Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Francis Lawrence|
|Story by||Kevin Brodbin|
|Based on||Characters from the DC Comics Hellblazer Graphic Novels|
|Edited by||Wayne Wahrman|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$230.9 million|
Constantine is a 2005 American-German occult detective action film directed by Francis Lawrence as his feature film directorial debut, starring Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, with Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Djimon Hounsou. With a screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello, the film is based on DC Comics' Hellblazer comic book, with plot elements taken from the "Dangerous Habits" story arc (issues #41–46) and the "Original Sins" story arc.
The character of John Constantine was introduced by comic book writer/creator Alan Moore while writing the Swamp Thing, first appearing there in June 1985. In 1988, the character of John Constantine was given his own comic book title, Hellblazer, published by DC Comics. The "Dangerous Habits" story arc was written by Garth Ennis in 1991.
The film portrays John Constantine as a cynic with the ability to perceive and communicate with half-angels and half-demons in their true form. He seeks salvation from eternal damnation in Hell for a suicide attempt in his youth. Constantine exorcises demons back to Hell to earn favor with Heaven but has become weary over time. With terminal lung cancer, he helps a troubled police detective learn the truth about her sister's death while simultaneously unraveling a much larger and darker plot.
Constantine was released in the United States and Canada on February 18, 2005 and in Hong Kong on February 8, 2005. The film received mixed reviews and was a box office success, grossing $230.9 million worldwide from a $100 million budget.
God and Lucifer have a standing wager for the souls of all mankind. Angels and demons are forbidden to manifest on Earth, but they are allowed to possess and influence humans, with human-angel and human-demon half-breeds used to peddle influence. Exorcist John Constantine was born with the power to see angels and demons. At age 15, he committed suicide to escape his visions, but he was revived after spending two minutes in Hell, though Constantine explains that since time moves differently in Hell, two minutes feels like a full lifetime. His soul is still destined for Hell for the sin of taking his own life.
Constantine exorcises a girl possessed by a soldier demon trying to break through to Earth, something that should not be possible under the rules of the wager. Constantine meets with the androgynous half-breed angel Gabriel. He asks Gabriel for a reprieve from his impending death from lung cancer; but Gabriel declines, telling Constantine that his motives for exorcising demons are selfish and will not earn him entry into Heaven.
Constantine repels an attack by a full demon. This encounter prompts him to meet with former witch doctor Papa Midnite, who reminds him that Constantine is the one soul that Lucifer would come to Earth to personally collect. When half-breed demon Balthazar arrives, Midnite refuses to let them fight on his neutral ground.
Constantine begins investigating the situation with his associates Beeman, Hennessy, and Chas Kramer. Detective Angela Dodson shows up at Constantine's apartment to ask for his help investigating the death of Isabel, her identical twin. Isabel leapt from the top of a psychiatric hospital, where she was a patient, but Angela is convinced that Isabel would never commit suicide. Constantine agrees to help only after saving Angela from demons that attack her outside his building.
Wanting to see if Isabel is truly in Hell, Constantine uses her cat as a conduit to briefly transport himself there, finding Isabel damned to eternally relive the moment of her death. Meanwhile, Hennessy and Beeman have deduced that it is Lucifer's son, Mammon, who is sending demons to Earth, planning to claim it as his own kingdom. To do so, Mammon requires a powerful psychic and assistance from God.
Angela reveals that she and Isabel possessed the same gift as Constantine. Angela rejected her visions and they eventually stopped, but Isabel embraced them and was institutionalized for it. Constantine reawakens Angela's psychic ability through a near death experience. They hunt down and interrogate Balthazar, who reveals that Mammon has obtained the Spear of Destiny, which is stained with the blood of Jesus Christ – which can be used as the assistance from God. Angela, who has become the psychic Mammon requires, is abducted by an invisible entity and brought to the hospital where Isabel died. Constantine convinces Midnite that the rules of the wager have been broken and asks to use "The Chair": an old electric chair from Sing Sing. The Chair shows Constantine how the spear was discovered in the ruins of a Nazi base in Mexico and brought to Los Angeles. Constantine and Chas rush to the hospital, but Chas is beaten to death by the invisible entity.
