Y’know, I have to admire DC/Warner Bros. for their tenacity. The IPs they can’t—or won’t—make into live-action, they put all their effort into making them into animations. Whether a series is canceled (as in this case, that series was Constantine on The CW, rest in peace), or still in its proving stages—with the scale of production, not financially feasible, as of yet, to make a movie or series—I’m always somewhat comforted by their willingness to serve the fans.
Here, with Constantine: City of Demons, my thirst for more was quenched.
Matt Ryan (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag) returns as Constantine, reprising his role from the sadly-limited CW show with a cartoonized facelift. Although, this is not to be taken lightly; by no means does this being an animation suggest it’s for kids (or even the mildly-squeamish); plenty of gore and Hellish imagery abound, as is fitting for Constantine’s twisted mirror of our reality. I like it—sets the mood for the circumstances he finds himself in this time. A slightly-different continuity than the live-action show presented, we do get more of an insight as to what, exactly, happened in New Castle all those years ago, when Constantine and Chas were still young. The arc, then, that is created over the course of this 90-minute story means more—for us and for Constantine—as his past mistakes come back to haunt him. Still, it’s good to see the character retained over such a long drought; he’s a good man, underneath everything and despite his own protests to the contrary, and seeing just what he sacrifices to keep his and the outside world in balance truly marks him as a strong character with a lot of storytelling potential. I know it’s unlikely we’ll see Matt Ryan don that old duster in any DCEU movie, but…wouldn’t that be grand? It’d be the perfect supernatural twist the continuity of movies could use to further odd-ify itself, set it apart from the competitor(s).
I’d pay to see that, anyway…
Joining Ryan are a whole slew of other talented voice actors, whose filmographies I’ll leave omitted for time and length, but those names that stick out to fans will: Damian O’Hare, Laura Bailey, Emily O’Brien, Robin Atkin Downes, Rachel Kimsey, Jim Meskimen, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Rick D. Wasserman. Each of them have done everything from videogames to other animation, and have even lent their faces to the big screen. All perform commendably, here; not a line of dialogue goes untreated or sounds phoned-in.
The animation is sleek and refined. It’s good to see consistency in DC/Warner’s animation work, and this style recalls some of the better watches of my teen years. A couple bloopers, here and there, but nothing that wouldn’t break any but the keen-eyed viewer’s concentration. Otherwise, lots of expo-dumping (which, a time or two, feels just like filler) would’ve played better as a mini-series than a 90-minute movie. I saw on IMDb that it was a “series”, of sorts, but now I’m left scratching my head as to how, exactly, it was presented to the public, initally…
References—to DC and the real world—abound, as well as meta-commentary, and twist after twist keeps us guessing. I loved the demon battles; one, in particular, about 2/3 through comes to mind. Just so visceral and intense. A real visual feast. It would’ve looked neat if depicted in live-action, like what we got in Suicide Squad or Batman v. Superman, but the subject matter would’ve restricted it to an R-rating.
Pacing issues, scene to scene, and a non-centric focus, however, brought me out of it a bit. While the arc, as I said, kept me entertained, I found myself wanting just a handful of the many things I was being presented with: Should this be a meaningful tale of redemption, where Constantine has to use all his acquired knowledge and skill to save himself and his friends from demonic torment? Or is it a character piece, focusing on Constantine’s past, and how he’s gotten to this moment in his career? We’re thrown around, setting-wise, too much; trying to get my bearings in the beginning would’ve been impossible, without the exposition (and no place cards).
Overall, though, I had fun with City of Demons. Constantine is a complex character; his story here of finding peace in the fact that not all our past errors can be righted is a poignant message, and accepting that, sometimes, is the only real way we can move on.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.
Here’s hoping to hear—and, possibly, see—Matt Ryan grace us as the Petty Dabbler in the Dark Arts soon again.