TV review: "Constantine"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As comic books and graphic novels become more ubiquitous as fodder for movie and television adaptations, it seems only reasonable that DC Comics/Vertigo’s “Constantine” would be one. John Constantine (played appropriately by Welsh actor Matt Ryan) is, simply put, an antihero, an archetype television just loves to get in bed with — even if the result is often predictable and disappointing.

Some may remember Keanu Reeves’ “Constantine” movie — or not, as it was completely forgettable — and associate the new NBC series with such. That would be a kind correlation, given the structure and storytelling of the pilot.

John Constantine is a jack-of-all-evil-trades, or “Master of the Dark Arts,” as is pointed out by his business card, which is referenced repeatedly throughout the episode. Constantine is a man stuck in the middle of the battle between good and evil, God and the devil, as it plays out on Earth.

The odd part is, despite certain redundancies — like said business card and visits from angel Manny (Harold Perrineau) — to “hint” at Constantine’s abilities, the audience never gets a full grasp for the Constantine character and his motivations until the pilot’s conclusion.

This is a shame on a couple levels. One, the “Constantine” comics — and the complex, dynamic character — often exceed the simple good vs. evil conflict (when in service of skillful writing). Secondly, good vs. evil can be expanded and explored in incredibly interesting and poignant ways. That doesn’t happen in this network series designed for broad appeal.

The biggest disappointment with “Constantine,” however, is that I want to like it. This is a great cast with good performances from Ryan, Perrineau, the always jittery-fantastic Jeremy Davies and Charles Halford (aka Reggie Ledoux from “True Detective”). It’s also purloining from a rightly beloved source, and doesn’t do it justice.

I hope “Constantine” greatly improves. Worthwhile parts are in place; the show’s just executed with the utmost incompetence. Fans of the “Constantine” comics will be interested and see the underpinnings of hope, but will, ultimately, be sorely disappointed by this pilot.

Photo courtesy of NBC Universal


10 p.m. Fridays on NBC

1.5 stars