Let it not be said that bloggers get no perks. Tonight, I attended a preview screening of CONSTANTINE, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
I have to get the worst part over with first. Some people are simply insufferable, and their every move as grating as nails on a chalkboard: talking and chomping their way through the whole movie...two young women next to me went through the following snacks during the movie--nacho chips, hot pretzel bites, popcorn, gummi bears, Twizzlers, some sort of chocolate malted thing and two large cokes. I had a Luna bar. (Clearly, I do not know how to have fun at a movie.) These two women continued to comment on the most obvious moments of the movie ("ooh, he's got a gun"; "he's a demon!"etc). After shushing them once, I was on the receiving end of a look of death, and I decided to choose life and not shush them again.
I have to admit, I was expecting Van Helsing--a cheesy CGI-fest in which a hunky star battles the forces of darkness. But I actually liked this new movie starring Keanu Reeves (even though is now and forever our Ted "Theodore"Logan). Maybe it was my steady diet of Angel and Buffy over the last fewyears that did it, but I kept seeing elements that I liked in the whole that was Constantine.
Take Neo, first and foremost, because it is the role of Reeves' career, and because The Matrix and "bullet time" will probably inform any sci-fi work from here on in. Add an Indiana Jones good vs. evil archaeological artifact-centered back story, Dogma-brand explanations of thebalance of the universe, and ice this cake with with Buffy-style banter and deadpan delivery. Then, lacquer the movie in James Bond polish. Sure, some of the demons look familiar after this much sci-fi, but that's par for the course. (I would be really interested in hearing the opinion of someone who saw the movie and is also a fan of the original comic book; I thought HELLBOY was pretty good, but I seem to recall the fanboys not being so happy with the result.)
Sure, the CGI is there, but there's (surprise!) an actual story! And it also has (shock and awe!) good performances from Tilda Swinton, Djimon Honsou andGavin Rossdale (that's right, both members of the Rossdale/Stefani household are double billing it this year--I guess the rock-and-roll lifestyle's more expensive than they thought if each of them needs to take a second job ). I did not even recognize Shia LeBeouf (who once joked that in Yiddish and French, his name means "save the beef"), buthe provided excellent comic relief and genuinely entertaining moments as Short Round to Keanu's Dr. Jones. Rachel Weisz, while key to the plot and far from the standard hapless female foil, wasn't all that in this movie. Not because she's not a good actress, but because she's like four good actresses. Rachel shares a face with: Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, and when the light hits her right, Winona Ryder. Same face, different actresses. Just like Portia and Drea.
During the waning moments of the movie, I started to think about life, afterlife, and the concepts of heaven and hell in the Jewish tradition. And then, I focused on Keanu's abs. Because this movie was not a philosophical polemic...or WAS IT? When I arrived home, there was an email in my inbox inviting me to download the CONSTANTINE Bible study guide, to help me (as a "savvy ministry leader") "harness the interest in spiritual things that the Warner Brothers film will create." The email predicted: "Everyone, and I mean everyone, will be talking about salvation, sin, forgiveness, and spiritual welfare, all because of Constantine." (So, you heard it here first, Christian ministry leaders who read my blog looking for discussion topics...)
In summary, CONSTANTINE won't win any awards, but my opinion is that it has enough of all the things that we look for in a movie. It's a diversion. There's humor, which is always welcome for the world-weary, and some superficial discussion of what God's expectations are of the human race, itself a topic for constant discussion and speculation, but ultimately with no ratifiable resolution. Some people voiced their confusion loudly upon leaving the theater, but I didn't overthink it. CONSTANTINE surpassed my expectations. And that's all's I got to say about that.