For parents that need to unwind and turn off their mind, particularly in a scary time with the COVID-19 virus leading countries to quarantine themselves, Constantine is perfect for just that. Led by Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz, Constantine is a mixture of gloomy cynicism and profound faith as Heaven and Hell battle for souls on Earth.
Spoiler Warning: If you have not seen Constantine and want to remain spoiler free, please go watch the movie and then come back again.
Also, and more importantly, this film discusses the topic of suicide after one or more characters take their own life, so please do not read further if this subject matter is difficult to address.
If you need help or to talk to someone regarding this subject matter, or any other topic, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also go to their website and start an online chat.
Other Resources: National Institute of Mental Health, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, National Alliance on Mental Health
Now, if you’re uncertain about this particular type of genre film, director Francis Lawrence blends this detective, murder mystery with fantasy in a way that is appealing, not only with the story, but in a way that’s visually compelling to keep your eyes peeled to the screen. John Constantine, played by Reeves, is a remorseless and sardonic demon hunter who only wants one thing: to earn his way back into Heaven upon his death. If you’re a parent with a teenager or older, this film addresses a serious issue in a way that’s essential to the story.
In the film, Angela Dodson, played by Rachel Weisz, is investigating the suicide of her twin sister Isabel. Along this investigation, Angela comes across John to try and figure out what truly happened to her sister, as it’s an impossible notion for her sister to have have taken her own life. Constantine’s irreverence to Angela’s plea for help is unforgivable, but the reason for his heartless response becomes quite clear later in the film. Constantine was brought back to life after having completed suicide in his teenage years, so the hard reckoning of life after death is painful and all too clear.
“I'm a suicide, Angela. When I die, the rules say I've got just one place to go.”
This element to the story affects more than one character, and it’s a palpable weight that the viewer can truly feel from these characters. Angela wants to find a way to prove it wasn’t, so her sister isn’t left in eternal damnation, while Constantine is doing everything in his power to not succumb to the knowledge that he knows where he’s going when he dies.
Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz work extremely well together on screen, with additional characters that cement the tension felt within this devilish storyline. Peter Stormare’s role as Satan, although not seen for long onscreen, is absolutely amazing. There is a lightheartedness to the character, which does tone down the severity of such a devastating act. Perhaps this levity within this moment might make such a serious topic more approachable. It’s important for everyone to feel like they can express their feelings, which is why it’s important to have them whenever it is possible and to offer help or resources to those in need.
I do not know if this story is specifically appropriate for addressing such a serious topic, but I do find the way it’s approached onscreen, along with the overall story, interactions between characters, and the overall theme of saving one’s soul, to be a reason why I enjoy this film so much. Constantine is a film that I genuinely love; however, I want to make sure that anyone who might want help after seeing it knows there are always those open to listening at any time of day.
Constantine has an overall tone of “trying to do good in the face of evil,” even with the title character appearing callous at times. Despite his own intentions, John is fighting demons and trying to send them back to Hell when they cross the proverbial line. In all of his sarcastic comments, smoking cigarette upon cigarette, he’s ultimately faced with a decision that risks his life to save another. Constantine’s ultimate understanding of where he’s going does not deter him from wanting to do what’s right and good. Does he believe he’s playing the system to hopefully gain his way back into Heaven? Maybe. But, the story, visual effects, and fantastic character moments, such as Tilda Swinton playing Gabriel, are outstanding.
Despite the heavy content, I find this film to be entertaining and fun in a way that allows me to tap off my brain. I once revealed why #StoriesMatter to me, and I’ll leave it here, because Constantine is one of those films that let’s me do just that.
“For the longest time, stories have allowed me to turn off my brain. Whether it's movies, TV, or books, I relish being pulled into a story that lets me completely focus on what's happening in front of me. It provides a calm to a sometimes murky headspace. It provides an outlet to let go of those stresses that will always be there.”
If you or your friends need a film to enjoy and get wrapped into its story, I recommend Constantine.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.
Additional Information on the Film:
Released: February 2005
Length: 2 hours, 1 minute
R Rating, via Motion Picture Association of America: “Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian – Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.”
Tomatometer Critics’ Score: 46%
Audience Score: 72%
Roger Ebert Rating: 1.5/4 Stars, including landing on his “Most Hated” list.
D.C. Comics Origin
John Constantine made his first appearance in The Saga of Swamp Thing #37 in 1985. His first solo series, Hellblazer, saw its first issue released in print on December 31, 1987.
His powers are described on dcuniverse.com as, “Constantine is an expert magic user. He is proficient in multiple schools of the arcane arts, but in combat he prefers to rely on his cunning rather than spells. He's an accomplished con artist, skilled in manipulation and bluffing, aided by his genetic instinctual "synchronicity," through which he, essentially, makes his own luck.”
Future of Constantine Films
As recent as May 2019, Keanu Reeves shared his interest in returning to the role of John Constantine.
“Reeves was asked if there are any other roles from his past that he'd like to revisit if given the chance. Without hesitating, Reeves admitted that he's always wanted the chance to play Constantine again, because he loved what the character was about and the world that he was surrounded by.
“‘I've always wanted to play John Constantine again,’ Reeves said. ‘I just love that world, too, and I love that character. I just had a blast playing a character and [playing] in that world.’”