Hello, my friends. No matter the time of year, our souls will continually stir before, during and after the Season of the Witch. This time around however, one particular spirit is hanging in the balance for our featured protagonists. On that note, I welcome you to a particular entry in this special series known as…
Before we move forward within the New 52 Animated Universe/DC Animated Movie Universe, we need to take a quick step back and cover something that I haven’t gotten to yet. This time around, our familiar Hellblazer makes his return as he embarks on a particular journey in a tale known as…
Serving as an adaptation of the 2005 graphic novel “All His Engines” (written by Mike Carey and drawn by Leonardo Mano), this Doug Murphy-directed and J.M. DeMatteis-penned entry had an interesting path with its release. The first half of our featured film was originally released as five episodes on March 24, 2018 upon the free-to-watch streaming site known as the CW Seed, shortly after debuting at WonderCon on the same day. Eventually, the full feature got its DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download release on October 9. The initial five-part series even got a special showing on the CW on October 15 under the title of “Constantine: The Legend Continues” before the whole movie (minus certain scenes made exclusively for the home video) was re-released on the CW Seed as two full episodes on January 19, 2019. With all of that out of the way, let’s venture into the occult underbelly and see how this trip through the universe’s magically dark side holds up within my eyes.
Following a quick showing of a young girl plummeting towards impending doom…
…we truly begin at the Ravenscar Psychiatric Institution where a young John Constantine (voiced by Matt Ryan) is being visited by his fellow musician and friend named Francis “Chas” Chandler (voiced by Damian O’Hare). Constantine has been making progress on his mental recovery as Chas looks forward to getting their music careers back on track. Following one particular puff, the smoke proceeds to seap into the various plants and cause them to grow at a rapid rate. Chandler notices and reminds his friend that he wasn’t going to use his magic anymore. At that moment, the spell wears off as all of the plants proceed to wither away. John tearfully tells his friend that it won’t let “it” happen again before growing hysterical. Chas calls out for help as some orderlies rush in and manage to pin Constantine down before injecting him with a sedative.
Following the title card, we get flashes of a present-day city combined with the random conversations of its citizens before culminating with a mysterious woman proclaiming herself as the “Queen of Angels”.
From there, a high-pitched ring forces John to wake up in his London-based flat following a presumed nightmare. As he prepares to have a cigarette, he hears a sudden swoosh combined with the tiny rattle of empty beer bottles. To his surprise, he’s approached by tiny little demons dressed in his likeness (and also voiced by Matt Ryan to boot) as he proceeds to fend them off.
During the scuffle, they explain that they’re “materialized psychisms” formed from his unconscious state and given physical forms. Knowing what he has to do in order to get rid of them, he conjures up a spell and causes the Constantine Demons to dissipate before drawing them back inside of him. Afterwards, John believes that someone has caused the doorway between his consciousness & unconsciousness to open, thus letting his little demons out. Just then, he hears some knocking at his door as Chas announces his presence before Constantine opens up.
Later, they’re at a pub as they take in their first meeting with each other in a decade. In that time frame, Chas got himself married to Renee. However, their unionship has hit a recent hurdle since they’ve been separated for the past seven months. Chandler explains that over the last few years, he’s grown distant and cold from his wife, especially since he’s done some unneeded drinking. In fact, the only family comfort and personal strength that he can find nowadays comes from the love of his eight-year old daughter Trish. However, he alludes to the fact that something bad has happened to her.
As they drive through the London streets, Chas says that his daughter is in a mysterious coma, one that has the doctors baffled on how it was caused and on how they can cure it. Chandler tells his longtime friend that he’s been around “dark magic” long enough to suspect that it may have something to do with his girl’s present plight. John doesn’t initially buy it at first since he thinks that it’s just a random “thing” that life is throwing at him, but Chas still wants him to see for himself.
After arriving at the London Hospital, they approach Trish’s room with her mother & Chas’ wife Renee Chandler (voiced by Emily O’Brien) standing right outside. Needless to say, she’s less-than-thrilled at seeing John and doesn’t want him near her daughter. With Constantine only needing five minutes by himself in order to properly know what’s ailing Trish, Chas convinces Renee before the Hellblazer himself heads inside. From there, he begins to scan her body as he soon discovers that her aura has become tainted by a demonic presence. He peaks outside to let Chas and Renee know that he’ll need some extra time since he has to get in contact with “a specialist”. From there, a magical shadow begins to grow over the hallways as the nearby staff and patients become completely still.
Afterwards, John summons a certain helper as it turns out to be the Nightmare Nurse herself, Asa The Healer (voiced by Laura Bailey). From there, she proceeds to magically examine Trish and discovers that it’s not demonic possession since her soul isn’t in her body. Constantine exclaims that someone was accessing Trish as Asa summons a rod and opens up a connection with her in order to find out the culprit. Just as magical contact gets made, Trish communicates through Asa and mentions that she’s in some sort of cage as a prisoner of “the nasty man”. When John asks if this being has a name, the connection gets interrupted by her captor. Constantine then asks why he needs the girl’s body, to which the demon exclaims that he’ll need to visit in order to find out. From there, he severs Asa’s connection in a flash of hellish light before leaving an address in flames upon a window.
