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‘Constantine: City of Demons – The Movie’ (review)

Bonfires are burning bright in the latest from DC and CW Animation.

DC has released the supernatural sequel to Justice League Dark with Constantine: City of Demons. Matt Ryan uniquely voices a role he played and continues to play on television as The Hellblazer himself, John Constantine.

Much like the many unnumbered volumes of Vertigo Hellblazer books, this film adds to the Constantine mythos, and that includes the 2005 Keanu Reeves vehicle.

This movie follows the story of Constantine and his childhood punk friend Chas and a life changing experience that has bonded the two together.

Chas asks Constantine for help to save his daughter’s soul from being possessed by hellish demons.

Loosely based on the limited series of the same name, the movie’s writer, J.M. DeMatteis, plucks John out of the streets of London and lands him smack in the middle of the scariest place on earth, Los Angeles.

Producers David S. Goyer, Greg Berlanti, Sam Register and Sarah Schechter serve to combine similar skills to the multi-media property with the DC Universe expanding from the big screen, the Arrowverse and the largely successful DC Animated Universe respectfully.

This R-rated voyage to the dark magic side of the DC Universe fills out Matt Ryan’s Constantine with more gore, violence and takes place on the animation cel where the budget is only limited by the storyteller’s imagination.

Fans of the now defunct TV show and Ryan’s appearances in Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow should brace themselves for pools of rotting corpses, corporeal major cities, Constantine’s signature Zippo and the mouth of a sailor.

A near-perfect casting is one to be celebrated and the popularity of this master of the dark arts is not to be denied. Ryan as Constantine is as nearly as perfect as Jackman portraying Wolverine.

Back to the story, Chas’ daughter Trish is in a coma and it is revealed that her spirit has been enslaved by the demon Beroul in order to have leverage over Constantine. John’s hand is forced to help turn L.A. into the City of Demons in order to save Trish with the assistance of Nightmare Nurse. In retrospect, aspects of this story are a dark mirror to elements of the cinematic Doctor Strange, both sorcerer supremes in their own right, with Ryan even mentioning actor Benedict Cumberbatch by name.

Lots of great stuff here, besides the gore and adult language from the characters. As with any great Hellblazer book, there are moral implications to the magick. If Chas’ daughter’s soul is reclaimed, what cost must the heroes pay? Is it safe to make a deal with the devil?

The morality play cuts deep at the conclusion of the film and, like most Hollywood stories, there are severe consequences to everyone’s actions.

I’ve reviewed many of these DCAU movies, they are among my favorite series of movies, regardless of if they are in the same cinematic universe or not (as I mentioned before, Hellblazer bridges the gap between DC and Vertigo and Elseworlds in the comics, there’s no reason to think that Constantine: City of Demons doesn’t also exist in a universe centered on the occultist detective that highlights fan’s favorite aspects of the character rather than be loyal to any particular DC continuity.

Just in time for Halloween, this version of the story takes the five episodes of the CW Seed story from March and adds 20 minutes to the runtime. I hadn’t seen the webisodes, so impossible for me to tell what padded out the story, but all the same I quite enjoyed this tale. The cussing, the blood, the demons are all great. Watching the animated Matt Ryan use tropes we are familiar with in the live action series like glowing arcane calligraphy etched into people’s skin combined with the fiery hell pits and other set pieces of long form animation is done really well.

With Constantine the character joining the cast of Legends for Season Four, I certainly hope they make more of the animated version as well. It is not only smart to do this, but longtime fans of Hellblazer will get more of what the comics delivers in animation that we will get on the small screen. I very much look forward to Ryan being a series regular on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, he is hilarious and the show is among my favorites in the glut of comic book stories on TV these days!

 

Constantine: City of Demons – The Movie is available now on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital HD

 

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