Homepage > Joss Whedon Off Topic > James Marsters should play Constantine in Hellblazer
« Previous : Tru Calling - Scans From Cult Times April 2004 Article
     Next : Angel Dies, Firefly is Reborn - Cultimes April 2004 Scans »

From Cinescape.com

James Marsters should play Constantine in Hellblazer

Friday 26 March 2004, by Webmaster

Comicscape - March 24, 2004

What Makes Comic Book Movies Suck - Your Reactions

Author: Tony Whitt

Date: 3/24/2004


First of all, a point of clarification: a certain web site which shall remain nameless felt the need to link to last week’s column with the headline CINESCAPE BLASTS HELLBLAZER’S CONSTANTINE, with a "synopsis" line reading "Who needs to see a movie to review it? Just write a preemptive criticism based on rumor and innuendo." To that statement, let me simply respond: who needs to actually read an article to call it a review? Just assume it’s a review, link to it without permission, and then slap a misleading ’synopsis’ line on it." Anyone who read last week’s column - or at least anyone with a brain, which obviously lets excuses a few so-called "web journalists" - would know that I never said anything about whether or not the film HELLBLAZER itself would suck. Instead, I used the fact that the concept of the comic had been changed to accommodate the casting of Keanu Reeves as a launching point for a discussion of why so many comics concepts get changed in this manner - which, in turn, sometimes leads them to suck. Did I at any point say HELLBLAZER would suck? No, I did not. Can’t say the same for certain web sites, though. What I did say was, and I’m quoting myself here, "This is really about all I’ve heard, but if even that much is accurate, it’s bound to cause changes in the rest of Constantine’s story that will render it almost unrecognizable." And pardon me, but it will do that - regardless of how good the movie itself ends up being. Oh, well...based on their tally of how many people clicked on that link to read my article - if that can be believed any more than the synopsis line can - another 545 people read last week’s column as a result. Thanks, guys! I’m sure most of them got the point, even if you didn’t.

On another note, something I do take the blame for: the source I got all that info about the HELLBLAZER movie from had specifically noted that the character had been changed to a non-smoker, even though a picture which has been floating around the Web for ages now (and which I obviously had not seen, though my editor had) showed Keanu holding a cigarette. The erroneous factoid was edited out, but not before a couple of sharp-eyed folks caught the error. Thanks, guys, and again, my apologies for that. I’m more than happy to take the whip for something like that - even if I’ll be damned if I let someone accuse me of writing a review without seeing something.

OK, enough ranting... Apart from the aforementioned web site and a few annoyed e-mails ("What do you mean, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN sucked?"), the response to last week’s column was voluminous and almost overwhelmingly positive. Due to some unforeseen difficulties in my personal life today (more about that towards the end of the column), I’d like to devote this column to presenting some of the more interesting tidbits to come from those responses, including two amendments to the factors that cause comic book movies to suck (some comic book movies, mind you, and not necessarily ones starring Keanu Reeves. Let’s get that clear).

Jimmy Stuart noted one of those factors, which we will call 7. THE MERCHANDISING FACTOR: "If the studio can create a look for a character that differs enough from the original concept, they can negotiate for a large percentage of the profits from action figures, T-shirts, etc., because they can claim ownership of the new character design. That’s why we get black rubber Batman and black leather X-Men instead of the original costumes. Let’s face it, the black costumes don’t look any less ridiculous to a non-comics fan, which is

the usual reason that movie studios give for changing a costume design. They changed it because they could make a truckload of money off the action figures." Very good point, Jimmy, and certainly one which affects many of the other movies listed last week, as well. That might just explain that ridiculous Green Goblin design, too. (Oh, yeah - to answer Clifton Pegee’s question about why I disliked the movie’s Green Goblin: I thought Willem Dafoe’s characterization was right on the money, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the "battle armor" costume. True, the green and purple outfit from the comic series would’ve looked even goofier, but even still...)