With the blast causing her to shift into her original demonic form, the Nightmare Nurse manages to regain her human shell before dropping the immobilizing spell upon the hospital corridor. From there, John emerges with Asa as he tells the Chandlers that she’ll stay behind to watch over Trish while he heads out to a specific address in Los Angeles: 1247 Enstrom.
Following another flash of L.A.-based images, Constantine is awoken by another high-pitch ring as it’s discovered that he’s on an international flight. Not only that, but Chas is accompanying him since this involves his daughter. As their flight gets within landing distance, Constantine warns his friend that’re going to be dealing with dark magic before Chandler asks him if it’s “deeper than Newcastle”. With both of them aware of what went down there all those years ago, John exclaims that they can’t change what happened then before Chas presents a picture of himself with his family as a reminder of the thing that they can change. As the picture gets placed in his jacket pocket, Constantine warns him that when it comes to these kinds of dark magic, they never end well since “there’s always a price to pay”.
After they touch down and pick up their bags, Chas notices a local newspaper about a recent surge of coma cases before he and John head out. Just then, Constantine notices a quick flash within a passing woman’s eyes before he and Chandler continue on their quest.
Back in London, Asa has cast the Shield of Ermed over Trish as she informs Renee that it’ll protect her daughter’s body and anchor it onto this plane. As Mrs. Chandler is amazed by this massive display of supernatural magic, Asa says that she’s unaware of the darkness that looms over the real world. Renee says that she’s actually aware of it as they allude to a particular incident in Newcastle. Asa exclaims that she only knows bits & pieces about it, thus she would like to know the full tale since John hasn’t told her about it. Renee refuses to indulge, but Asa simply places her in a trance while delving into her husband’s background.
Chas and Johnny were friends ever since their childhood days in Liverpool. As they got older, they even bonded over punk rock. Through time, they learned how to play, formed their own band (known in the comics as “Mucous Membrane”) and began playing in local, low-end dives.
Fate would intervene one particular evening when the band played at a Newcastle joint called the Casanova Club. It turns out that the building was run by Alex Logue who held his own cult in the basement and on that night, he used his own daughter named Astra “as a focal point for his spells”, specifically as “a human channel to draw the dark magic down into the physical world”. During the ceremony, John and Chas have wandered into the club’s basement, since they ultimately found out about this vile act. Because Constantine already had a couple of years worth of occult training from Alex back then, he unleashed his plan in order to save the girl. While he chants an incantation, Chas is able to fend off the cult members. What John had in mind for his rescue plan was that he would summon a demon named Nergal (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes).
From there, it proceeds to slaughter Logue and all of his cult members with ease. However, Constantine’s youthful inexperience comes into play when he forgot to cast a binding spell upon the demon. He and Chas manage to get Astra upstairs as they reunite with their bandmates. From there, Nergal emerges and begins to slaughter a good portion of the patrons, including the bandmates. Afterwards, it opens up a portal before immobilizing John & Chas. It then grabs Astra and drags her towards the demonic doorway.
Constantine manages to free himself with his budding magic, but it’s too late as Nergal tosses the girl into the entryway as she plummets straight to Hell before taking his leave with her. With the portal closed, this emotionally-crippling event was how the eventual Hellblazer wound up at Ravenscar. From there, Renee concludes this tale by stating that Chas would soldier on with this knowledge, though in a naive state. Afterwards, Asa would wipe her tear and memory of delivering this backstory as she pretends to be okay with not hearing about it.
We cut to the streets of Los Angeles as John and Chas drive their rental car towards their destination. As he spots another random civilian with flashing eyes, Constantine comments about a strange feeling that he has over this city. Eventually, they arrive at 1247 Enstrom Boulevard before being let in by a pig-headed butler. He tells them to wait for his master before taking his leave, but John decides to go snooping around on his own.
He ultimately comes across an indoor pool filled with rotting, decaying corpses before he’s met upon by the house’s head demon, Beroul (voiced by Jim Meskimen). He tells Constantine that because of his friendship to Chas, kidnapping Trish’s soul was his way of inviting him out here. He then takes him to a party that he’s hosting in order to properly explain himself.
In this twisted festivity where his fellow demons delight in torturing captive humans with various methods (even through horrific silent films), Beroul tells John that he managed to establish his own slice of Hell within Los Angeles.
After Constantine gets thrown into the motion picture screen’s projection of outer space before eventually winding up back at the basement pool, he continues his explanation by stating that his own upstart “branch office of Hell” has to contend with five other powerful demons who’re also looking to achieve what he’s after. As such, he’ll use John to get them out of his way. Constantine then demands to know where Trish is, to which the being says that she’s literally inside his heart.
Chas overhears this and rushes in to attack, but John stops him and says that if Beroul gets injured, then Trish will also suffer the same way. However, Chandler says that they don’t know if that’s the case as he attempts to plunge a sword into the foul being. Unfortunately, Beroul simply teleports him to the rooftop of Griffith Observatory. In the end, John ultimately agrees to do the job offer.