Using incantations and sigils tattooed on his arms, Constantine forces the invisible entity to reveal itself. It is Gabriel, who laments God’s favoritism towards humans and believes bringing Hell to Earth will enable any survivors to become worthy of God’s love through suffering, repentance and faith. Gabriel casts Constantine from the room and moves to stab Angela with the Spear and release Mammon, but Constantine slits his wrists and dies. Time stops as Lucifer arrives to collect his soul and Constantine tells him about Mammon’s plan to usurp him. Gabriel attempts to smite Lucifer but God has taken away Gabriel's power, allowing Lucifer to burn Gabriel's wings. Lucifer sends Mammon back to Hell. In return for his help, Lucifer grants Constantine a favor; he uses it for Isabel, asking that she be released to Heaven. Lucifer then finds that he is unable to drag Constantine to Hell; nobly sacrificing the favor has granted him entry to Heaven. Infuriated, Lucifer removes Constantine's cancer and resurrects him before he reaches Heaven, claiming that keeping Constantine on Earth will ensure that he will eventually prove he belongs in Hell. Angela and Constantine depart, leaving behind the now human Gabriel.
Constantine gifts the Spear to Angela, asking her to hide it somewhere not even he can find. In a post-credits scene, Constantine visits Chas' grave, where Chas appears as an angel and flies into the sky.
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Producer Lauren Shuler Donner had developed the film as far back as 1997. In 1999, Paul Hunter was attached to direct, followed by Tarsem Singh in 2001. Warner Bros. hoped Singh could begin filming in 2002 with Nicolas Cage attached to star in the lead role but Singh ended up dropping out, a move that inspired dueling lawsuits from Tarsem and Warners. Keanu Reeves became attached in 2002. Alan Moore, original creator of John Constantine, had been disappointed by the previous adaptations of his other comics From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, refused credit for the film and asked that his royalties be distributed among the other creators.
Constantine was written using some elements from Garth Ennis’ "Dangerous Habits" story arc (issues #41–46) and others—such as the inclusion of Papa Midnite—from the Original Sins trade paperback. However, the film changed several aspects of the source material, including a number of cosmetic changes to the lead character’s appearance: Reeves played the role with his natural accent and hair colour whilst the original character was intentionally drawn to resemble English musician Sting and originally came from Liverpool. The film was also set in Los Angeles, with the director pointing out that the comic book was not exclusively set in London either.
Other differences to the character were made, such as giving him the psychic ability to see "half-breeds" as they truly are. That ability, in the film, is what caused him to attempt suicide and which led to his damnation rather than his role in summoning a demon that killed a young girl. The resolution of the lung cancer plotline in the film was also amended, with Lucifer saving the redeemed Constantine to give him a second chance at falling rather than being tricked into doing so as was seen in the comic book. Scenes with actress Michelle Monaghan as Constantine's lover, a half-breed demon named Ellie based on the succubus Ellie in the Hellblazer comics, were cut from the film to make Constantine more of a lonely character.
The film’s title was changed from Hellblazer to Constantine to avoid confusion with the Clive Barker Hellraiser films. The comics series itself was originally to be titled Hellraiser but was also retitled to avoid confusion with the film, released the previous year.
Director Lawrence decided to base the idea of Hell "on the geography of what's around us now." He further explained:
That was actually a combination of me and the visual effects supervisor and the production designer sitting down and sort of coming up with the biological growth that’s growing all over the cars and what that looks like and the color palette. And we started to look at the nuclear test films from the 1940s of the nuclear blasts and just decided that it would be great if the landscape was not only violent with these creatures, but also the atmosphere. So we decided that it was kind of an eternal nuclear blast except nothing ever really gets obliterated because it's eternal and it's constantly going.
|Constantine: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt|
|Released||February 15, 2005|
Constantine: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a 2005 soundtrack album from the film of the same name. The soundtrack is an orchestral compilation of songs in the film, performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony & The Hollywood Film Chorale and composed by Brian Tyler, composer for films such as Eagle Eye and Fast & Furious, and Klaus Badelt, composer for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
The songs "Passive" by A Perfect Circle (released in conjunction with the film and heard in the walk through Midnite's bar) and "Take Five" by The Dave Brubeck Quartet (heard on a record played by Constantine) were not included. The soundtrack was panned by Allmusic, who referred to it as "clichéd and religiously formulaic."
|2.||"The Cross Over"||2:42|
|3.||"Meet John Constantine"||2:39|
|5.||"Deo et Patri"||1:16|
|7.||"Into the Light"||2:54|
|8.||"I Left Her Alone"||1:40|
|10.||"Circle of Hell"||5:38|
|12.||"Encountering a Twin"||1:06|
|13.||"Flight to Ravenscar"||0:52|
|16.||"Someone Was Here"||1:44|
|24.||"Constantine End Titles"||2:39|
The original announced release date was September 17, 2004 before it was pushed back.
