31 January 2005


John Constantine is a character I feel very strongly about. I wouldn't claim that Jamie Delano's run writing it was the best comic ever, but it is the single comic series that is dearest to my heart. For a whole host of reasons, John Constantine is a character with a lot of personal resonance for me. So this cartoon sums up how I feel about the forthcoming Constantine film.

For all I know, Constantine will be a pretty good movie for folks who don't know anything about the comic. The trailer has some cool eye candy in it. My trailer-dar makes me suspect bad writing, but it could be wrong. So a fun movie is plausible.

I'm trying to resist a fanboyish response that the movie should star Sting, because that's who Alan Moore says he told Steve Bissette and John Totleben to use as a reference when drawing him ... blah blah blah. I recognize the need to change some things around in the transition from a comic or a novel to a film. The Lord of the Rings and X-Men are good recent examples of genre films that take a lot of liberties with the details of the source material, but do it with respect for the spirit of the original. Both did things I wouldn't have done had I been making a film, but most of their changes really worked. In some places --- like Gollum's final moments, or Stryker's driving motivation --- the little changes actually feel like an improvement truer to the spirit of the story than the original.

To that point, Alan Moore, the writer who created the character, has shrugged at other film adaptations of his work. Asked about From Hell shortly before it was released, Moore said:

I think that it'll probably be a very, very good film. It won't be my book, and I kind of understood that from the beginning. I mean, From Hell takes about five hours to read. Even with some serious editing, you've got to take out about three-fifths of the book before you've got it down to something like film length, and the three-fifths that'll be taken out will obviously be a lot of the stuff that I was most interested in: the strange architectural ruminations, or the sort of ponderings upon history and mythology and geography. But that's not really going to play in Poughkeepsie, and it really wouldn't work for a Hollywood movie. So I accept and acknowledge that it's obviously going to have to be very different, but I'm sure it'll be a good film. What I'm hoping for is a situation like, say, the one with Philip K. Dick's short story, "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" It was a very, very good short story, and the film Blade Runner was a very good film which didn't necessarily have a great deal of connection with Dick's story. But both were successful entities in their own right. I think that's the kind of position that I have to take with the film.

But Constantine takes the liberties of adaptation too far. In the comics, John Constantine is a snarky blond working class Brit whose iconography includes chain smoking and wearing a dingy yellow trenchcoat. He is not a mopey black-haired American with a big gun and tattoos. Calling the guy in this movie John Constantine is an insult. If you made a movie of From Hell, which is largely about Jack the Ripper, and decided to change Jack the Ripper into an American stalking the streets of '20 Chicago with a tommy gun, no matter how good the movie was people would be rightly upset.

So I'm pissed. As rumour has it Alan Moore has

instructed (DC Comics) to not credit him as the creator of the character. And putting his money where his mouth is, he has instructed that the royalties that he was splitting with his co-creators goes exclusively to the artists (Rick Veitch and Stephen Bissette) .... Often we hear about an artist upset that his creation has been butchered but this is the first I can recall where the creator asked that both name and money be rejected.

And it looks like Fantastic Four is gonna stink, too. At least we have Sin City and Batman Begins to look forward to. Sin City!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for concisely articulating why the movie bothers me so much. Yes, it looks like a fine action movie. Yes, it's about demons. But why call it Constantine? Delano's creation was about mysterious power, personal failings, clever manipulation, and dry wit. There was a general hostility and world-weariness about Constantine that made him compelling and repulsive at the same time. So call Keanu's thing something different and note the influence somewhere in the credits.

I confess that I'm tempted to see it anyway, so I can look at Rachel Weisz for 90 minutes.

The trailer for FF is crap (no argument there) but it looks like they got the Thing physics right.

Is Sin City going to be a mishmash of the various books or a new story? The characters in the trailer seem like they're pulled from all over the existing books. Visuals are spot-on.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, sorry - that whole rant was from me. ;^)


Jonathan Korman said...

It is true that the trailer for Constantine promises Rachael Weitz dripping wet. But the trailer for Alien Resurrection promised Winona Rider dripping wet, and that was a big fat lie. Recall also that Catwoman was a movie entirely about Halle Berry cavorting in skintight leather (and precious little of it!) and the poor souls who saw it still warned us all to stay away.

As for Fantastic Four, I'll grant that Michael Chiklis is an inspired pick for the Thing, and the effects are obviously lovely. It hadn't occurred to me that getting the physics for the Thing right was one of the hard problems for the effects, but you're right. But comparing the FF teaser trailer, which is all superpowers and noise, with the teaser for Spider-Man 2, which is a gem encompassing all of Peter Parker's adolescent angst ... together with fab effects.

Sin City is said to include most of the storylines from the original Marv Sin City series, plus That Yellow Bastard and at least some of A Dame to Kill For and bits of the others. Given the way that Miller winks at interlocking narratives, you can see how it would be fun to do. I have a lot of faith in Robert Rodriguez. And apparently every starlet in Hollywood has a walk-on.