Afterwards, he drives as fast as he can towards the famed observatory. A big rig drives right towards him as they both stop in time before John notices the same familiar glow in the driver’s eyes before taking his leave. Eventually, he reaches Chas as they get in the car and drive off.
As they make their way back into town, Constantine has told Chandler that he’s reluctantly decided to work for Beroul in order to rescue Trish’s soul. When Chas implores on how the coma victims are somehow connected, John exclaims that they’re possibly fueling Beroul’s magical abilities to open portals between their realm and Hell itself in order to firmly establish his “franchise” and constantly feast upon innocent people. Not too long afterwards, they’re suddenly pursued by a pack of flaming Hellhounds. The unearthly beasts ultimately manage to reach their car and begin to smash their way in. John attempts to fend them off as he believes that these creatures belong to one of Beroul’s business rivals. However, there’s too many to keep at bay. Fortunately, they approach a cliffside curve as Chas slams on the brakes and swerves the car towards the side before flooring the gas pedal in order to prevent the vehicle from going over. With the hounds starting to slip off, they manage to jump out in time as the car plummets with the beasts, smashing down with a gas-filled explosion.
Unfortunately, they don’t have time to rest as more Hellhounds are about to catch up to them. They try to run away, but it starts becoming apparent that those abominations will ultimately reach them. As such, Constantine manages to cast a protection spell in the form of a fiery angel as it provides a barrier against the foul beings. However, John tells Chas that it’s only a temporary shield as they begin to dash away. Suddenly, a random car comes up from behind as it drives up the cliffside before stopping in front of our heroes. The civilian tells them to get inside, even mentioning John’s name as well, as they proceed to climb in and elude the foul beings. Constantine then asks the guy how he knows his name, but the driver says that maintaining control over both the car and this body isn’t easy.
Eventually, they arrive back within the city limits as John and Chas get dropped off at a swank hotel with the possessed driver saying that he’ll keep in touch. From there, a flash in his eyes snaps the man out of his possessed state before he drives off. Knowing that Beroul wasn’t behind the possessive control over the guy, Constantine heads inside with Chandler.
Back in London, demonic spirits “from the lower astral plane” show up and attempt to possess Trish’s lifeless body. Fortunately, the Shield of Ermed is able to keep them out. However, Asa tells Renee that it’s going to get very difficult to protect her daughter as long as Trish’s soul is still captured. With the Nighmare Nurse sensing some lingering love for her husband, Renee explains that a certain kind of affection for her husband still exists, especially after their love for each other led to the grand creation of their child. Not to mention, Trish still deeply cares about her father. While Asa is able to grasp “the pleasures of this human flesh”, she simply explains that the certain family love that was just described “is a mystery” to her.
Later, John meets up with Beroul who’s relaxing in his blood-filled pool. The obese demon casually expresses his disappointment towards his hired client for not eliminating his competition in just two days on the job. Constantine explains that he’s had to do some paranormal investigating in order to find out where these otherworldly beings are regularly meeting up. Beroul then levitates out of his pool as he says that Trish’s body is continuing to dwindle in strength due to the continued absence of her soul. John then says that he doesn’t even know if the foul being even has the girl. In his demented way of giving him proof, Beroul proceeds to shove him into his body.
After a lengthy tumble into the being’s innards, John ultimately comes across the imprisoned Trish (also voiced by Laura Bailey) who’s initially startled by him. Back in London, her body convulses in fright. Asa sends her astral form inside as she reaches Constantine and informs him that she won’t be able to protect the girl’s body for much longer. With Beroul ready to expunge the Hellblazer, the Nightmare Nurse gets forcibly cast back into her body. John then promises Trish that he’ll save her before getting forcefully removed.
After Constantine returns to the regular realm, he gets up and begins to head out before Beroul exclaims about how he’s changed a lot “since Newcastle”. John immediately stops as the foul being perfectly recalls the infamous night when he dragged Astra to Hell. To Constantine’s horror, Beroul was merely a skin as the true demon emerges from within the facade: Nergal. He explains that he’s kept an eye on Johnny ever since that fateful night, ranging from Constantine’s journey back to the mentally-stable to honing his practices upon the dark arts. John then demands to know why he’s doing this, to which Nergal explains that he wants him to reach a certain potential, which is serving the infamous demon as his human agent. Because the foul being has certain limitations within this world, he’ll use Constantine to amass “customers” for his “business”. John then demands that once he helps him complete this task, Trish’s soul will be let go and they never cross each other again. Nergal agrees before he’s asked about Astra, to which he tells Constantine that she’s still in Hell. As our Hellblazer heads out, Nergal warns him that if Asa ever attempts “to get inside” him again, “it won’t end well for her or Trish”.
Later, John is walking through a lowend side of town as he calls up Chaz and informs him that he’s getting close to finding their five featured demons due to a certain psychic residue that they leave behind. Just then, a young boy gets a familiar glow in his eyes as he charges right into Constantine before pointing him towards a certain bar before he’s relieved of possessed control and walks off.
