Constantine Pilot: The Answers to Five Burning Questions
We saw an early screening of the Constantine pilot at New York City Comic Con, and now we can answer all your burning questions about everyone's favorite DC Comics snarky exorcist:
1) Is it terrible?
It's decidedly not terrible, with Matt Ryan's interpretation of Constantine even achieving "great." Ryan perfectly embodies Constantine's cynicism, irreverence, and antiheroism. He's also extremely charismatic, so much so that, like fellow titular antiheroes Dexter and House, he threatens to overshadow every other character. Most pilots give the viewer an idea of the obstacles the show needs to overcome in order to find its footing, and in this case it's that all the other characters are dwarfed by Ryan's Constantine. This could be forgiven, except that they are also simply lackluster to begin with. Liv was the worst example of this.
2) What is this Liv business? Is she the actress from Fifty Shades of Grey? And is she really gone for good?
She's not the actress from Fifty Shades of Grey, but the resemblance did not help endear her to me. The actress might be capable in other roles, but in this episode she was inching towards painful. Her character was so bland and thinly written, she made all the irreverent fun come to a screeching halt whenever she was onscreen. Plus, her dynamic with John just didn't work; she looked and acted too young to be a love interest, but was too old to be a daughter/mentee figure. Luckily, test audiences hated her as much as I did, so her character was unceremoniously axed before the end of the episode. With her gone, and a comics character (Zed) to take her place, the show has much more potential, but the writers need to make sure that Zed at least approaches Constantine in her level of complexity and intrigue.
3) What was the dumbest thing about the pilot?
Death's terrible aim. Liv was supposedly "marked for death," and many of us were waiting in eager anticipation for this to come to fruition, but the demons just kept narrowly missing. Aren't they supposed to be supernatural and controlled by an all-powerful entity? Can not-Dakota Johnson really be saved by something as banal as physically moving her out of way? Death had about a thousand chances and just bit the big one. It was like Final Destination 100: Death Gets Confused By Moving Target. Not on board with this part of the mythology.
Objectively, the biggest writing faux-pas was the way Liv was ultimately written off. They only edited the last five minutes after deciding that she wouldn't play the female lead, so the first fifty-five minutes introduces her as a significant part of both the mythology and John's character arc. Then she's abruptly written off in the last five minutes, in the course of about two scenes. It's about as natural as it sounds, but it's hard to question it too much when it so clearly had to be done. We're much more forgiving of contrivances when they give us the results we want.
4) Will the show satisfy fans of the comics?
By all accounts, the show helms much more closely to the comics than the mostly hated Keanu Reeves film (jokingly called "The Matrix 4" by the NYCC moderators), but it just depends on how dark you like your antiheroes. Constantine is clearly struggling with some demons (we're going to get tired of that pun so quickly), but ultimately, his motivation is saving a nine-year-old girl from eternal damnation, which is tough to argue with. He might end up more white knight-ish than fans of the comics are expecting.
5) How does it compare to other DC comics' adaptations on television right now?
At New York Comic Con, the pilot was shown shortly after the second episode of The Flash, and they served as interesting companions. Constantine is essentially the Iron Man to Barry Allen's Captain America: irreverence vs. earnestness. All of the DC protagonists on television right now- Barry Allen, Arrow, and Detective Gordon- are all fairly earnest straight men, which could mean that Constantine is violating a tried-and-true formula, but hopefully just means that it has the potential to carve out its own niche.