Although it hasn’t been shown in very many sectors of the world yet, the long awaited Constantine series that is to premiere on the American network NBC is now out there. Well, a pilot episode is, so we can sort of see where they’re going with it. And if I had to pick one word, as a long time Constantine and Hellblazer fan, to describe it, I would use… Underwhelming…
The events of the pilot are fairly generic: John Constantine approaches a young woman who has supernatural abilities, he explains to her the world unseen, and helps her in solving the mystery of several supernatural, demonic murders. What is important to try and take away from this more is how well they captured the tone of the comic and of Constantine himself, and in many ways; I feel they failed in that.
I think the problem is that they tried to play too “safe” with the material, which is understandable given how horrifying some of it was originally. But to make it safe is to miss the point, the series works precisely because of how really horrific and unsettling it was. And this is very unusual for a network that allows Hannibal to become a big feature on it, which as we know also deals with some pretty terrible subject matter.
As a result, Constantine himself is also too flat and unimpressive as a character. In the comic, he really was a true anti-hero: someone who would do the right thing, but who would make a lot of mistakes and would also be hilariously unpleasant to deal with during the events he was involved. He was, in many ways that count, actually kind of an a**hole. And that was the basis of his character. In the show, he seems to have become an almost omnipotent force of mysticism and power, like a cockney exorcistic Yoda to other characters. And that is kind of a shame for a character who has had a lot of personal trauma and growth occur over time.
I will maybe try another episode of Constantine when it’s released, but this one didn’t do much for me. It’s better than Keanu Reeves ten years ago, but that’s not saying much.