We watched the “Constantine” premiere at NYCC, and here’s why you should give it a chance…
|James! We just saw the pilot for Constantine at NYCC!|
|I know! This is something I have been excited about for a while. I even had the pleasure of seeing an early preview of this exact pilot a few months back.|
|That… sounds illegal.
What have you been up to, Carolan?!
|I swear it was mostly legit!|
|Hmm. Well, my absolute first-look at Constantine was at the Main Stage of NYCC! I hadn’t read or heard a thing beforehand.
And can I just say it was a major task merely getting into the Constantine premiere?
|I know! We had to get to the con, wait in line for wristbands, and then we had to sit through a surprise showing of the second episode of The Flash and the Season Two premier of the CW’s The 100, a show we knew nothing about.|
|Yeah, The Flash was excellent, even though I hadn’t seen the premiere yet (it’s on my to do list!) and it was fun trying to piece together the plot of The 100 with you despite neither of us having seen any of the first season. It was like a crazy-teenage-dystopian-hiking-mystery!
But it was all worth it to get to see Constantine in a packed theater.
|Definitely! I love the experience of getting to see something like that in a big theater with a lot of fans! It’s excellent.|
|Ok, enough of that! Onto the show!
It seems as if the crowd (and fans in general) were most worried about how this version of Constantine would stack up against their beloved comic book character. I think that’s fair.
|I would agree, there has been a lot of worry about how brutal a character he is, and all of his bad habits like smoking and drinking, and NBC’s choice not to show some of those on television.|
|Right, and everyone brought up the 2005 movie starring Keanu Reeves… which, fair or not, many dislike.
So how did this hard-hitting, hard-cussing, hard-living character translate to the small screen? Pretty damn good, I’d say!
First, Matt Ryan fits the part remarkably well. There is a lot of contention about how much a person needs to “look” like a character before portraying them, but in terms of a professional portrayal, I think it’s often essential. Ryan looks the part, is dressed in the part, and perhaps most importantly, sounds the part. Constantine has a British accent!
|I would agree. I loved how the show opened. Even before the first break, it was rude and fast-paced – almost unforgivingly so. I agree Matt Ryan fits the part so well.|
|Yeah, the show itself really “looks the part” as well. Dark, evil, and possessed. From the sets (like the sanitarium) to the editing – it’s all very horror movie. Like early, Supernatural. I suppose you can give a little more insight on that aspect.|
|I agree with you 100%, it uses a darker color pallet, it uses a lot of editing choices and effects consistent with modern horror, and even goes for a few jump scares.|
|The plot of the pilot also does a great job of setting a tone for a series that mirrors some of the fun of the Constantine books.
So, our paranormal detective has made a lot of enemies and seen a lot of terrible things. Naturally he’s developed some defenses against this dark world he interacts with: a very bad attitude and some very bad habits (the bad habits I want to get back to in a bit). However, something happened recently that Constantine can’t quite deal with, and so he does the most insanely reasonable thing he can; he commits himself to a mental hospital.
That is Constantine to me. A normal guy being clever when it comes to dealing with the paranormal.
|I agree, I think they really try and drive that point home when they start introducing our supporting cast, showing how relatable yet unique Constantine is compared to these other people.
We have Harold Perrineau as Manny, an authoritative angel assigned to watch over Constantine. (something very different from the comics)
Charles Halford as Chas Chandler, Constantine’s oldest friend and staunch companion who possesses powerful survival skills (read: maybe immortal)
and Lucy Griffiths was cast as Liv Aberdeen, the daughter of Constantine’s old friend with supernatural abilities to see the dead. She has gotten into a bit of supernatural trouble (but we will get back to her in a bit)
|Harold Perrineau! I love Harold!|
|Hahaha, me too!|
|Yeah, so the show is set in a dark world with its own supernatural ruleset that Constantine and his ilk are very adept and navigating. The show, like the comics, feels like the setting for an urban gothic horror fantasy.
Anyways, Constantine, of course, gets dragged into a major supernatural plot as the demons of his past (literally) come for him at the asylum. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but the way Constantine “helps” people is pretty amazing. He’s one part boyscout, one part jaded ass.
|Now one of the people he sets out to help/hurt is Liv.
Liv is our POV for the universe in the pilot. Her powers and abilities are new to her, as is the entire supernatural world, so Constantine has to find her, keep her safe, and walk her through it. It’s cool and a smart way to do an opening episode.
|Yeah, having a viewpoint character is a given for any high concept show – it’s their way of telling the audience what’s going on. Liv is an interesting one, she has some cool powers that are useful, but also terrible in a specific way. Who wants to be exposed to a world like the one she suddenly finds herself apart of? What I found amazing is that the episode actually raises this question and there is an immediate pay off – Liv would be crazy to stay, and unlike basically any Doctor Who companion, she doesn’t.
