, Hollywood actually out-did a book! Damn…

There are of course many, many "Hellblazer" purists who will bitch and moan about the book being so much better because the movie had NOTHING what so ever, to do with the book.

Well, they're RIGHT. Other than the characters' names, the movie wasn't anything at all like the book -- not plot, not character, not even location.

That doesn't change the fact that I liked THIS story Better than the one in the book. So, argue away purists. I have a delete key on my email. I'm good.

Character verses - Themselves
CONSTANTINE is very much a “character-driven” movie where a character’s personality (and personal neuroses,) ruled the results of any given crisis.
  • Those that changed and adapted – lived.
  • Those that couldn’t – died.
AND ~ Every character had a Static Trait, a Habit that outlined their individual neuroses.
  • Constantine's static trait was chain-smoking.
  • Angelica used a gun to fix all her problems.
  • Balthazar a half-demon, flipped a coin between his fingers.
  • Gabrial, an angel half-breed, liked to pontificate on how very noble human-kind could be -- if their natural selfishness didn't get in the way.
  • Beeman John's buddy that supplied interesting toys, and hard to find artifacts -- collected bugs.
  • Chas a young cabby, and John's other buddy, wanted to be an exorcist like John, so he was forever trying to follow John into dangerous situations.
  • Father Hennessy, another of John's buddies, was an actual exorcist with a talent for sensing evil - though he couldn't actually see them the way John could -- was an alchoholic.
If they got over their neuroses, their Static Trait changed. It was so cool – a visible sign of a change that had happened within the character.

Of course, only a few people in the whole movie fixed their issues and changed their static trait -- the rest died, regardless of whether they were demonic, angelic, or human.

Heroic Evil and Evil Heroism
In addition to a pet neurosis, just about every character (good and evil) was in role reversal in one way or another – it was So COOL!

  • John Constantine played true middle of the road, but rather than dead neutral – (neither good nor evil) he did Good for evil reasons and Evil for good reasons.
(When John pulled that fast one on both God and the Devil – my jaw dropped. Too bad only about a third of the audience caught what he actually did.)
  • Angelica killed people - to save lives. She was a cop.
  • Chas was a highly educated, complete innocent.
  • Doctor Midnight was a voudun priest who ran a bar that allowed the angelic and the demonic to drink side by side. He was firmly dead neutral and offered his services, and a safe haven - to both a point.
  • Father Hennessy was an exorcist TERRIFIED of demons.
  • And then there was the angel Gabriel -- but that would be telling.
This movie gave me a deeper understanding of how a character's Motive drives their actions. What may LOOK Heroic may not actually BE Heroic, and what may SEEM Villainous, may not BE Villainous.

I LOVE stories like that.

Premise - Good verses Evil?
Not many movies have a strong Premise - a meaning inherent in the story. Constantine did - more so than the comic-book story they took it from.

This was not a story of Heaven and Hell, or even Good and Evil. This was a story that revolved around the human heart and the motive that drives them to act. The movie was constantly weighing a character's Actions against their Intent. (What they DID verses WHY they did it.)

The final answer seemed to be that Good or Evil depended on both the Action and the Intent behind it. Some Actions were unforgivable, no matter the Intent – and some Intents outweigh their Actions!

In Conclusion...
If you want to write about Reversed characters and character Motives, what drives the human heart to act, CONSTANTINE is a MUST SEE. Seriously.

Oh, and there were really cool special effects too. But as far as I’m concerned, those were entirely beside the point.

Morgan Hawke


  1. Wow, I wanted to see this before. Now I HAVE to see it. Thanks for the review.

  2. OMG! Now, I'm not a big Keanu Reeves fan. I thought all the Matrix movies were okay. But the "Constantine" promo interested me from the beginning. I'm a big scaredy-cat though, and didn't want to be having the lovely nightmares that go with. BUT...if the movie is as clever as you say it is...I MUST see it. It sounds great! Learning experience, good movie, and popcorn. Hmmmm... excellent combination.

  3. Hey Chrys,
    CONSTANTINE is not all that much of a horror flick. Not really. Sure there’s some creepy stuff in it, but it’s not gory. Hardly any blood at all. If it gives you nightmares, it won’t be from the “scary” bits.

    On the other hand, those of us that actually deal with the spiritual side of things – WE will have nightmares, because there are some rather scary spiritual truths in this flick. The big one being: “If you can see them, they can see you.”

  4. I haven't wanted to see a movie so much in a long time.

    Maybe you should be a movie reviewer lol lol...and I loved the bit you posted at the beginning. Next to you, I'm just a bitch in training *g*


  5. A Movie reviewer? Are you kidding? Then I'd have to see all kinds of movies I DON'T like. Ewwww!

    As to the opening bit: "My Blog - My Opinion", feel free to steal it. I'm not claiming copyright by any means.

    BTW - Do you have any idea how much time and practice it takes to be this much of a bitch? More than you probably care to devote.)


  6. How would you know if you'd like a movie or not before you see at least a few minutes of it?

  7. You make me feel like such a dopey movie goer! LOL! I don't know if I would have caught all the subtle play happening in the movie. I like to think I would have but...

    Now, though, I'm going to make a point to watch out for it. Hopefully I can make it out tonight to see it.

  8. D -
    - Are you asking: how would I know whether or not I would like a movie just from seeing a few minutes of it," as in from viewing a movie trailer?

    Or are you asking whether or not I can decide if I want to see a movie from not seeing anything at all?

    It goes like this - I know by watching the trailer. If I hear something interesting but have not seen a movie trailer - I go FIND a trailer. The Internet is a WONDERFUL tool!


    Adri -
    - Not everyone is as anal-retentive as I am. Sounds to me like you still know how to enjoy things and take pleasure in them, for their own sake, rather than needing to find a practical Use for them.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking a movie cause the main guy is Hot. (And Keanu is definitely HOT!)

    Morgan Hawke

  9. I love the review. I want to go see it. The Mad Hatter and Sir W have gone already. Darnit. Maybe I can get Fred to take me. WOW, that will be fun. Janie

  10. hey, what about liking a movie because the special effects are hot? ;)

    and oh, forgot about trailers... they say movie critics have a trick, though -- they watch the first five minutes to see if they like it. If they don't like, they set up an alarm and go to sleep and then watch the last five minutes to write about the "lackluster ending"

  11. Hey Dear,

    I'm running dry on material so I guess after I get back to CA, I'll have to go rent this. Thanks btw :)


  12. Waaaay tardy to the party here, but I have to agree with you on this. A friend of mine was a die-hard Hellblazer fan, but the most I could muster was a "meh" for it. It seemed more like a little kid thumbing his nose at things than an actual statement to me.

    But I loved the movie Constantine, which she hated. I loved the ending and the way the writers chose to play it as a brains over brawn battle royale. Smart, subtle movie making, in an action movie no less!