High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Hell to Neverland to the Creme de la Creme of the Chessworld: Constantine, Reviewed

M and I have been in a movie-going drought of late. I think we hadn't seen a thing in the theatre since Christmas Day, when we took in Life Aquatic at a theatre packed to "Don't you people have families?' levels. We have remedied this by racing around the city to see three films in four days. You May Now Address me as Street Fabulous Bounce Bounce.

Friday I was stuck trying to do something stupid at CD until well after 8 PM. We turned around and headed out to Crestwood for a showing of Constantine. A short while ago, AKS shared with me that Troy was "at least 47% better than [she] was expecting," even allowing for the fact that there's no freaking way that Brad Pitt kicks Eric Bana's much, MUCH manlier ass without divine intervention. I feel similarly about Constantine.

We at Telecommuniculturey have a pretty high tolerance for most crappy movies, particularly of the action variety, so long as they don't contain actors on my "Will Not See" list (M has little shame; I can't think of anyone on his list). I think I could honestly be true neutral to Keanu if it weren't for (a) Much Ado About Nothing and (b) the large chunk of the American public that thinks The Matrix movies were deep. So I didn't have either of the two mental blocks that could ruin this movie: (1) Strong anti-Keanu prejudice or (2) any knowledge of the Hellblazer comics. This zen-like state of detachment freed me up to enjoy Constantine.

The script could've used a rewrite and an edit. I can't think of much excuse for this movie to be 2 hrs and 21 minutes, nor can I think of a reason to open with the recovery of the Plot Device (and 'tis a an extremely shop worn Plot Device) and then keep the Plot Device off the screen for upwards of an hour until its thoroughly gone from the viewers' minds (but not gone enough to prevent some "Hey, why isn't it doing that thing anymore?!"). Some things are painfully overexplained, and other plot lines are left to dangle. I also get the feeling that they wanted to include a number of elements that would resonate with the comic fans, but didn't explain or integrate them enough for the casual viewer. I don't think the story's going to set the world on fire with its original take on faith vs. works, free will, neutrality, balance, and the like, but it still has some good genuinely ponderable moments (and I'm counting on the RevD to wring some meaning out of it, too).

Other than Keanu, the casting ranges from solid to inspired. I'd rather watch Rachel Weisz than any of the Jessicas or Jennifers who routinely soil action movies these days (though she could've used more help with the accent) and Tilda Swinton was absolutely perfect for Gabriel. And, frankly, the entire movie is worth it just to see who they've cast as Lucifer. Oh, the cabby kid was pretty dreadful, and we both would have cut him out entirely to save about 20 minutes, but the rest of Constantine's Scooby gang was both well cast and under-used.

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