REVIEW: Constantine: City of Demons
John Constantine, done right, is one of DC Comics’ strongest characters. The current incarnation in the Rebirth universe is a pale comparison to his Vertigo roots and the NBC series didn’t push the horrific elements far enough (being a prime time series, after all). Matt Ryan’s wonderful interpretation has been further watered down for the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, so hearing him in all his weary glory in Constantine: City of Demons is most welcome.
This is one of the best animated adaptations of a comic book character, thanks to letting it be an R-rated film ensuring the horror/supernatural elements were true to the source material and not just curse words tossed in for “authenticity”. Kudos to J.M. DeMatteis for bringing Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben’s character to proper life. His original script loosely adapts Hellblazer: All His Engines graphic novel by Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco.
We open with hints of what happened in the past, sending a young, irresponsible Constantine to Ravenscar. His guilt, especially as the past is revealed throughout the 90-minute film, drives his actions and decisions, building to a most satisfying climax.
Constantine is cursed to fight the good fight but at a terrible cost and that has never been truer here. His longtime pal, Chas Chandler (Damian O’Hare), seeks him out to help find out what’s ailing his young daughter Trish. Of course, it’s supernatural in nature and off we go.
While Constantine and Chas jet from London to Los Angeles, Chas’ estranged wife Renee (Emily O’Brien), watches over their comatose child. Watching over her though is Asa the Nightmare Nurse (Laura Bailey), who is, of course, not what she appears.
This is the Constantine who practices magic, who smokes too much, drinks too much, carries too much pain with him, and is at his best when his back is up against the wall. While he tries to free Trish’s soul from Beroul (Jim Meskimen), he also has to contend with the Aztec god, Mictlantecuhtli (Rick D. Wasserman). The only assistance he receives is from the enigmatic Angela (Rachel Kimsey), who acts like Deadman, but has less altruistic motives. He makes deals, double-crosses whoever or whatever he needs to, all for the right reasons. However, there’s a price, always there’s a price. You suspect you know who pays it but it’s far steeper than imagined.
In Director Doug Murphy’s capable hands, the film is dark, atmospheric, and graphic in its violence. Whatever awkwardness existed when it ran on CW Seed in six parts is gone in this compilation.
The film has been released by Warner Home Entertainment in a 4K/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo set. Obviously, the 2160p, HEVC/H.265-encoded UHD definition is sharp, but here, it’s noticeably better than the Blu-ray disc, with more subtle colors popping off the screen. It is well served by the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track.
Both 4K and Blu-ray come with a scarcity of bonus features. The most interesting is The Sorcerer’s Occultist: Understanding John Constantine (13:38), exploring the character with director Doug Murphy, producer Butch Lukic, executive producers David Goyer and so-called “Occult Expert” Jason Louv. Entertaining but less interesting is the WonderCon Panel—2018 where we hear from Ryan, DeMatteis, and Blue Ribbon Content’s Peter Girardi. There are also trailers for other animated fare all of which pale in comparison.
Note: Some version of the film will air tonight on the CW, but I suspect some of the gore and language will be scrubbed.