This leaves Constantine alone, with a minor “win” under his belt. Again, quintessential Constantine. That jerk.
|What’s even more interesting about this is that it’s not how it was originally recorded.
Lucy Griffiths left the show during production of the second episode, leading producers to go back and rewrite and re-shoot the ending. They refocused the story’s climax to make Constantine the main character, and changed the ending from the version of the pilot I saw months before.
It was incredibly interesting to see these differences on screen, and to be honest I liked how the second version turned out much better.
|Wow, really?? That, sort of makes sense.
Well, I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but I’m curious about how much of that ending did change? Hell, let’s talk about it! Spoilers after this point – we’ll hide the spoilery parts under this button!
|OK, so in the original pilot everything is the same until the conflict on roof. In the original version the demon is still played the entire time by the security guard. When its defeated it starts ranting about Liv’s destiny.
In the revised pilot we saw, the demon turns into Constantine and begins to rant about his destiny. You will notice Liv never appears in shots with the demon from that point on.
|That’s awesome, I guess it goes to show that attending these premieres are totally worth it!|
|Definitely! The ending in the bar is a little different too, instead of receiving a divined map, Constantine is met by Liv who says she’s coming with him, and Manny doesn’t chastise Constantine for chasing the girl away but instead for bringing her with him.
Harold Perrineau might be a bit of a flip-flopper.
|Hahaha, that’s pretty awesome. Ok, so, let’s talk about that bar scene…
One of the weirder aspects of people’s concerns with the way Constantine was going to be portrayed revolves around a specific aspect of his story. It’s not his violent and often graphic battle against evil, but rather his personal bad habits. Namely, his smoking.
To me, that’s a little strange – but it does make sense. Smoking has been targeted as a big No-No by censors in America for a number of years. You never see cigarette commercials on television anymore, for example.
And it’s one of the things that will give you an R rating in movies, right James?
|It’s actually illegal for cigarette companies to advertise anywhere other than magazines, and smoking is considered something that can possibly give you a hard R in movies, but it’s not a definitive rule.|
|So, how does that rating thing translate into television “rules”|
|There isn’t technically a ban for characters smoking on television, only for sponsorships and product placement and commercials. However since the 70’s they have been weeding out smoking characters on television. In the 90’s there were almost none, with a few exceptions (X-Files, anyone?)|
|Who was the smoking man in the X-Files??
|Well, I was actually on the lookout for the way they’d handle smoking in Constantine. It’s not a minor issue either; not only is smoking representative of how the series might handle “mature themes” it is also really important to a major plot involving the Constantine character.
Constantine doesn’t need to smoke just because it’ll make him “look cool” he needs to smoke because there are consequences to everything this character does. He is, perhaps, one of a few characters that actually shows the health ramifications of the habit. Sort of.
So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. And I love how they dealt with it. It’s pretty genius.
|They show Constantine with the ephemera of a smoker. A lighter he nervously twists in his hands, an astray at the bar, a discarded butt he just finished smoking. Somehow, it makes him even more miserable because we don’t see him dwelling on the cool long drags and puffs of smoke.
And what I love about it most of all? It shows some filmmaking and production magic. I mean, it’s not million-dollar CGI, but it is the tricks of editing and pacing that I really admire.
|I agre, I think it’s a smart way to handle something that could have been handled really stupidly.|
|Constantine with the patch?|
|Hahaha, I do love how they do that in Sherlock.|
|I still need to watch that…
Anyways, I’m excited for Constantine. I think it’ll make an interesting addition to DC’s television lineup.
|I’m also excited about it. NBC needs some winners and it’s a good pairing with Grimm on Fridays.|
|Which reminds me… do we have any clue as to how this NBC show might or might not crossover into other DC television properties on say, the WB?|
|Both this and Gotham (FOX) stand on their own, but Guillermo del Toro says he’s up for including it in Justice League Dark if that ever happens.|
|So then, no.
Poor del Toro. He never gets to play with other people’s toys… But it would be so cool!
|It would be! Today a DC executive said that since Marvel is creating a universe, DC is creating a multiverse. I’m not sure if that’s really a plan or just something to call the fact that they have a ton of unconnected properties.|
|Yep, sounds about right. Well, only time will tell!
Still, I’m super psyched about Constantine now. When and where will that bad-boy be airing again?
|It airs tonight (Fridays) at 10pm on NBC|