Aaron Quanbeck came up with another one, and after so many years of watching DOCTOR WHO and knowing what lack of money can do to either a series or a movie, I’m kicking myself for not having identified 8. THE BUDGET FACTOR: "I think the budget for a film plays a crucial role in making sure it has a chance to maintain a level of credibility in comparison with its source material. Have you ever seen the 1992 direct-to-video film CAPTAIN AMERICA? (No, Aaron, but I’ve heard the horror stories... - TBW) I really don’t think the director and actors went in wanting to make a horrible movie, but the budget they were given to work with made it virtually impossible to make anything but one of the worst comic book films of all time. A tight budget can also force changes in characters and plot that the director would rather not make. A superhero may not be able to display their powers because its not within the film’s budget to show it on the screen. Try to imagine X-MEN on a super tight budget and how poor of a movie that would have been. I just think that budget plays such a crucial role that it needs to be included in the discussion." I agree with you there - and while I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt when you said that you thought I might have included this factor as part of the Studio Factor, I really didn’t. This is a pretty big one all on its own, as anyone who has watched a bootleg copy of that awful FANTASTIC FOUR movie that was never released, or anyone who’s seen the pilot for the JUSTICE LEAGUE television series which thankfully was never made. When a studio has the money to throw at a project, they also have the luxury of allowing a director and/or screenwriter to bring something as close to the original material as possible to the screen. Some have said that budgetary restraints can work in a movie’s favor as they cause the production team to come up with creative ways to shoot the material without the money - but in the case of superhero movies, that just can’t be done.

Deborah Lipp pointed out something I did not mention in the Plot Factor: "The condensation of time. In the case of Spider-Man, you have a comic series that has taken place over the course of 40 some odd years. I can’t even count how many comic book issues that’s been, what with AMAZING, TEAM-UP, and on and on. How do you take an origin story, a glorious romance with Gwen Stacy, and a much later romance with Mary Jane Watson, and have it be meaningful to an audience so that they can sit down and watch one movie (to start)? Hell, even Peter Jackson condensed! The solution in Spider-Man, to conflate the characters of Gwen and MJ, made sense not just for general plot considerations, but as a way of moving the audience from Silver Age to present day sensibilities smoothly, while honoring each. Another excellent example is the character of Rogue in the X-Movies. All of the interest about Rogue centers on an origin that happened an unnamed number of years before the comics in which she participates. Making the character younger so that the origin is concurrent with the storyline makes sense... Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN is a great story, probably too complex to film, but it’s still ONE story. With series, we’re talking dozens of stories, characters that depart and come back years later, and of course cross-overs. That just isn’t the stuff movies are made of. I’m in favor of movies conflating plot, respectfully, and I’m content to treat comics and movies as different animals. The good comic movies look and feel right (except for Halle Berry) and I can live with that." This is a good point, Deborah, and I also agree with conflating plot strands, especially the MJ/Gwen conflation. Maybe it’s just me, but did anyone else get to that scene on the bridge and start getting anxious and even a bit teary-eyed, thinking, "Oh, god, they wouldn’t..." Of course MJ survived, but...whew. It was a bold move on their part, and I enjoyed that momentary suspension of disbelief all the more - even if I did have to explain to my date later why I’d been crying at that point and then laughing and crying after the scene ended.

Deanna DePriest, however, disagrees with Deborah about one thing: "You neglected to mention in your column the absurd way in which they changed the character of Rogue in X-MEN. In the comics, Rogue is an adult who has the power to fly and immense strength. She also has a thing going on with Gambit (who hasn’t even been heard or seen in neither X-Men movie to date, except for the brief screen time in X2 when Mystique was

checking out the computer files in Stryker’s office). (For those who didn’t catch that, his name shows up in the mutant registry, along with a few other old friends of ours. - TBW) Besides, I thought in the comics that Mystique brought Rogue up and had her use her powers to steal Carol Danvers’ power of flying and strength. And didn’t that guy from her childhood die after being in a coma forever?" All true, Deanna, though in defense of Bryan Singer and company, that would have been a lot to bring into a movie which already ran a good little piece. The same thing happens with the introduction of Nightcrawler - even though there’s a nice little exchange of dialogue between Mystique and Kurt in the second movie, there’s no indication that it’s a discussion between mother and son. Yet. After all, who really knows how old the movie version of Mystique actually is?

A reader named "SlowX" notes another example of the Director Factor hobbling a movie: "One of my favorite stories was [about the] making [of] that awful CAPTAIN AMERICA movie years ago, where the director admitted he just couldn’t relate to the hero wearing a costume. And, go figure, he was the director. Wow... even more reasons why it sucked." As they say down here in Louisiana, X, "true dat!" I do wonder, though, which Cap movie this was - was it the direct-to-video version mentioned above, or was it that really awful one made for TV in which Cap had a motorcycle helmet with a "C" on it (and a motorcycle to match) and a see-through plastic shield? If Aaron Quanbeck thought the one he mentioned was bad, he should try to track that one down...

