Even though I have seen this movie before, about the only thing I remembered about it was that it couldn’t be called Hellblazer because it sounded too similar to Hellraiser. Now, I’m not a very religious person, I was raised Christian and went to church every Sunday, and even as a young adult I would go to a weekly church group, though more for the people than the religious aspect. I think a lot of what the church teaches is total nonsense, but there’s a lot to be learned in other ways. I mention that because this movie has a strong relationship to religion, specifically Catholicism. It also approaches it much more closely to Kevin Smith’s Dogma, with a healthy amount of irreverence, but much less comedy. I enjoyed it quite a bit with all the interesting characters.
From what I’ve heard from fans of the original Hellblazer comics, which is set in London rather than LA, Keanu was an odd choice for the character. I generally liked him, though more than ever I noticed his extreme under-emoting that he’s often parodied for. It made John Constantine seem like an emotionally distant character, which was what the filmmakers were going for I believe, so it worked in that respect, but I definitely noticed it more than I have before. He’s someone who can see the angels and demons inhabiting the bodies of the people in this world and using them to manipulate people to do good or bad in order to win their soul in the afterlife. Constantine is also able to exorcise those demons and send them back to hell. He claims that he only gets those that are “breaking the rules”, but that part never seemed very clear.
In fact, a lot of the premise of the movie was quite unclear. In a positive note, it gave the characters a sense of mystery and I got the feeling that all the characters had an interesting background and history with Constantine that we weren’t seeing. On the flipside, it meant that the characters didn’t get that much development time in the actual film. I think the performances made up for most of that. This is especially true with Hennessey, who I mostly just remembered as the fat guy. There are many hints about his character, but it’s left rather vague as to what he’s exactly doing for Constantine, how he’s doing it, and what he actually finds at the end. Where this works out the best is with Djimon Honsou’s Poppa Midnight, the owner of the neutral nightclub haven for demons and angels alike.
The visuals in this movie were great at the time, and for the most part still hold up. The demon forms look a little overly video game-like, but the transition scenes and the angel wings look fantastic. I think the biggest cliche this movie falls into is the romantic subplot with Constantine and the detective. The one thing I do appreciate about it is that the relationship is never really consummated. Like much of the movie, there are hints of it, but it is never fully shown on screen. Often having them get face to face in the precursor to a kiss, but turn away at the last moment.
I think the strongest thing about this movie is the supporting cast. Tilda Swinton is great as the angel Gabriel, I also enjoyed Shia Lebeuf as the inexperienced sidekick/comic relief. Peter Stormare was a blast as his version of Satan himself in an interesting representation full of oily blackness. I was also quite surprised by Gavin Rossdale’s performance as the demon Balthazar. When he was on screen, I knew he looked familiar, but couldn’t place him. And then when I looked him up I realized that he’s the lead singer of Bush. As I mentioned before, I think the biggest downside is that the movie is just too shallow. It touches on the surface of this extremely interesting world, but it never really dips below the surface. Not only that, but it kills off all the interesting characters. That said, I did enjoy the movie quite a bit. It’s fun, with a lot of great characters, and some good action. I just wish it had gotten a little bit deeper into the mythos. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.