Constantine opened theatrically on February 18, 2005 in 3,006 venues, earning $29,769,098 in its opening weekend and ranking second behind Hitch's second weekend. The film ended its run on June 16, 2005 and was a box office bomb, having grossed $75,976,178 domestically from a $100 million budget. However, with the international take of $154,908,550, the film's worldwide total of $230,884,728 made the film a success.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. At the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a normalized rating of 46% based on the reviews of 217 critics with an average rating of 5.5/10. The site's consensus states: "Despite solid production values and an intriguing premise, Constantine lacks the focus of another spiritual shoot-em-up, The Matrix." At Metacritic, an aggregation site which assigns a weighted average, the film holds a rating of 50 out of 100 based on the reviews of 41 critics.
Richard Corliss of Time magazine praised the film calling it "a one-of-a-kind hybrid: a theological noir action film". In crediting the actors, he specifically cited Keanu Reeves' ability to "retain his charisma in [a] weird-silly moment" in addition to the performances of Tilda Swinton whom he referred to as "immaculately decadent". He also praised Francis Lawrence's usage of a significant number of camera locations and angles. He was, however, critical of the movie's climax, referring to it as "irrevocably goofy".
Ella Taylor of L.A. Weekly gave the film positive feedback, stating, "Constantine, which opts in the end for what I can only describe as a kind of supernatural humanism, is not without its spiritual satisfactions." Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Keanu Reeves has no peer when it comes to playing these sort of messianic roles—he infuses them with a Zen blankness and serenity that somehow gets him through even the unlikeliest scenes with a quiet, unassuming dignity."
Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat gave the film three stars out of five, stating that "the film (barely) succeeds, thanks to impressive visuals, the idea of an uncaring God wagering with Satan for souls, and two immensely enjoyable scenes (one with Weisz, one with Stormare) in which Reeves actually plays his character as the cynical asshole he really is."
Jack Matthews of the New York Daily News gave the film a 2.5 out of 5, stating, "For all its spiritual angst, Constantine is about as silly as fantasies get." Michael Sragow of The Baltimore Sun also gave the film a 2.5 out of 5, stating, "It all comes off as a case of filmmakers wanting to have their communion wafer and eat it, too." Desson Thomson, a writer for The Washington Post, had similar sentiments of the film, specifically panning the film's distancing from the comic book upon which it is based:
If you are a fan of the Hellblazer comic book series, on which this movie is based, you'll definitely need a distraction. The relation between Constantine and its source material is, at best, superfluous. The disparity starts with the original John Constantine (Reeves's character) being from Liverpool, England. Reeves from the city of John and Paul? As if.
Leonard Maltin's annual publication "TV Movies" gives the film a BOMB rating, describing it as "dreary, to say the least."[this quote needs a citation]
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars, panning the depiction of hell ("a post-nuclear Los Angeles created by animators with a hangover"), the premise of the film itself ("You would think that God would be the New England Patriots of this contest, but apparently there is a chance that Satan could win."), plot holes, inconsistencies, and general actions depicted throughout the film. He was not particularly critical of the film's acting, only mentioning it by stating, "Reeves has a deliberately morose energy level in the movie, as befits one who has seen hell, walks among half-demons, and is dying. He keeps on smoking." He added it to his list of "most hated" films.
Warner Home Video announced that the film was to be released on HD DVD on March 28, 2006. It would be one of the earliest titles to be released on that media format. However, following delays to the launch of the HD DVD format (which pushed back the release of many of the initially announced titles), Constantine eventually made its debut on HD DVD on June 6, 2006. Warner Home Video released a Blu-ray Disc version of the film on October 14, 2008.
The novelization further describes Hell's setting in that the buildings are lined with blood instead of mortar, and built with the souls of the damned rather than brick.
In a 2011 interview with MTV Splash Page, director Lawrence spoke of a potential sequel:
It's interesting that over the years, Constantine seems like it's become... like it has this sort of cult following, which has been great. It's been embraced. It would be great to figure out a sequel, and if we did, and we've been trying to figure one out, it would be great to do the really dark, scary version. We got caught in that weird PG-13–R no man's land, and we should do the hard-R scary version, which I would love to do.
In November 2012, it was reported that Guillermo del Toro and Warner Bros. were considering a film featuring DC Comics' supernatural characters, which includes John Constantine. It is unconfirmed if it will be connected to the 2005 film or if Reeves will reprise his role.
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