I should say from the start that I am not a John Constantine die hard fan. In fact, until Justice League Dark, I really wasn’t terribly familiar with the character. I knew of him, but that was really about it.
When I heard NBC planned to air a show using the character, I got excited. When the first photograph arrived featuring Matt Ryan bedecked in the brown trench coat, loose tie, and disheveled white shirt, I got even more excited. It appeared as though NBC took this effort seriously.
I’ve watched the show from the start, and though I’ve had an opinion about it for a long time, I wanted to keep watching and keep watching before I voiced that opinion. We’re now at January 28th, and I think the show has probably found its identity as much as it can for this first season.
I first want to say that Matt Ryan, in my opinion, is perfect. He looks the part, he acts the part, and he sounds the part. He’s got swagger, he’s got the hair, he’s got the thin frame – I think this is expert casting. Furthermore, his face actually looks like it’s lived. It’s got lines, it looks weathered, I believe this man has seen some serious stuff. But it’s Ryan’s eyes that really make me believe he’s John Constantine. When the camera pulls in tight on Ryan’s eyes, they shimmer like little beads and look both haunted, demented, and hopeful all at once.
I also appreciate the “look” of the show. Each episode looks like a little movie. The locations are always interesting and vivid. Furthermore, the special effects are more than respectable, especially for being a weekly show on the small screen.
And while I watch Constantine and enjoy it, I won’t pretend it’s perfect. The dialogue is sometimes downright awful. The stories, supposedly based off of classic Hellblazer comics, don’t always translate well to mainstream television. Some are better than others, and they’ve all entertained me, but none of them ever made me sit up in awe.
But the biggest problem in my mind is the acting. Other than Matt Ryan, I don’t believe in any of the show’s characters, particularly Zed and Chas. I realize bad dialogue can impact acting, but the actors playing Zed and Chas always feel a little off to me. The timing is never quite right, the tone and inflection don’t ever quite fit, and, to be honest, even the body language is awkward at moments. They may very well be wonderful actors, but I’m not connecting with their takes on Chas and Zed.
I would personally like to see Constantine take on greater scope. “The Rising Darkness” is so generic and plot driven – I can’t really take it seriously. I would really like to see Constantine dive into the dark side of the DC Universe. I don’t know if NBC has rights to characters like Zatanna, Dr. Fate, Swamp Thing, Dr. Occult, The Demon, Tim Hunter, Dr. 13, and Deadman, but their inclusion would truly heighten interest in the show and juxtapose Constantine more powerfully than the sporadic evils he faces weekly. The best we’ve gotten is Felix Faust, which speaks volumes.
I will keep watching Constantine. I want it to succeed, I’m rooting for it to prevail and get a second season, yet, at the same moment, I must admit it’s not a show I feel comfortable recommending to friends. I think the creators and actors are giving it their best effort, and I commend them for making something very watchable, but I don’t feel they’ve yet found an identity that amazes the audience with each episode.