On Sunday, May 11, NBC premiered its full-length trailer for this fall’s Constantine. You know a trailer is good when it just whizzes by and you’re hungry for more. NBC’s DC Comics adaptation of Constantine, which originated as Hellblazer at DC imprint Vertigo, follows the story of British magician John Constantine (Matt Ryan) — a con man and cynic with a heart of gold who battles the supernatural with his sorcery. I’ll tell you guys the truth. I have very little knowledge of Vertigo’s Hellblazer or the most recent DC series Constantine. This was not due to my dislike of the subject-matter or character. I just never picked up a John Constantine story. Before this, my only other taste of Hellblazer was 2005’s Constantine starring Keanu Reeves in the titular role, and I heard it wasn’t a very faithful adaptation of the source material. I know, I should be ashamed. This trailer, though, has certainly piqued my interest. I’m sure the old Hellblazer issues are in a collected trade now, so I’ll set aside a weekend to do some self-improvement and growing.
Enough of me and my admission of guilt. Lets get into the nitty-gritty of this trailer. Like they say, the Devil is in the details. Yes, that was intended.
0:00 – 0:11 The trailer opens with John Constantine in Ravenscar, a mental health facility. He’s being prepped for electroshock therapy. As he convulses from the treatment, we see flashes of occult symbols and demonic faces.
0:12 – 0:26 In a facility office, Constantine is given an evaluation by a Dr. Huntoon (Miles Anderson). We find out that before he had admitted himself, Constantine was working as an exorcist and a master of the dark arts. A close-up of Constantine’s on-file business card reads: JOHN CONSTANTINE, Exorcist, Demonologist, and Master of the Dark Arts, 404 (555) – 0166. Huntoon’s dialogue goes into voice-over as we see Constantine leave a group therapy session and investigate a creepy part of the facility. Huntoon’s voice-over finally states, “There are no demons.”
0:27 – 0:44 Constantine nonchalantly approaches a woman with the most creepy white eyes. He’s about to do something, but quickly turns and says, “This is not my problem.” We get the sense that he’s trying to give up his previous life and profession. As he walks away, we see that the woman is writing something in red paint on a wall that’s infested with insects. Constantine has a change of heart and stops. He walks back to her and says, “I’m addressing the entity inside.” I didn’t think this could get any creepier, but the woman turns and looks straight at Constantine. I’m not sure why it looks freakier than the other million times it has been done in other shows. It’s probably the way she turned her head — very unnatural and quick. Constantine then places his hand on top of her head and says, “Hear my words!” The woman flies across the room as if being pulled by an unknown force. When she hits the wall, the windows shatter.
0:45 – 1:05 As a lone woman, Liv (Lucy Griffiths), walks through the parking lot, the ground begins to swell and eventually cracks open to reveal a sinkhole (I’m thinking this is probably a route to hell). She runs, but an old-fashioned taxi cab blocks her. The driver, Constantine, now dressed in his iconic tie and trenchcoat, gets out and greets her. She tries to either pepper spray or mace him. He informs her that she’s pointing the spray the wrong way. Constantine then tells her that he knew her father and he made a promise to look after her. She seems reluctant to believe him. He urges her to go with him by saying, “If you don’t listen to me, you’ll be dead by morning.”
1:07 – 1:15 Constantine appears in a large smokey crater. As the dust settles, Manny (Harold Perrineau), an angel, appears before him. Manny is supposed to be Constantine’s guardian angel. The initial exchange between the two isn’t very clear. Manny notes that Constantine “shouldn’t be down here” and Constantine thinks the same of Manny. My guess is that they’re both in hell. Like I said, I’m not sure where they really are. Complemented with flashback scenes of a little girl being forcefully ripped away from Constantine by a horned demonic creature, Manny gives the exposition that Constantine damned a girl and his own soul to hell. The girl is probably Astra from the comic books. They’re staying pretty faithful to the source material. This also explains why he was in Ravenscar at the beginning. According to his character biography, Constantine suffered a nervous breakdown after losing Astra.
