John’s ablaze but lit­tle else sparks

SFX - - View Screen - Dave Golder

Half the battle when

launch­ing a new su­per­nat­u­ral pro­ce­dural se­ries is get­ting your lead right, both in terms of cast­ing and char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion. That’s made even trick­ier when the char­ac­ter is pre- ex­ist­ing, be­cause then the TV ver­sion comes with the bag­gage of ex­pec­ta­tion.

In this re­spect, NBC’s stab at Con­stan­tine, based on the cocky, chain- smok­ing de­mon hunter from DC’s Hell­blazer comics, has landed a win­ner. Welsh- born Matt Ryan gets his tongue round a pass­able Scouse ac­cent but, more im­por­tantly, feels like gnarly, snarky, world- weary John Con­stan­tine of the comics. The hair may be a lit­tle Tintin, but the scowl is au­then­tic ( cer­tainly much more than Keanu Reeves’ con­fused frown in the film ver­sion).

Sadly, the rest of the show is less sure­footed, as if showrun­ners David Goyer and Daniel Cerone haven’t quite worked out how to make it some­thing other than a Su­per­nat­u­ral spin- off with the Winch­esters’ long- lost Liver­pudlian cousin. They’ve even in­tro­duced an on­go­ing an­gel, Manny ( not a char­ac­ter from the comics), to make the par­al­lels even closer, while sto­ries about voodoo and ur­ban myths feel so familiar in the TV land­scape you can’t help groan­ing the first time you hear the word “Chu­pacabra”.

The regular sup­port­ing cast are de­cid­edly hum­drum too. Ad­mit­tedly, rewrites and changed plans mean that Zeb ( vi­sion- see­ing fe­male as­sis­tant) and Chas ( mus­cle with mul­ti­ple lives) keep van­ish­ing for en­tire episodes, but they never come alive as char­ac­ters or have much chem­istry with John.

The bet­ter episodes are in­spired by char­ters or plots di­rect from the comics (“A Feast Of Friends”, “The Saint Of Last Re­sorts”, “Wait­ing For The Man”); oth­ers feel like for­mu­laic Scooby- Doo- style spooky in­ves­tiga­tive filler. Some de­li­ciously dark con­cepts in the scripts feel sani­tised by a gaudy, glassy shoot­ing style that looks more comic strippy than truly suits the sub­ject mat­ter.

But when­ever Con­stan­tine is cen­tre- stage and sar­cas­tic, the show dis­cov­ers its voodoo hoodoo.

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