From there, John enters Guadalupe’s Bar where a woman invites him over to her table for some martinis. As he takes in a drink, she exclaims how it’s nice to see him again. With him being rightfully puzzled over that statement, she strokes her foot onto his leg and reveals certain citizens that he’s seen with the certain glow upon their eyes. After revealing her name to be Angela (voiced by Justice League Action’s Wonder Woman herself, Rachel Kimsey), she then acknowledges herself with the random conversations and various mental flashes of L.A. before revealing her official title: Queen of Angels. After he’s stunned by this revelation, she offers him to join her in back so that she can properly explain why she’s “so much more”.
Once they arrive in the restroom, she prepares to give him “a history lesson”. To do this however, she unbuttons his shirt and discards his pants before mounting him for the most unusual moment of sex. As she transforms into various individuals from history who’ve graced upon this particular section of land, he realizes that she’s “the collective consciousness of the city”. She explains that over the many years, people have come to “her” for various purposes, but like any city, it’s also see its dark times. Despite the various faults that have been laid upon L.A., she still cares about its citizens and she’s not willing to let demons have their way within the city.
After John discovers that she was the one who poked around in his head and tapped into the darkest parts of his inner psyche in order to unleash the Constantine Demons back in his London flat, Angela explains that she wanted to make sure that he was capable of taking on the five opposing demons. With the otherworldly sexual encounter over, she zips his pants back up and helps him get his shirt & trenchcoat back on before exclaiming that they “use each other” before taking her leave.
Later, John arrives back at his hotel room as he uses his cell phone’s browser to do some research. He tells Chas that he’s not powerful enough to deal with Nergal’s demonic opposition, so he’ll need something to properly handle this situation. As such, he presents his solution: the Ancient Aztec death god known at Mictlantecuhtli. After using some magic to project a convincing image of the grand being, he explains that despite the demise of the Aztec Empire, the Spanish settlers accepted it into their faith and brought it over with them onto Southern California, even surviving long past the rise and fall of several other gods. After dispelling the image back onto his cell phone, Chas then asks how this being has anything to do with his daughter.
From there, they arrive at a meat-packing plant as John breaks in and makes his way into the central storage room. Afterwards, he purposefully cuts his hand and offers some of his blood in order to call upon Mictlantecuhtli. His blood gets formed into a summoning circle before opening up as Constantine falls into a cavern containing rotten, smelling meat.
He’s then met upon by Mictlantecuhtli (voiced by Rick D. Wasserman) who demands to know how he found him. John tells him that he’s the kind of being who actually wants to be discovered, to which the Aztec Death God says that while it is true, it’s only when he’s once again strong. He then emerges and says that he used to be worshiped by millions of people and there were even those that sacrificed themselves in his name. Nowadays, he’s been reduced to feasting upon the slaughtered remains of pigs. He then picks up John and demands to know why he shouldn’t just kill him off since he’s still powerful enough to do so, to which Constantine exclaims that he has an offer. Afterwards, he heads outside and tells Chas that he has an errand for him to do while he makes a certain kind of phone call.
Later, they arrive at an abandoned church and head inside with Chandler carrying gasoline cans containing Holy Water that they bought from the Black Market (wrap your head around that). John tells him to make sure that every door and window gets covered once it turns midnight as his friend heads out to prepare. Afterwards, Constantine waits in preparation before the five main demons ultimately arrive. They’ve been summoned here due to John promising them that he would bring Nergal to them, to which he confidently exclaims that he lied. When one of the foul beings asks who will aid him, he gets a timely save as Mictlantecuhtli arrives and prepares to “consume” them for attempting to usurp this land from him.
From there, the Aztec God of Death proceeds to tangle with the five demons as he manages to start off strong. Outside, Chas has been surrounding the church with Holy Water as he finishes in time before it forms a pure barrier around the building. When one of the demons attempts to escape, it burns his hand and forces him back inside.
Shortly afterwards, the demons begin to strike back against Mictlantecuhtli. Despite getting roughed up, he ultimately defeats the foul beings in a bloodied mess. John then emerges and tells the roughed-up god that he’s too powerful to be left alive. With the five demons out of the way, he proceeds to cast a spell and manages to wither the once-powerful being into simple dust.
Later, John and Chas arrive back at Nergal’s house to inform him of his rivals’ slaughter. The devilish being congratulates him for his skillful execution, to which Angela also reveals herself and commends his work as well. It turns out that they’ve been “reluctant acquaintances” for a long time and since Nergal is capable of destroying L.A. if he fought the five demons, they ultimately agreed to a compromise of sorts. As long as he limits his dark activities to a certain extent, Nergal will be allowed to run his business and the majority of the city’s citizens would be unharmed. Chas then demands to know about the fate of his daughter Trish, to which she exclaims that she’s beyond sorry since it’s “one life measured against the lives of millions” before she vanishes. Chas gets frustrated as Nergal prevents his rage-induced strike by reminding him that her daughter is still inside of him, to which John exclaims the horrifying realization in that he’ll never let her go. Chandler gets mad at his friend and exclaims that this is all on him before he takes his leave. From there, Nergal tells John that as long he continues to serve as the head agent of his franchise, Trish will be allowed to live albeit in a coma.
