Monday Memories: A Different Kind of Constantine

Almost completely unrecognizable from the comic book character it adapts, the film version of CONSTANTINE was released 13 years ago this week.

To be completely fair, the 2005 film based on the Hellblazer comic book from Vertigo/DC Comics isn’t a bad film. It’s just that it’s a very strong example of how minor cosmetic changes to a character can turn it into something amazingly different. Such is the case with John Constantine.

When he was created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleban, Jamie Delano and Jon Ridgway in 1984, he was designed after musician Sting. He was blond, from Liverpool, England and smoked a couple packs of Silk Cut cigarettes a day. The cynical occult detective and con man always professed to look out for himself, though he would often feel the need to do some good in his life, usually after he’s guilted by the multitude of ghosts that follow him around, blaming him for their deaths.

A film adaptation of the comic book had been in production since the late-1990s, with a few different directors and actors attached to the film. The studio finally decided on music video director Francis Lawrence to direct the film. Looking over the videos he directed, about the only one that stuck in my memory at all was the video for “Ghetto Superstar” by Pras, featuring ODB and Mya. That might have more to do with the connection to the movie BULWORTH, though. But then again, I stopped watching MTV back around 1996-97…

Such a great song.

For the role of the titular British antihero, Warners went even further outside the box, if that’s even possible. Instead of a blond Brit, the film changed the character of Constantine to a dark-haired American, casting Keanu Reeves in the role. We should probably be thankful that they didn’t ask Reeves to do a British accent. He doesn’t really handle accents well…

For all the crap the movie got when Reeves was announced as playing John Constantine, it’s not a bad film, though I would probably look on it even more favorably if it was named anything else. It’s like putting Batman on screen with nipples on the Batsuit, it just doesn’t work…

Thankfully, we’ve since gotten a more true-to-form version of the character, with Matt Ryan playing him in one season of an NBC show that would have been more successful on any other channel, along with his guest appearances on ARROW and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. But Keanu Reeves will forever be known as the first actor to play a live-action John Constantine.

Woah…