Regarding NBC’s Constantine

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.

Justice League Dark: Into The Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin – A Book Review

Justice League Dark has a fantastic premise.  I have to admit, when I heard about this book, I became giddy.  I’ve always loved DC’s magical characters, especially those with a bit of an edge.  And while I love their depictions at Vertigo, a part of me rejoiced that they were rejoining DC proper.  Furthermore, by putting “Justice League” in the title, these characters would enjoy a certain level of celebrity, allowing new readers to discover their charisma.  Interestingly enough, the team is comprised of three characters I hold very dear (Deadman, Zatanna, and Constantine) and three characters for whom I’m not all that invested (Shade, Enchantress, Madame Xanadu).  Finally, there’s a character I’ve never heard of (Mindwarp) which frankly surprised me because I’ve been reading DC off and on for the last several decades.

So as you can gather, I was fairly biased before I even opened the first volume of Justice League Dark.  I wanted to like it.  And, honestly, I did like it.

But it’s not perfect.

The premise is a bit clichéd.  The world is at risk, and only by these seven joining forces can this destruction be averted.  Of course, the Enchantress is already destroying much of the earth, and so the future cataclysm seems a little unimportant.  And as entire cities are dying, only the seven members of Justice League Dark seem to be doing anything.  This is where the book lost me.  After brief appearances by Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg, the rest of the world’s heroes are nowhere to be found.  I thought Milligan overreached with the wholesale destruction of cities.  Toddlers are killing caregivers, brunettes are killing blondes, nuclear power plants have decided to quit – it all became a bit much to the point of almost being silly.  I think if Milligan had kept it tighter and more focused, perhaps concentrating upon only one locale, it would have been an easier plot to accept.  And while I won’t spoil anything, the end of the book fell into the horrible trap of offering one last jolt, one last horrific challenge that seems to pop up out of nowhere and disappear nearly as quickly.  It reminded me of some really bad horror movies in that regard, and I didn’t want the book to end on such a sour note.

However, the characters alone are enough to keep me around, and they do make an interesting mix.  Would I have liked their “origin” story to have been a little more original and unique?  Yes, but it was a serviceable first volume, and while I didn’t love it, I also didn’t hate it.

The real star of the book is artist Mikel Janin.  Janin’s pencils and inks are absolutely beautiful.  He makes these characters look both regal and terrifying, and he blends the super hero genre with horror expertly.  He’s one of the few artists out there who actually knows how to draw realistic regular clothing, but he also excels at the traditional “costume.”  I see that Janin is still on Justice League Dark as of this writing, which is definitely a reason for me to keep keeping it.  In the hands of a different artist, Justice League Dark may not have been as enjoyable an experience.

If you’re into the darker side of the DC Universe and still enjoy a spot of super heroics, Justice League Dark may be the book for you.  Thought the story wasn’t initially superb, I see a lot of potential with these characters in particular and look forward to seeing what’s in store for them, especially as rendered by Mikel Janin.