written by Omar Castillon (@omar_castillon)
Demons, exorcists, and a psychiatric facility make up the first few minutes of one of DC comics’ unique characters, John Constantine. He volunteers himself to be electrocuted for his own sanity and to cope with the death of one of his botched exorcisms. Right off the bat, it’s one of those series that doesn’t hold many punches for network television.
Based on the comic series Hellblazer, Constantine is one more DC franchise that has hit the airwaves this fall season. The big question though is if it really fits in to primetime television or if it is just another shot in the dark for DC to try to reach out to another demographic. To be perfectly honest, this was a bit disappointing for a pilot and better yet for a DC show.
Let’s start with the positive stuff and work our way to what was the problem. The atmosphere in the world of Constantine is eerie. From Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility to the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, this world is rich with a grim look at both the spirit world and the real world. The few jump scares that it attempted to pull off worked pretty well. There is one scene in the middle of the episode where Liv Aberdeen (Lucy Griffiths), who is related to someone John Constantine knew during his active time as an exorcist, has a neighbor that is attacked by a demon by flickering the lights and then a flash of a demon eye pops up on her monitor and moments later she is found dead. Don’t worry, the neighbor isn’t really important. John Constantine himself is well cast by actor Matt Ryan embodying the sarcastic yet confident attitude the character carries throughout the series. Just seeing Constantine strut around in his detective coat and no nonsense swagger make him a great sell for the series. Adding on to the atmosphere is the occult symbolism and idea of an exorcist on primetime television is a nice aesthetic. In a time where vampires, witches, zombies and werewolves take center stage, it’s good to see a little bit of love to the occult. Although there is Supernatural for the occult fix as well as Grimm, but one more couldn’t hurt.
Unfortunately there is a big problem in the form of the writing in the episode. It does start with narration which one would think would add clarification of what is going on. That’s not the case since Constantine only uses it in the beginning and in the end. It’s fine to add a little bit of exposition to set up how the world is going to work, but since this is a universe that not many people know or understand, a lot of the dialogue sounds like exposition. This slows down the pacing of the episode since there is a whole process with explaining both Liv and the audience what is going on with both the demons and Constantine as a whole. Again I know this is just a pilot episode and hopefully there is more depth to the characters in the writing but as of now, Constantine’s presence is the one good thing that kept me tuned in to the show.
Special effects should have a little more leeway in television and there are always budgets that studios have to compromise with in the end. That being said the first exorcism scene where Constantine is still at the psychiatric facility did look a bit rough. The constant camera movement and the laughable head twitching were difficult to watch. Not because it was scary, but just because it looked rushed production wise. I do commend the scene closer to the end where he does fight with the demon that is tormenting Liv throughout the episode. Also who doesn’t like crazy fire effects to ward off demons?
Overall, if you are a fan of the Hellblazer series or just want to see a different take on the John Constantine character (remember that Keanu Reeves was also John Constantine in a movie by the same name as the show) then by all means check the show out. It’s not the greatest DC show out there, but it has potential to improve on what it’s trying to accomplish. From what the post credits scenes show, it looks like there are better things to come for Constantine and hopefully better storytelling that isn’t filled with exposition.