When NBC announced they would be adapting DC’s Hellblazer for the small screen I was hesitantly excited.
Then they announced that comic book hack David S. Goyer, who many hate but I don’t really have a problem with, was coming on board to oversee and write – I remained hesitantly excited.
NBC then went and secured the services of Neil Marshall – a fantastic British director who has worked on Game of Thrones and horror flick, The Descent.
All was looking promising as NBC looked to outdo the frankly mediocre and ludicrous Constantine motion picture starring Keanu Reaves – a feat that seemed at the time attainable.
I have watched 3 episodes. I always give a series 3 episodes. it may be harsher than a lot of other viewers who provide up to 6/7 episodes before they make their mind up but it is my way regardless.
And after 3 episodes I am underwhelmed.
There are many problems with Constantine and a confluence of all these deficiencies has made me a non-believer.
The decision to fire/retire Lucy Griffith after the pilot episode was nonsensical in my mind. There is no sense in building an entire story and presumed season arc around a character, he family, her background and her ethos if you withdraw the character after only one decent episode. Goyer has stated that there may be space for her return somewhere down the line but he also mentioned that there were key flaws with the character in the writer’s room.
The replacement – Zed – a famous Hellblazer character is far more exotic, somewhat interesting but also very tepid. There are few layers here and if there was intention for detail the writers have not done their jobs well enough.
The second problem is the acting. In this day an age of Oscar worthy acting on the small screen all shows have to step up their game. Constantine is not competing nor does it want to compare itself with the likes of Game of Thrones, Walking Dead or Suits but these are its stable mates. Whether NBC likes it or not audiences are now tuned to a certain standard of delivery and onscreen presence – facets that Constantine is severely lacking in.
And who is to blame for this?
Not the actors. The writers. The actors can only work with what’s put in front of them. There have been flashes of above par delivery by the show’s lead Matt Ryan, particularly in the first episode when he ironically played the role of demon, but for the majority the writing is cheesier than what you’d expect from CW shows.
I understand this is a comic book world and cheesiness is in the mythos and flavor of the culture but in a post-Dark Knight and X-Men world, reality and, I hate to use the word, grittiness is valued.
The third problem is in truth not a fault of its own. Rather like its TV stable mates, Constantine has big competition from its comic book TV show counterparts. As a viewer of almost all of them, arrow is far more interest in its first episode than Constantine looks set to be in its inaugural season. The Flash looks more expensive, more cared for and is more fun. Gotham is more expansive, daring and intriguing. Even Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD had a rocky start but by its 2/3rd episode it was exploring really cool storylines that make nerds like me giddy. Constantine just doesn’t match up to these guys and I fear it never will.
Constantine is the first freshman show that I have abandoned. The writing is lackluster, the acting is nothing to write home about and its competition puts it to shame. The names behind the scenes gave me hope but the scales are heavily weighted in favour of the negatives. I may revisit it down the line if I hear that it has improved but for now and the foreseeable future the show is yet another Constantine failure.