Back in London, Asa learns via a mystical mirror about Constantine ending up as Nergal’s indefinite worker. She then presents herself in a more proper nurse’s outfit just as the doctor comes in and tells Renee that Trish’s brain activity hasn’t improved, thus presenting the option to take her off of life support. Mrs. Chandler refuses as the medic takes his leave before Asa offers to magically ease her pain in order for her to make an easier decision. Renee also rejects this and says that like John, their magical presence only makes things worse.
Later on, Johnny is at a swank bar called Hills as he drinks himself over his situation. After a display of his intoxicated nature, the bouncer says that he’s done and that it’s time for him to leave. When Constantine says that no one’s allowed to tell him that he’s reached his limit, he immediately throws up from the overwhelming alcohol in his system before he gets thrown out. In his drunken stupor, he grabs a nearby trash can and smashes it into the bar’s window. However, this caught the attention of some nearby cops as he gets arrested.
Eventually, an officer informs him that his bail was paid for and that he’s free to go. However, it wasn’t Nergal who posted it, but Chas. As soon as John is back on the streets, Chandler exclaims that he’s seen his friend doing the same routine several times throughout the years: things go south for him and he ends up getting into fights with the wrong crowd. As such, he wants his Hellblazing buddy to help him save Trish. However, John says that because of Nergal’s deal, he’ll continue to hold onto her soul whether she’s alive or dead. However, Chas exclaims that she’s not going to end up in a similar fate that Astra ended up in. As such, Constantine says that they’ll need a plan.
From there, they arrive at a local hospital and make their way towards a particular area. A nurse tries to stop them by exclaiming that visiting hours are over for the day, yet John magically puts her in a trance as she hypnotically accesses the Coma Ward for them. Afterwards, Constantine heads in while Chandler waits outside to stand guard. John then proceeds to take out some sea salt and places some at the base of the door before forming a circle and chanting out a spell. He then uses a switchblade to cut his arm and drip some of his blood onto the salty circle to complete the incantation as the room’s lights begin to flicker before immediately shattering afterwards.
Just then, Nergal bursts in and berates Constantine for severing his connection to his “supply chain”. As John continues with his spell, Nergal attempts to irritate him about an upcoming musical that he’s attempting to pitch where our hero gets his bloody comeuppance from Beroul.
Fortunately, John doesn’t let it phase him and continues with his spell. Nergal exclaims that there’s hundreds of Coma Wards that he can simply tap into, but Chas bursts in wielding a firearm and says that Constantine is actually cutting him off from the numerous wards and protections that his mansion provides.
As Johnny continues with his spell, Chandler then exclaims that his friend is opening up hundreds of doorways that connects Hell to Los Angeles. He even brings up a past remark that Angela said about Nergal bringing the city down if they went to war against each other. However, Chandler exclaims that the fiend needs L.A. in order for his business to strive.
As the city gets rocked by a cataclysmic quake, John demands for Nergal to make a choice: Allow thousands of demons to come up and tear the city apart so that they can claim it all for themselves or he releases Trish’s soul. Angered by this turn of events, Nergal tries to attack as the circle initially fends off his strike.
From there, the Hellblazer summons some much-needed back-up as the Constantine Demons emerge and begin to swarm the mighty creature. As the city continues to get rocked by the massive earthquake and several demons start to pop up, John exclaims that Nergal will now have to deal with thousands of new business competitors.
Despite taking out some of the Constantine Demons, Nergal is overwhelmed by the current situation and tells John to seal the demonic doorways so that Trish’s soul can be set free. As such, he proceeds to send all of those unholy beings back to Hell and closes the portals. Chas then demands for his daughter back, but Nergal uses his tail to grab Chandler’s neck and exclaims that he lied before exclaiming that he knew that John isn’t powerful enough to open an actual doorway to Hell.
Constantine then reminds his friend about the vow that he made to sacrifice whatever it took to save Trish. From there, he contacts Asa and tells her that it’s time. From there, the Nightmare Nurse hurriedly takes Renee over to her daughter’s bedside and proceeds to chant her side of the overall spell. Back in L.A., John emerges from his circle and grabs onto Chas’ hand before Nergal tries to assault him with some of his tendrils.
Thankfully, Asa’s chants are able to make a solid connection as a certain flash goes from Chas to John and then into Nergal. As the vile being wretches over in pain, Constantine exclaims that his lone weakness was what he’s kept inside of him. From there, Asa completes her spell as the imprisoned Trish become enveloped in a bright light. Johnny then tells Nergal that he’s being attacked by the Camdever Curse, where Renee & Trish’s love for Chas is piercing through him from inside the young girl. Nergal then begs for him to stop since he promises to take him into Hell and help him release Astra. John considers this, but ultimately rejects.