David Thurlow wrote in for a reason which even he is surprised at: "Never thought I’d write this but...in defense of Keanu Reeves...I have been following the production of the HELLBLAZER movie for quite a while because I’ve been a HELLBLAZER fan for a long, long time. A couple years ago the film’s writer was on the Vertigo message board talking about the project. It sounded like it was going to be utter crap even then but they didn’t make John an American [to cast] Keanu or any other actor. (At the time Nick Cage was the intended lead...most fans seemed to want James Marsters.) The people with the money felt that American fans wouldn’t be interested in an English main character so they insisted that he be written as an American. (One might wonder, then: why not change the character’s name along with every other important detail about him and thus avoid even having to license him?) The writer made a pitiful effort to defend all of the crappy pointless changes and eventually fell back on the ’I have a wife and kid to feed’ argument. Personally I wish the guy’d get some crap job like the rest of us have and leave our escapist fiction the hell alone, but then I guess it’s not his fault. Ok...enough time wasted defending the rich attractive movie star who has it all and wants more..." Ouch!

William McCaffrey makes another point about Keanu: "I recall when they first began casting the movie, they had already announced that the character would no longer be British, but American. I forget who was being considered at the time (possibly Nicolas Cage again, as he seemed to be starring in a different comic book movie each week). It was about this time that Mr. Moore actually gave his 2 cents about it and said that since Constantine was based on Sting, ’they should have gotten Sting to play him.’ This prompted the following response from a studio executive: ’With all due respect to Sting and Mr. Moore, we wanted somebody who could act.’ So...Tell me how this applies to Keanu? They could have done a lot better in terms of casting, but then again, we all know how Hollywood works: attach a ’hot’ actor to a risky movie venture and you at least guarantee some box office. But to put in my 2 cents (which will probably earn zero interest in some memory banks), Keanu’s not exactly ’hot box office.’ Using the original MATRIX as an example doesn’t really hold water: The movie could have stood on its own merits due to story and special effects, it wasn’t especially due to any brilliant acting on the part of Mr. Reeves. Hell,

almost any young, brooding and talented actor could have been cast and it still would have been a box office hit. (Well, maybe not... Still have a hard time imagining Steve Buscemi as Neo without giggling...) Final bit of my rant: If they wanted to at least cast a decent Constantine, why couldn’t they have chosen someone more like... Oh, say, James Marsters? Granted, the attitude would be incredibly similar to Spike, but hey.. At least there’s be ’someone who could act’ in the role." I’m liking this idea of Marsters as Constantine more and more... Maybe a video of that version of the movie from some alternate universe will make its way down a wormhole to us someday?

There’s a lot more responses I could add to this column, but it’s already pretty long, and this has been a long day already. I apologize to those anticipating my list of the top ten comics I feel should be brought to the big screen, but my cat Leela is undergoing emergency surgery to remove a blockage in her kidneys today, and those of you with pets know what something like that does to your brain. (Finding out it’s going to cost a thousand dollars, which I currently don’t have, doesn’t much help the creative juices, either. Having kids is expensive, isn’t it?) So, I figured, why not share the fun and let you tell me what comics you want most to be brought to the big screen, and why? Not to television, mind you, though if you think a particular comic would work better as a miniseries, feel free to say so. Send your choices to me by midnight on Saturday, March 27 via the web site contact address here or to me directly. And as always, don’t forget our discussion boards. Next week, we’ll list the top ten comic books that you feel should be adapted to the big screen (if I can think of ten, and if they haven’t been optioned already - feel free to chime in with some suggestions). But first, here’s the books for this week:


Because you Barbarian fans loved it so much, Dark Horse is releasing a new printing of Kurt Busiek’s CONAN #1 this week, so if you missed it last time, go get it! Then you’ll know whether or not to pick up CONAN #2, also available this week. Speaking of other comics made into movie, they’re also releasing the HELLBOY: THE CORPSE one shot. And then there’s CRUSH #4, FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND #2, the HELLSING: VOL 2 trade paperback for $13.95, LONE #5, and ULTRAMAN: TIGA #6 (Of 10). Quite the massive output, there!

