Heaven, Hell and "Constantine"

Feb. 23, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 16 years, 11 months ago

Sunday school meets "The Matrix"

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a self-righteous exorcist attempting to buy his way into heaven in director Francis Lawrence's "Matrix" meets Sunday school horror flick "Constantine." Though from the previews "Constantine" may look like a demonologists' cup of tea, the film, based on the DC/Vertigo comic book "Hellblazer," would satisfy anybody looking for a remedial plot along with a satanic dose of blood, violence and gore.

Following the trend of horror films attempting to rationalize their stories, "Constantine" begins with a reminder that the Spear of Destiny (the blade used by a Roman soldier to kill Jesus) has been lost and whoever finds it can control death. To the world's dismay, the film opens with the spear being found in Mexico.

After about 30 minutes of awkward confusion, Constantine sheds light on the dire situation. God and Satan (Peter Stormare) are gambling over our souls and sending half-angels and half-demons to sway us towards good or evil. Unfortunately, Lucifer's son is attempting to break this balance of kindness and malevolence on Earth by eating through the lovely cop Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz).Reeves, pulling off the self-centered exorcist role almost perfectly, shines in comparison to Weisz's dry, expressionless cop routine. Although some would think that losing a sister would lead to withdrawal and a flood of emotions, Weisz just expresses indifference, as if reading her script for the first time.

The film, however, truly excels with regard to the graphic animation of demons, angels and Hell itself (Los Angeles), created by a 156-member visual effects team. One of the more impressive effects was that of the angel Gabriel's (Tilda Swinton) wings, beautifully rendered in a span of white, black and grey feathers. Demons, such as Balthazar (Gavin Rossdale), were equally impressive but only after Constantine removes their outer layer of skin with the aid of holy water. But it was Hell that sold the show; with the aid of red filters, the sulfuric winds and befouled corpses of the forsaken being carefully torn apart by demons made the Hell sequences a sight of which Dante would be proud.

Quite a few of the film's special effects are also strikingly similar to those of "The Matrix." Stopping time and slowing down movement are recurring themes throughout the movie, while Hell looks a little like the scorched face of the earth depicted in "The Matrix." Even Constantine's suit and black overcoat are somewhat reminiscent of Neo's ensemble in "The Matrix."

Surprisingly, Director of Photography Philippe Rousselot demonstrated that the budget was not all invested in one effect. Many of the shots effectively used lighting to convey the general darkness of the film while highlighting each character's unique, if not bizarre, personality. Unlike many stereotypical terror films, erratic camera movements were used sparingly. Rousselot does, however, seem to have a strange passion for zooming in and out, making Constantine look more and more like Neo.

Although substantive plots and horror flicks do not usually mix, "Constantine" was able to brave two hours without breaking down. Full of intricate special effects, some religious references and the usual gore, "Constantine" is not nearly as horrible as the previews might suggest. Even if you go just to see Los Angeles as a fiery inferno or because you lost your copy of "The Matrix," the movie is worth your time.

"Constantine" (121 minutes) is rated R for violence and demonic images.

Last updated: May 6, 2021, 11:36 p.m.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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