From there, the Camdever Curse proceeds to finish off Nergal as he explodes in a bright flash of light, resulting in his bloodied entrails splattering all throughout the room. Afterwards, Trish’s soul emerges as Chas tearfully embraces her before she takes her leave. Back in London, she reunites with her body as Trish wakes up and gets tearfully embraced by Renee before Asa takes her leave.
We then cut to the next day at Kel’s Diner where Constantine assures Chandler that his daughter is once again well. Just as Chas is about to call up Renee, John stops him and brings up the Camdever Curse. In order for the spell to have worked in the first place, a particular sacrifice had to have been paid. Because every inch of Renee & Trish’s love for Chas was used, they’ll no longer care for him. Not only that, but Renee will no longer remember her husband’s name nor face and instead will only “recall a drunken one-night stand eight years ago”. With Trish, she’ll never know her actual father as Constantine reminds him of a familiar line from earlier: “There’s always a price to pay”. Despite his friend telling him that he had hoped to never ultimately use that curse, Chas angrily grabs John before he’s suddenly feels confused and befuddled. Constantine then exclaims that Renee & Trish’s love wasn’t enough of a payment to power the Camdever Curse, so he had to throw in the memory of their friendship in order for it to work. As a result, Chandler will only vaguely remember some “arrogant sod” who saved his little girl and ruined his life, but he’ll never recall their childhood days in Liverpool. The newly-befuddled Chas then relearns John’s name before exclaiming that it’s something that he never wants to hear ever again before taking his leave. Afterwards, Constantine takes out the Chandler family picture and sees both Renee & Trish vanish from the image.
From there, Angela approaches him in the possessive form of an elderly black man and compliments his victory, yet also apologizes for him losing his childhood friend before pondering about what’s worse: “Being the one who doesn’t remember or the one who does”. Angela then heads out to help Chas start a new life within Los Angeles. And so, the film ends with John beginning to head back to London as he gets accompanied by a lone surviving Constantine Demon while passing by a newspaper rack that mentions about the city’s coma victims emerging from their perpetual darkness.
Now that this harrowing venture has come to a close, let me conjure up my character analysis and begin with our signature Hellblazer himself: John Constantine. As far as how he progresses on his present-day journey in comparison with the original graphic novel, it essentially follows the same path with a few cosmetic differences. One major example is when he and Chas make their way to a slaughterhouse. Unlike here where Constantine gets in contact with Mictlantecuhtli for the first time, he gets some help from a Hispanic worker named Melosa who guides him to a fellow Spanish-speaking employee named Raul Perreira who guides him to a rundown chapel and it’s from there that John summons the Aztec God to help him take the five opposing demons down. I should also note that in the graphic novel, he’s had flashes of the grand being at a few points during his youth and it has demanded a fresh offering to him. In its place are the various flashes of Astra plummeting to Hell prior to Nergal’s reveal and his personal backstory that Asa magically digs up from Renee’s consciousness due to her connection with Chas. Getting back to the differences between the source material and the movie, the graphic novel sees Melosa tagging along with John for the rest of the story, beginning with her leading him to Father Julia so that he can purchase two gallons of Holy Water for his upcoming scheme. From there, he goes through some familiar beats: He learns from his demonic employer that he’s perpetually stuck doing his dirty work as Trish’s soul remains imprisoned, he proceeds to get himself drunk where he goes on to start a ruckus that gets him kicked out of the bar and he throws a garbage can through a window of an establishment during his intoxicated stupor which ultimately gets him arrested before he’s eventually back on the streets with Chas. The climax had also some details changed from the source material, but I’ll get into that when we reach our main villain. As far as what John goes through for this particular animated tale, it mostly remains the same from the graphic novel though with two driving motives. Initially, he only goes through with this task due to the childhood friendship with Chas and the fact that it’s a child’s life that’s been put in danger. After a while, he’s hit with the reveal that his employer is actually a monstrous being from his past. As such, the quest becomes even more severe for him and his friend. This adds a driving tension and motivation throughout since it becomes more than just a rescue mission as John has to also deal with a lingering mistake from his youth. Because his youthful lack of preparedness led to his greatest failure, he’s made sure that his own abilities and knowledge would be sufficient enough in order to get the job done. While “Justice League Dark” showed off some of his magical skills while working with a team, his occult prowess is given a reasonable limit as even he has some restraint as to what he’s capable of doing with his supernatural skills. As such, he ultimately has to figure out how he’s going to accomplish this monumental task with the spells, curses and incantations that he has to work with. However, his mention of how these kinds of practices comes with a price shows a level of preparedness that he’s never been able to overcome. While the journey ultimately ends with him conquering the literal monster that he naively summoned from his youth, Astra still dwells within her own purgatory and the curse that vanquished the monster ended up shattering the memory of his friend’s family and of their childhood bonding. In the end, the severity of his greatest mistake has been partially erased, yet he must now soldier on with the burdening knowledge of whom he failed to save and whom he made a sacrifice towards, serving as a prime example of a familiar phrase: “No good deed goes unpunished”, since your actions (no matter how good or bad they are) can have unforeseen consequences and it’s a heroic sacrifice that Constantine ultimately had to make in order for a little girl to be reunited in both body and soul. Matt Ryan is fully at home with the role as he gets his tonal deliveries out in just the right way to display a solid range of confident snark, mystic control, echoing command and even drunken gravel. His experience with the role spanning the character’s short-lived TV series and his various appearances within the Arrowverse shows have helped him with his vocal chops in both animated appearances within this continuity, thus solidifying him as a definitive voice for the signature Hellblazer for years to come.
