I’m not going to pretend I’m a huge Constantine fanboy. I do remember hearing about the character as a teen. I saw the Keanu Reeves movie version and thought, “So Neo takes out demons too? Whoa. Bogus.” Ah method acting by Professor Reeves. Somebody that knows the comics and is really into it would call me out quickly if I tried to get into it all. I just wanted to briefly mention why the new NBC series starring Matt Ryan is working for me.
First and foremost, I can actually watch it on TV. This may sound weak, but parents will get this. It lands on Friday nights before local news. More importantly for me, this means after the kids are in bed and before, I would go out to either see or play a show. I realize in terms of viewership, Friday night is a pretty bad slot, but again, for me, it works great. Next, the tone of the show is very dark as it would have to be for a show dealing with the occult. Not bad NBC. The effects aren’t amazing, but they are comparable to the other TV comic-based shows. My wife and I were Losties, so we tuned in to the pilot to see our beloved Harold Perrineau (Michael in Lost).
However, we quickly forgot about his angelic Manny since Matt Ryan’s Constantine is so damn charismatic. Ryan has great presence and it helps that he’s Welsh and can rock the dirty Liverpool accent to add some authenticity. He shows his anti-authoritarian (heavenly?) tendencies and can flip from being endearing to a jerk. Sometimes in the same sentence. And the punk rock attitude! As a kid that found solace in punk, he truly breathes that mix of Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, and Sting (who really did inspire Alan Moore’s creation of the character) to life. Not to mention Constantine’s backstory has him playing in a punk band called Mucous Membrane. Nice.
Ryan also captures the paradox of being a powerful magician never hesitating in the face of evil, while at the same time struggling with his own inner demons. Constantine is a mess and it makes him compelling to watch. With the positives, it still seems NBC may be playing up the hero part of Constantine’s anti-hero more than the comic intended.
After doing some light research to more familiarize myself with the comic, it turns out the Constantine of the page is more than just a jerk. Moore described his character’s personality as “toxic.” He is a horrible narcissist that does horrible things and truly treats everyone around him like shit. The show has only shown glimpses of this. Related, Constantine is a con man first, master of the dark arts second. Apparently in one famous issue, he cons Satan out of taking his soul. His weapons of choice are his mind and his mouth. Only as a last resort does he start chanting and summoning weird stuff, which is what he does in every episode of the show.
Finally, totally lacking from the series so far is any mention of Constantine’s bisexuality — or sexuality in general for that matter. He is one of the most high profile LGBT characters in the DC Universe. Some important points that really separate Constantine from Doctor Strange are being ignored by the NBC production crew.
Now, this being NBC, I am under no illusion that Constantine will survive for another season. As is generally the case with the big broadcast networks’ shows, I find myself wondering how much cooler it could be if HBO, Showtime, or even Netflix got a hold of it. Considering Netflix is gobbling up the leftovers other networks are tossing lately, maybe Constantine could end up with them and get the gore and sexuality leveled up with the bonus of John getting to swear like a crime boss in a Guy Ritchie flick?