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Hellblazer John Constantine Fights Demons
With all apologies to Keanu Reeves, for many fans now Matt Ryan is the trenchcoated John Constantine here and forever. First appearing as the comic book character on NBC’s ill-fated television series, Ryan has since played Constantine in the animated Justice League Dark movie and now this impressive CW Seed production. Making guest appearances as the character on various Arrowverse episodes, John Constantine is being added as a permanent cast member to DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’s upcoming season.
Constantine: City of Demons is a loose animated adaptation of the Vertigo graphic novel, Hellblazer: All His Engines. Vaguely grounded in the continuity established by the animated Justice League Dark film, City of Demons first appeared as a series of web shorts on CW Seed. It follows in the footsteps of other such CW Seed shorts like Vixen and Freedom Fighters: The Ray getting released in movie form for home video. What Constantine: City of Demons has over them as a huge advantage is the production being written by veteran DC Comics’ scribe J.M. DeMatteis, and intended as a movie from the beginning. CW Seed simply broke up the script into shorts for the initial web series.
Let’s make one thing clear about Constantine: City of Demons and its adult content. It’s one of the few R-rated animated movies starring a character from DC Comics’ huge roster. Featuring blood and gore, disturbing imagery and even sexual content, this movie is not for children. The mature plot and characters are all plucked from the Hellblazer comics, made for adults and older teenagers.
The voice cast surrounding Ryan as Constantine includes Damian O’Hare (Hell On Wheels) as Chas Chandler, Laura Bailey as Trish & Asa The Healer, Emily O’Brien (The Young and the Restless) as Rene Chandler, Kevin Michael Richardson (Family Guy) as Mahonin, Jim Meskimen (Parks and Recreation) as Beroul, Robin Atkin Downes (The Strain) as Nergal, Rachel Kimsey (Justice League Action) as Angela, and Rick Wasserman (Batman: The Killing Joke) as Mictlantecuhtli.
This might be the single-best adaptation of the comic book character outside of graphic novels
This might be the single-best adaptation of the comic book character outside of graphic novels
The movie finds Constantine looking into his old friend Chas Chandler’s daughter’s coma. Exhausting medical solutions, Chas asks Constantine for help. He finds that Trish is a young girl in a demonically-induced coma. Constantine pulls out his usual magical tricks to discover a demon holding sway over the girl. Constantine will call in a favor from the Nightmare Nurse for help, as he goes out to L.A. from London looking for the demon responsible.
Going West, Constantine will find that Trish’s soul plays just one part in a greater struggle for control of the occult scene in L.A. A demon wants to turn the city into his own corner of Hell. Ties to a dark incident in Constantine’s past will get dredged up by his enemies, preying on Constantine’s conscience. The occasional magic user must outwit the demon spawn of Hell and save Trish’s soul. Like his best stories, there is always a price to pay for Constantine when he summons forces with great power.
Constantine: City of Demons has sleek, economical storytelling that fits right into Constantine’s rich history as a character. This might be the single-best adaptation of the comic book character outside of graphic novels. It is focused on Constantine and has moving character development, without changing his habits for another medium. There is an unexpected edge to the movie that validates the R-rating without feeling gratuitous. This is a mature approach to the character that adds serious depth to the John Constantine seen outside of graphic novels and Vertigo Comics.
Unlike prior CW Seed productions which were limited by their web short origins when turned into a full-length movie, Constantine: City of Dreams is a fully-realized movie that sets a new standard for the popular character in animation.
Video (4K UHD)
Constantine is covered in blue. That’s for mood, but works in its favor. When bright auras appear, they carry tremendous sizzle, breaking out from the monochromatic palette. When fully breathing, the intensity of pinks and reds dominate.
There’s a grain filter added over the image. Warner’s UHD encode is hefty enough to handle the stress. No impact to the flawless digital line work is noted. Sharpness is absurdly good.
This dark world needs dense shadows and black levels provide. Image depth and dimension battles the rich blue color that dominates the run time. Depth wins. City lights break from the seediness, helped by this powerful HDR pass. Neons in a bar establish both color and contrast intensity. The natural vibrancy is almost too good for the stylized animation.
The 90-minute main feature gets a BD-25 on Blu-ray, presented in the animation’s native 1.78:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution. Encoded in AVC, the video averages modest bitrates hovering around 15 Mbps. Produced by WB Animation like all of DC’s animated movie output, Constantine: City of Demons fares somewhat poorly on Blu-ray with banding and posterization. Despite some of their most sophisticated and intricate animation yet, it’s hard avoiding the noticeable compression-related problems.
Outside of the occasional compression issues, Constantine: City of Demons offers the most impressive animation designs we’ve seen from WB Animation. Cloaked in John Constantine’s seedy underworld of demons and occult rogues, the moodier aesthetic has a dark color palette. Darker hues rule the day, especially when the demons become active.
Each character receives superb linework and consistency. From the sexy Queen of Angels to the demon Beroul, these designs breathe animated life into them beyond their two-dimensional artwork. The art direction takes a leap in quality over prior animated DC releases, taking cues from its closest related animated project, Justice League Dark. The animators definitely take advantage of the R-rated action for maximum visual effect.
Like all of DC’s animated films, black levels are inky with nigh perfect depth. The occasional splash of color highlights the appeal of animated comic book adventures. The bold, vibrant clarity works for the digitally inked animation.
A solid 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack with pinpoint placement and clean fidelity adds emphasis to the demonic action on screen. The nicely dynamic score employs strong bass, supporting the discrete audio mix. Activity is concentrated towards the front soundstage. However, intelligent placement of rear channel sounds add a nice touch to the surround immersion. Experienced viewers of DC’s recent animated output should know what to expect from this respectable audio showing.
Optional English SDH, French, German and both forms of Spanish subtitles appear in a white font. A hidden Japanese subtitle track exists if you set your player correctly for that language. Lossy dubs in French, German and Spanish are included in 5.1 Dolby Digital. This is a Warner disc clearly authored for a global audience.
This 4K UHD combo pack includes the UHD, a Blu-ray, and a Movies Anywhere digital copy. Sorry, Warner isn’t offering UV anymore on this release. The included digital copy does register as a 4K copy on Movies Anywhere, but your linked VUDU account will only have the movie in HDX quality since they don’t carry the movie in 4k resolution. Avoid redeeming this 4K digital copy on VUDU for that reason. Fandango Now will also give 4K quality when redeeming the Movies Anywhere code.
The set comes in a smooth, embossed slipcover with very slick-looking artwork.
The Sorcerer’s Occultist: Understanding John Constantine (13:38 in HD) – This featurette has producers Butch Lukic and David Goyer breaking down John Constantine as a character and his rich history. Most interesting is the inclusion of an outside specialist in the occult and magical practices, who soberly recounts the various incantations and spells often used by Constantine. Certainly one of the more useful featurettes seen on Blu-ray for an animated DC movie.
Constantine: City of Demons WonderCon Panel 2018 (20:50 in HD) – A small three-person panel consisting of actor Matt Ryan, writer J.M. DeMatteis and a producer jovially discuss the project and take questions from the audience. It is similar in scope to the Comic Con panels seen on Arrowverse-related releases. Matt Ryan here gets most of the attention.
The Death of Superman Trailer (01:42 in HD) – Plays before the main menu after inserting the disc.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray release was provided to us for review by the label. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page to learn more about DoBlu’s editorial policies.
Constantine: City of Demons
A rousing occult adventure in animated form, starring Matt Ryan’s stellar take on magical comic book character John Constantine.
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