Next up, we have our non-magical friend of everlasting determination in Chas Chandler. Right out of the gate, there’s a family-related change that was made in adaptation. In the source material, Trish (or Tricia) is his granddaughter and his actual daughter is the young girl’s mother named Geraldine who has a husband named Brian whom she’s divorced from. In terms of his journey within this film compared to how it originally went down in the graphic novel, it also mostly plays out the same way as in the source material. However, there are some notable differences that occurs along the way. In the source material, he successfully fights off the meat-packing plant’s in-house muscle named Gus after Raul initially refuses to help him and John out. After things calm down and they get their necessary help, Chas sparks up some interest with Melosa before they go back to her place and “sleep”. Later on after Constantine’s bail hearing, he actually considers staying in L.A. to be with Melosa since Tricia’s soul seems perpetually trapped and his own marriage with Renee has them “going for the sake of keeping going”. Later on after he and Melosa take part in the final battle against Beroul, she decides that they can’t be together due to his martial status back home before he departs with Tricia back to London while John decides to stay put in Los Angeles. With the shifting of parental statuses’ for this adaptation, he represents a father’s undying love for his child as he remains determined throughout the tale unlike his source material’s counterpart where he momentarily gave up hope due to their seemingly-impossible situation following the reveal of Beroul’s upper-handed status. He does get frustratingly angry in a few moments when he’s face-to-face with the featured felon of the tale, but he remains steadfast in freeing his daughter from demonic control. With this being a key part of the tale, Renee also gets a bit more to do even though she’s mainly planted within Trish’s hospital room alongside Asa for the majority of the film. The ending has also been significantly changed from how the graphic novel ended. Within the original source material, Mictlantecuhtli had Tricia’s body teleported from her hospital bed and into Beroul where it reunites with her soul before physically bursting out of the obese demon. Because the Aztec God now possessed her, John managed to con his way into forcing the grand being to relinquish control over the girl. From there, Chas and Tricia would eventually fly back to England so that the Chandler family could get reunited. Here, Chas is given a sacrifice where he ends up losing the love of his wife and daughter alongside his childhood memories with Constantine so that Trish could be freed from demonic control. With nothing left in London for him to return to (in addition to his memories of said significant figures wiped from his mind), Angela proceeds to help him start a new life out in Los Angeles. Damian O’Hare gives a nice performance as he conveys a regular, non-magic using figure who’s caught up in an impossible situation, yet continues to be a loyal and understanding friend to a skilled, yet flawed figure of the dark arts. His delivery helps his character ground the movie as much as it can and he conveys a confidence that he’s capable of bringing to a man who doesn’t get overwhelmed by the occult side of life due to his experience with his friend. Either way, he’s comfortable conveying a common man within a not-so-common plane of existence.
Now, we’ve reached a new addition to this adaptation in the form of our Nightmare Nurse herself, Asa The Healer. In the comics, she doesn’t appear until 2013 with the release of The Phantom Stranger, Vol. 4 #8 when the titular character was mortally wounded by Doctor Thirteen with the Spear of Destiny. John was a member of Justice League Dark at the time as fellow teammate Zatana summoned her for help. Apparently, her inaugural line where she mentions that she was “in the middle of a threesome with a dryad and a sylph” from her first appearance would get brought over to this narrative. Anyway, let’s get back on track. Because she didn’t exist in the original story, she essentially fills a few roles for this animated adaptation. First, she takes Fennel’s place early on when he was contacting Tricia’s soul, only for her demonic kidnapper to intervene by giving his Los Angeles-based address before literally burning the individual receiver. Unlike Fennel who ends up as a charred corpse, she was already a demon herself and thus was able to survive this surprising incident. In a particular way, she also takes the place of Melosa as the female compatriot to John and Chas for this venture. While she doesn’t physically tag along with them, she does end up making an impact in the narrative due to her own magical prowess. Finally, the film has Constantine taking Mictlantecuhtli out of the equation following the fierce battle against the five opposing demons. As such, she takes his place in the climax by contributing towards the downfall of our main felon by using the girl as the main element that ultimately takes the fiend down. For a supporting character that was brought in for this story, she was used fairly nicely and helps to compliment Renee’s tearful optimism with a know-it-all seriousness that comes with her experiences as a magic-using, good-sided demon. Laura Bailey comes through in delivering a good range for her character, projecting just the right tones within the appropriate scenes to effectively help the narrative progress within a particular time frame. Either way, her performance was mainly solid throughout.