Yet another hero from the past is promised to us in AVENGERS #80. I suppose that’s better than getting the sort of lame new characters like Justice and Triathalon that this series has given us in the past...

From Wildstorm we get the AUTHORITY: HARSH REALITIES trade paperback for $14.95, which collects the series’ first story arc, and a war begins in WILDCATS VERSION 3.0 #19. Go figure.

A multimillionaire tries to separate a mother from the daughter whom Norrin Radd has just returned to her in SILVER SURFER #7. And you thought Bill Gates was evil.

here it for the Bat-girls this week! The Girl herself throws down with the Bat in the double-sized BATGIRL #50, while Black Canary reluctantly teams up with the villainous Cheshire in BIRDS OF PREY #65. Both those scenarios sound like those times I had to serve on a committee in my day job. Academics can be evil, you know.

Sue meets the Mole Man for the first time in ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #4, but they don’t see eye to eye. For obvious reasons.

Vertigo releases two series well deserving of their own movie versions: Peter Milligan’s HUMAN TARGET #8 and Andy Diggle’s LOSERS #10. I’d include Andy’s SWAMP THING in that, but they already did that, didn’t they? And not badly, either, as I recall.

What is it with series about bowmen and titles that can be read as sexual puns? Bad enough we have "The Long, Hard Shaft" or whatever it’s called in Marvel’s HAWKEYE series...but GREEN ARROW: STRAIGHT SHOOTER? Anyway, it’s a trade paperback collecting GREEN ARROW #s 26-31 for $12.95. Worth buying, even with that title.

Everyone’s favorite shape-changing mutant revisits her romantic past in MYSTIQUE #12. Of course, one has to wonder how many romantic pasts one can have when one can wear anyone’s face - doesn’t one?

surprise you to learn that Geoff Johns is not writing HAWKMAN #26 - it’s instead being scripted by Josh Siegal, with art by John Byrne and Lary Stucker. And it’s got vampires in it. What is it with Byrne and vampires lately, anyway?

The JSA: THE LIBERTY FILES trade paperback collects both the Elseworlds JSA: THE LIBERTY FILES miniseries and its follow-up, JSA: THE UNHOLY THREE for $19.95. Great, they’re collecting Elseworlds series, even with how short they tend to be? I half expect them to start putting out hardcovers of one-shots next...oh, yeah, they do that already. Huh.

If you want to get your Spidey-on, this is the week to do it. ("Spidey-on"?) Both the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL 4: LIFE & DEATH OF SPIDERS trade paperback and the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL 6: HAPPY BIRTHDAY trade paperback are out this week, for $11.99 and $12.99, respectively. Guess the dollar difference is meant to make up for Volume 5 being missing in action... (Yes, I know, it’s probably already out, so please don’t write in.) There’s also a last shot of multi-armed goodness in SPIDER-MAN/DOC OCTOPUS: OUT OF REACH #5 (Of 5); and speaking of major motion pictures, Peter continues to give Toby Maguire a piece of his mind in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #55. (Two-issue story arc...I’m seeing a hardback edition for $29.95 in your future, Spider-fans...) And while I don’t know if anyone cares, VENOM #12 is also out this week. It does have Reed Richards in it, so that’s one reason to buy it, anyway.

In what may be the DC Focus line’s most promising title, KINETIC tells the story of a disabled young man with an extraordinary power. Written by the equally extraordinary Kelley Puckett, #1 ships this week.

worry, I’m not going to say anything about getting your "Hulk-on." I’ll just tell you that the conclusion of HULK: GRAY is out this week, and that the latest story arc concludes in INCREDIBLE HULK #69. See? I can be good when I want to. I just rarely want to, that’s all.

Team titles just don’t translate to the big screen (or indeed the small non-animated screen) well - the JLA movies, anyone? But if one team series had to go Hollywood, I’d want it to be OUTSIDERS, issue #10 of which is out this week. Best part is, Judd Winick has worked in TV before, so he could write the script. Oh, wait, they didn’t do scripts on that show...

And then there’s the usual x-citement in WEAPON X #20, X-STATIX #20, and X-TREME X-MEN #44.

3 Forum messages