Monday, October 03, 2005

The True Power of Netflix

In that much referred to previous life, I used to be a movie reviewer for a regional newspaper. During my short stint working there, I discovered something very important about myself. I suck as a reviewer. Why? Because if I receive something -- anything -- without having to pay for it my brain does this math: free = good. The year I was reviewing movies was the same year that such doozies as the remake of Godzilla and the remake of the Avengers came out. I hold the dubious honor of being likely the only print reviewer who actually enjoyed both movies and recommended people to see them. Shortly there after I stopped working for that paper. Though probably not for the reasons you might think. The paper stopped paying for my movies. When I stopped getting comp tickets, I found the job deeply tedious and went diva on my editor, insisting that I should only have to see movies I WANTED to see if I had to pay for the damn things out of my own pocket. I give you this preamble because I just saw Constantine through Netflix. Netflix isn't exactly like seeing a movie for free, but it's not unlike the experience. Netflix is cheap and easy. I've watched dozens of movies I would NEVER have considered spending good money on, and, consequently, found them mildly enjoyable. I found Constantine mildly enjoyable. I was a fan on the comicbook on which the movie was based, Hellblazer. I long ago advocated for a movie version of this comic, if only because I really craved Cheezy Voice Over guy booming out: "John Constantine is.... Hellblazer." They did not give me this moment in the film, alas. Anyeay, I believe I own Hellblazer #1 (as well as the first Swamp Thing in which John Constantine makes his appearance.) The fact that I was a fan of the comic probably saved me a lot of head-scratching. I also tend to enjoy Keanu Reeves, which is a guilty pleasure of mine. Yes, he's stupid. Yes, he's a terrible actor. But he's damn fine to look at, and, frankly does "uncarved block" very well. (I was not at all surprised he was tapped to play the Young Buddha.) Which is to say, he was the worst choice in history to play John Constantine, the world-weary, smart ass, uber-mystic. What made the movie mildly enjoyable to me was the character of Gabriel, the archangel. He ruled. Partly because the director of the film cast Gabriel as a manfully beautiful woman, and really VISUALLY pushed the whole angels are both and neither gender thing with her appearance. Then, of course, in the way of Hellblazers, Gabriel is clearly insane. And, as it turns out, abandoned by God... which, of course, totally fascinated the old me -- the one that used to write about angels all the time. S P O I L E R S In fact, for me, the last, oh, twenty minutes of the film was almost worth sitting through the first hour and a half -- because John Constantine is dead, and the action is happening between Lucifer and Gabriel. I just love a good theological debate, especially when you throw two angels together. In this case both were insane, one fallen and one who doesn't realize "no one has his back." There's this great moment where Gabriel reaches out to punch Lucifer, and Lucifer stops his hand. It's filmed in such a way that you sense that the punch should be an unstoppable force, but Lucifer's will is an unmovable object. Only the fact that Gabriel is no longer in God's grace keeps the world from shattering with that impact. I'm probably -- as usual -- reading to much into it, but the visuals were cool. If I were the director/writer, I'd have ended it with the scene that follows in which a fallen-human Gabriel dares Constantine to kill him. Gabriel's last line to Constantine is something like, "You only hit me when you could have killed me. You're doing so WELL!" It was, honestly, a funny and vaguely touching scene. And it could have summed up what was the theme of the film, if the rest of the film was worth mentioning. So. Don't spent any money on it, but I enjoyed moments of it. Maybe if you can get it for free (or nearly so), you will too.