1:16 – 1:28 Manny continues his conversation with Constantine and says, “There’s a lot of panic down here. People can sense what’s on the way.” Constantine shows concern and now wants to know more. This is when Manny leaves and Constantine yells, “What’s on the way?”
1:29 – 1:39 Liv is visiting her mother and demands to know what happened to her father. As they sit at a table, Liv pulls a “Haley Joel Osment” and sees her dead grandmother. Liv calls out to her. The grandmother looks up and starts to morph — eyes become black holes while black liquid pours from her mouth. I think this is the most frightening of all the scenes. They’re doing a really good job here.
1:40 – 1:55 Liv confronts Constantine demanding to know what is happening to her. He tells her that she’s “waking up” and is “seeing the world for what it really is.” As Liv demands more, Constantine grabs both her hands and tells her to “look around.” Their environment becomes grey and Liv sees souls wandering about. There are also souls in the sky leaving black trails as they fly about. Constantine states that these souls are “trapped” and “searching for a way out.”
1:56 – 1:59 Constantine brings Liv back to his place. He informs her that since she can see them, they can also see her. Liv looks in the mirror and sees an ominous figure standing next to her. Constantine continues by saying, “They don’t like to be seen.” From my brief research, I never ran into any information about Constantine having his own “Fortress of Solitude”, but I’m really digging it now. I’m all for hideouts and they made this place fit his personality pretty well — dusty, old, and mysterious. If Gandalf chose a residence, it would be here.
2:06 – 2:26 A series of scenes with: Constantine on the rooftop standing inside a large occult symbol; Constantine setting fire to both hands and raising them to his sides; a creepy demonic woman with cuts to her face screaming out; Constantine holding Liv’s hands as a ghost train speeds through them; Constantine standing in rain that has stopped mid-air and then starting it again by touching one of the droplets. Constantine’s voice-over then gives us the exposition that it’s not too late for him to save his own soul. All of this is alternated with the text: WHEN AN ANCIENT EVIL RISES…ONLY ONE MAN…CAN SEND IT BACK TO HELL.
2:27 – 2:31 A trucker becomes distracted when he tries to fix his radio. Constantine and Liv are suddenly t-boned by the Mack truck.
2:32 – 2:50 Another series of scenes with: Constantine chanting a spell which causes a cord from a downed power line to impale someone; Constantine confronting a possessed man; Constantine igniting a giant occult symbol and creating a fire tornado that shoots up into the sky. Constantine then screams, “Be gone!”
2:51 – 2:55 The name “Constantine” appears on-screen.
2:56 – 3:00 An epilogue for the trailer has Constantine walking away from the initial incident at 0:27 – 0:44. He says to the stunned patients, “She did it.”
This trailer really got me hooked! It has some excellent special effects and the cinematography is just beautiful. The colors look rich and saturated. The most impressive thing about this trailer is what I’ve already said: the demons and possessed people actually look scary! I have high hopes for Constantine.
These are just some things off the top of my head. One thing that always comes up is John Constantine’s smoking habit. Because this is a prime time network series, they seem to have opted to make Constantine a non-smoker. I wonder how the fanboys will react to this.
There have been some complaints (from fanboys of course) that Matt Ryan’s portrayal of Constantine doesn’t have the same attitude as that of the comics. They think Constantine should be of the “I don’t give a damn” type. I’ll put my screenwriting hat on and say that the writers might’ve needed to change that part of Constantine for the sake of driving the story. The protagonist must care and must be proactive in reaching his goal. I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities in the TV series for him to flash some attitude, but they can’t make him completely callous.
From the trailer, it seems that the setting of the series will be in the United States. I’m not sure how well that’ll sit with fans. At least they got his nationality right this time.
And finally, you know how protective fans are with the physical traits of their comic book characters. There has been a slight complaint about his hair. It’s not scruffy and blonde enough. Below, I have two pictures. The first is Matt Ryan as Constantine and right after, I have the current DC Comics version. What do you think?