Constantine: City of Demons: The Movie
Constantine: City of Demons: The Movie 2018
I’m still playing catch up with the past couple years of superhero movies and this is the third webseries turned movie that debuted on CW Seed after Vixen and Freedom Fighters: The Ray, the latter of which I still have yet to watch. I liked the Keanu Reeves version of Constantine but I really loved the Matt Ryan version despite the fact that it only lasted a single season and I’m glad that he’s been able to continue the role in the animated movies and Legends of Tomorrow. And while this doesn’t completely fall in line with the live action series, it still has the same feeling to it. The movie falls right in line with the spirit of the TV series version but it dials up the gore several notches to some pretty extreme levels. And what this really does is make the importance of the decisions that Constantine has to make that much more impactful.
Here, Constantine is tasked by one of his oldest friends Chas Chandler to save his daughter who has fallen into a demon-induced coma. As the movie goes on, it turns out that this demon is one who has a long history with Constantine and Chas as one involved with the big turning points in their lives when a young girl was lost to a demon in Newcastle. Constantine has to bring in one of his mystical friends to help keep her body safe while he travels to the City of Angels to find and confront this demon to return the girl’s soul to her body.
What’s really the most striking about this film is the violent imagery. There is a scene where Constantine visits the demon Beroul in his lair. Beroul himself is an obese looking demon that appears to be made up of bits of flesh sewn together. He’s also a decadent demon who thrives on violence, agony, and gore. He has a pool filled with body parts that he’s waiting for them to liquefy so he can bathe in the blood and viscera. We’re also privy to his personal torture chamber where various humans are tortured and thrown into a mystical portal to be killed on screen in a semblance of a silent film. Complete with title cards for *scream* and *agonizing scream*. Even during the flashback to the Newcastle scene where we see Beroul’s true form as Nergal, a more traditionally demonic form with horns, wings, and a snake-like body, as he kills a basement full of cult figures and the upstairs concert in many violent ways. He bites heads off, rips limbs, and all of it complete with wide swaths of blood befitting a horror film.
But where these Constantine stories work best are when they’re showing the difficult choices that magic forces you to make. Power comes with a cost, and Constantine is at a point in his life where he has to decide what costs he’s willing to pay and what costs are just too high. He makes a deal with Nergal to destroy several other demons that control parts of LA in exchange for the girl’s soul, and for him to do that he makes his own deal with an ancient god from the Aztec era. He also at one point comes into contact with the spirit of LA herself, a spirit that communicates by possessing various random city dwellers, including at one point a very attractive woman who goes into exposition mode while having sex with Constantine all while changing her form to various city dwellers across time. It’s a little bizarre to say the least. The biggest price does come at the end, and it’s something that fits with Constantine as he has been portrayed in the live-action. He asks someone to pay a very high price without telling them exactly what that price is. In order to destroy Nergal and save Chas’s daughter, he needs to use their love. But in order to use their love for Chas and vice versa, he literally uses it all up so it’s no longer there. More specifically, their memories of Chas as well as Chas’s memory of Constantine added in to put it over the top. It’s a huge price to pay, and one that really only Constantine has to live with afterward.
There is plenty of bizarre elements spread throughout this film, but it’s centered through Constantine himself. Matt Ryan is able to sell a character that sees tiny demonic versions of himself, squishes them to bloody bits all while understanding that they are his inner demons given physical form. And he’s able to do this without making it seem silly. There is a lot to unpack here, but it flows fairly well complete with the different reveals that fleshes out the recurring mentions of Newcastle until we finally get the entire picture and wrap it up at the end. Constantine is the type of character who can be given the choice between destroying a demon or saving the soul of a young girl, and it’s not entirely clear which choice he’s going to make. He’s a very grey area hero and that’s refreshing. The violence was very shocking, but it didn’t quite feel like it was gratuitous. It was something that punctuated the excesses of this demonic presence and showed that Constantine is someone who is able to walk this dark path and not be consumed by it. It’s one of the darkest DC movies that I’ve seen to date, and while it’s definitely not for everyone, it was a fitting continuation to Constantine’s story and worth it to broaden the spectrum of these films. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.