Okay DC and Vertigo fans, unless you somehow found yourself living under a rock that didn’t get wifi reception to your phone, or stumbled into a time vortex that transported you to the days of the dinosaurs, you probably know that NBC recently dropped a full trailer for the upcoming Constantine. Hot off the heels of announcing that the series, based on the DC/Vertigo comic Hellblazer, would be picked up for a full season airing on Fridays at 10pm after Grimm, the network proved it wasn’t messing around with the cantankerous magical con-man of the DC Universe.
Based on the wildly popular DC Comics series “Hellblazer,” seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan, “Criminal Minds”) specializes in giving hell… hell. Armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and his wickedly naughty wit, he fights the good fight — or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he’s decided to leave his do-gooder life behind, but when demons target Liv (Lucy Griffiths, “True Blood”), the daughter of one of Constantine’s oldest friends, he’s reluctantly thrust back into the fray – and he’ll do whatever it takes to save her. Before long, it’s revealed that Liv’s “second sight” — an ability to see the worlds behind our world and predict supernatural occurrences — is a threat to a mysterious new evil that’s rising in the shadows. Now it’s not just Liv who needs protection; the angels are starting to get worried too. So, together, Constantine and Liv must use her power and his skills to travel the country, find the demons that threaten our world and send them back where they belong. After that, who knows… maybe there’s hope for him and his soul after all. [Source: Collider]
Constantine also stars Harold Perrineau (Lost) as Manny, an angel sent to look after/guide Constantine, and Charles Halford (True Detective) as Chas, who was played by Shia LaBeouf in the 2005 film. So we have a redemption story on our hands, which isn’t a bad place to start since it gives Constantine a potentially rich backstory to draw from over the course of the season. He’s a magical veteran with a damned soul forced into the middle of a world-shattering confrontation between good, evil, and everything in between. Plus we can expect several magically inclined characters from the DC Universe to show up at any given time.
How does this compare to the John Constantine of Hellblazer? Well, as with all adaptations, there’s going to be some give and take. Hellblazer was definitely a product of its time when the comic began its 26-year run in 1988, which concluded last year with issue 300 so DC Comics could reboot the character within the New 52 with the solo title Constantine. Under the Hellblazer title, John Constantine, as created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and Jamie Delano, was a working-class wielder of the magical arts with questionable morals and a devil-may-care attitude that made him the last resort of any sensible person. Lucky for him most people aren’t sensible in a pinch. And he was a decent blackmailer when he had to be. Constantine was often characterized as a con-man/occult detective who drank, smoked, cursed, and took every opportunity to save his own ass above all else. But his heart was often in the right place… more or less.
NBC’s Constantine – created by Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist, Dexter, Charmed) and David S. Goyer (Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel), who also act as executive producers and writers – looks like it’s going for as much authenticity to the source material as it can given network television standards. Let’s be honest, if they were really going to adapt Hellblazer for television, they’d have to put it on HBO. Matt Ryan definitely looks the part, going blond to match the character who was modeled after Sting. The promo photos released a while back gave us some hope, though the vices often associated with Constantine, specifically his chain-smoking, may be downplayed given, once again, network politics. Wouldn’t want to show a character smoking on a network where Law and Order: SVU lives and breathes off of the vilest stories imaginable. But that’s just speculation on my part, though David S. Goyer was pretty vague when asked about whether or not Constantine would be shown smoking:
That’s a tricky one on network TV. We’re negotiating right now. He will have his signature trench coat and skinny tie. I would say that the show clings more closely to the source material then the film did. Even though the film was interesting. [Source: I Am Rogue]
Interesting, given that if they were going to cling to the source material more than the film – which adapted Garth Ennis’ “Dangerous Habits”, wherein Constantine finds out he has lung cancer and makes deals with several lords of Hell to save his life – Constantine’s smoking habit wouldn’t be an issue. But, again, network television, children, families, blah-de-blah-de-blah. Though I would ask which is more damaging to children: Constantine smoking or an elderly woman distorting into a demonic figure with black bile melting her face? Because one of those things happens in the trailer. I suppose they’re hoping wit and snark are enough to count as vices.
Obviously I’m drifting into the realm of judgment already. Okay, back to Constantine and Hellblazer. Like some of the comic’s stories, there appears to be a Judeo-Christian slant to the main plot what with Perrineau’s Manny being present and the featured exorcism, but the main antagonist of the series will be long-time Hellblazer frenemy Papa Midnite, an immortal, Voodoo-practicing mob boss. There also appeared to be a minotaur-like demon shown, so hopefully there will be plenty of world-wide occultism featured despite relegating Constantine to New York for the purposes of budget. NBC, however, has spared no expense on the special effects. This is the one thing, other than Constantine’s personality, that they needed to get right and if the trailer is any indication of the level of spectacle we’ll get out of this series, then it was money well spent. While the image of Constantine holding his flaming hands out is pretty cool, I’m partial to the brief moment when he pokes the rain that’s been stopped in time, probably by Manny, and watches it resume pouring down. That cheeky smile was enough.
If I was going to say there was one thing I’m really worried about, it’s the female lead. Lucy Griffiths’ Liv is meant to be the audience surrogate, discovering the occult world since Constantine already knows it and we need someone to have this stuff explained to for our benefit. However, some of the bits they’ve shown in the trailer give me pause because a character like hers could easily become annoying and drift into the damsel in distress territory that’s already part of the initial plot. I understand she’ll be in over her head a lot because of her new-found abilities, but if she’s just there to bounce off exposition and give Constantine someone to save so we understand he’s still a good guy, then we might have a problem. Hopefully as Constantine seeks redemption we’ll see Liv grow in her abilities and become a stronger person for it. But, again, this is only a trailer.
So, yeah, looks pretty good so far. I’ll definitely be tuning in and having Grimm as the lead-in is a very wise decision on NBC’s part, though I’m sure that was the plan all along.
Constantine‘s pilot will premiere in September, airing regularly Fridays at 10pm. The pilot was written by Daniel Cerone, from a story by David S. Goyer, and directed by Game of Thrones regular Neil Marshall.