Finally, let’s get to our main villain of the piece with Nergal. In the original source material, Beroul was the central antagonist throughout the entire story. More than likely, this choice in adaptation was made due to the fact our main character only had one other appearance within this continuity. As such, it would be appropriate to bring up his backstory and make the central opposing figure from his tragic past our primary foe for this tale. For this narrative, this ancient Mesopotamian deity is the representation of a major problem spawned from a poorly-thought out choice. John’s ill-preparedness in his attempt to save Astra led to a life-changing moment for him. When Nergal tossed the innocent girl towards the dreaded Neatherrealm, a loss of innocence is permanently cemented as Constantine became mentally-traumatized by the experience (thus winding up at Ravenscar) and eventually perfects his own handling of occult magic in order to atone for this tragic mistake. For this universe, we have a villain who creates the hero, albeit somewhat jaded and a bit rash to others. While he’s not the deepest of villains, Nergal makes up for it with a commanding presence and his upper-handed positioning, especially since his role throughout the original source material as Beroul mostly goes down the same way as it does here. While Manchester Black allowed him to deliver a better vocal range and be a looming figure of rough justice against Superman, Robin Atkin Downes still gives a sturdy performance as he presents a devilish monster as a nearly-unstoppable being for John to overcome. In the end, it’s one of the top-end antagonists from the overall series.
In terms of how this film adapts the graphic novel, I’ve already mentioned some of the differences it takes in translation. There are some other minor touches, such as how Mictlantecuhtli gets used. During a pair of flashback scenes, the Aztec God loomed over the young Constantine and demanded to be offered “something better, fresher, a little less soiled”. While John’s private offering towards him and his fight against the five opposing demons mainly gets carried over from the source material, another difference pops up since the movie saw the vast being roughed up during the fight before Constantine ultimately takes him out. The graphic novel saw Mictlantecuhtli’s triumph over the quintet of evil entities in a one-sided beatdown before Beroul makes an agreement with him in favor of his business. It’s in that moment where Angela’s addition comes in and she essentially takes over for this part. The grand being also briefly pops up when John drunkenly breaks into a funeral parlor and attempts to remind him of his actual duties as an undead god. After Constantine gets arrested, Mictlantecuhtli proceeds to deal with him while he fights an inmate. It’s through this conversation that the offering of “something better, fresher, a little less soiled” gets its final set-up as John mentions about the being’s ability to both separate souls from bodies as well as bring them back together. That gets paid off during the final battle at the Coma Ward as the Aztec God teleports Tricia’s body into Beroul in order to get reunited with her soul before bursting out from within. However, he now has possession over the girl’s body. Only through a risky gamble concerning her doll with some of her hair wrapped around it and his cigarette threatening to burn it does John manages to free Tricia from any-and-all otherworldly hold over her. By removing Mictlantecuhtli from the final parts of the tale, it allows for Constantine’s eventual triumph over his enemy to feel more satisfying. Sure, Chas ends up getting a tragic ending by not remembering the sacrifice that he ended up making (the complete opposite of the graphic novel’s ending), but it helps in continuing the noble tradition of forfeiting personal desires for the safety and betterment of mankind. In that vein, it makes for a more powerful ending. Interestingly enough, I noticed something about the CW Seed version of this story in comparison with its home video counterpart with the latter version of the film adding several scenes to bring it up to feature-length. The first was the pre-title scene at Ravenscar which gave the first hint at the tramatic tragedy that John committed all those years ago. On the CW Seed, it omits that entirely and just starts with the initial flashes & sounds of L.A. before culminating with Angela’s proclamation of her official title. From there, Renee’s introductory scene was added for the film, as well as John & Chas’ initial drive towards Beroul’s house, the demonic party scene, Constantine’s drive up to Griffith Observatory, their chase scene with the flaming Hellhounds as well as their rescue, Asa informing Renee of a ticking clock over the safety of Trish’s body, the reveal of Nergal & Angela’s agreement, Renee refusing to take her daughter off life-support and John’s drunken antics getting him thrown into the L.A.P.D. slammer before Chas pays his bail & motivates him back on track. While the CW Seed version’s shorter length made the pacing feel more slick and streamline, the movie version’s added touches gave a bit more of a foreshadow to Angela’s single-city possession, made the stakes feel higher & more grave and allowed the central characters a bit more to do with their roles. While it does make the pacing suffer a little bit, it does add more narrative weight to the story and allows for Nergal’s presence to have a more overwhelming presence throughout the City of Angels.
Overall, this is a spin-off tale that’s magically well-told. With nice animation, great vocal performances, stellar designs for any-and-all demonic entity, some great uses of magical spells and some thrilling action, it lets our familiar Hellblazer shine in a tale that never gets too gruesome for its R-Rated bearings, yet shows enough adult sophistication to warrant its serious-enough story. It tells its tale in a fairly nice fashion and allows itself to be accessible to certain mature audiences, no matter how knowledgeable of his mythos they’re aware of. Until the next time when the DCUAOM decides to release some side-material to one of its own animated films, may you traverse safely as you “take a walk on the dark side”.
John Constantine (created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch & John Totleben) is owned by DC Comics.