tv preview – NBC’s Constantine

This Fall NBC is presenting us with a television series all about the supernatural, called Constantine. The series is based on the dark and adult Hellblazer comic book run, published by Vertigo, about titular character John Constantine. Constantine, occult detective, conman, magician and exorcist extraordinaire, is an antihero, in this case portrayed by Matt Ryan. Unlike the 2005 Keanu Reeves take on the character, this Constantine is decidedly British, has a devil-may-care attitude instead of the quiet cynicism Reeves brought to the role in a film that’s not held in high regard by the Hellblazer fan base. Complaints regarding its setting and unfaithful take on John Constantine are often lobbed at the Frances Lawrence-directed movie by comic book readers, but the general audience seemed to like it for the most part, thanks to its atmosphere and Reeves’ portrayal. While I really like 2005’s Constantine myself and had been secretly holding out hope for a sequel, I welcomed this new adaptation when it was first announced. A fresh take on a character loved by so many can only be a good thing, I thought, especially over the course of multiple episodes. And then this trailer hit.

This, ladies and gents, is simply not a good trailer. Its pacing is off, tonally it’s a mess and yeah, from 2.25 on it’s just quick cuts of crashes, ‘splosions and firestorms set to a generic and distorted rock song, because nothing screams good TV like a messy and clunky montage like that. Am I nitpicking? Probably, but this trailer makes it very hard for me to judge the material and the talent involved. I can’t get a grasp on what the show is aiming for. Is it supposed to all play serious? Is it tongue in cheek? We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess. Apart from the quality of the trailer itself, the series does look promising. While it’s squarely aimed at people who enjoy shows like Supernatural or the wonderful 90’s show Angel, Constantine has great talent involved that could really give it an edge, its pilot penned by David S. Goyer and directed by Neil Marshall, who’s responsible for The Descent and Game Of Thrones episode ‘Blackwater’, among other things. I hope it dares to be dark, like the Hellblazer series, and not be a cliched case of the week romp that plays closer to John Constantine’s current comics run, simply called Constantine, which basically is about him going on crazy adventures and forgoes the adult tone that made the character and series popular and notorious. While the NBC show does seem to contain some levity in the form of dark humor, the stakes seem to be high from the get-go: an ancient evil returns and our hero, like in the movie, is trying to redeem himself to save his already damned soul. It could make for solid drama and an interesting character arc, if it’s allowed room to breathe. I’m just afraid the big effects (which aren’t that good, to be honest) will takes precedence over a slow-burning character-driven story. Another thing I’m slightly worried about is Matt Ryan’s performance: what we got from him in the trailer seems rather forced and over-the-top, with stereotypical English expressions to boot. But again, this may all make sense put in the proper context, but as of now, the trailer’s made more cautious of the show than excited for it, the opposite of what it’s supposed to do.

 

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