While I've never read any of the comics, I found the Constantine movie to be fairly entertaining. It's a comic-to-movie adaptation that's quite like the original X-Men or Hellboy films in that it re-imagines the comic book universe for the big screen, taking the story essence and then playing with it enough to make it something on its own. Keanu Reeves was terrible as was expected, but otherwise the film was pretty entertaining and fairly thought-provoking.

What I especially liked about the film was the fact that it played quite opposite to expectations. Originally the comic was called Hellblazer, a title that was changed to no doubt limit the connection to the similar subject matter in Hellboy but probably also to limit the "it's a devil-worship movie" mindset of many who'd see a title like "Hellblazer" and be scared off. In fact, the film deals directly and frequently with Hell and Demons and the Son of Satan and a lot of other stuff that's not evil aliens or anonymous monsters but real-life Biblical Evil. To some, this might cut a little too close to home to be dealt with in such a trivial "comic book action movie" kind of way, but that's what was so interesting about it.

The Passion of the Christ is the biggest recent movie to lay out an unabashed Christian belief system and to portray aspects of the Christian faith that may seem fantastic or mystical to some as reality. Well, Hellblazer does the same thing, but in the service of a completely different story. After all, the central premise in the film is that Heaven and Hell DO EXIST and that God and Satan have an "understanding" called "the balance" that keeps them from directly interfering in the lives of Humans; instead, they kind of watch what goes on and see who chooses sides. It's a play on lots of elements of Catholic dogma, rules about salvation, and the interplay of faith and belief, and the film uses those themes over and over to provide the set up for Constantine and the powers he has and the world he sees. Though Constantine himself is not the ideal Christian hero, the film really seemed very pro-Christian to me in a strange way.

It may not have intended to do so, but by laying out the premise of Constantine's reality, the film requires that viewers buy into the idea of a real Heaven and Hell and real demons, the power and love of God, the deceit and hatred of Satan--all things that come straight from Christian beliefs. I'm guessing that most Christian's would not have an interest in Constantine because it looks on the surface like a movie that's ambiguous about demons and magic and dark powers, but in fact, Constantine himself is a kind of new Christian hero of sorts. He certainly doesn't act the part, and there's one gag in particular that seems to take the whole Heaven/Hell thing less seriously than it should, but for the most part, Constantine represents a fascinating hero. He's acting for the Good, but not out of Goodness. This simple point makes the character much more multi-dimensional and worthy of reflection than so many other similar movie characters. Even Hellboy, Constantine's closest comparable character, isn't driven by the same fear of Hell that we see here.

Perhaps most stunning was Constantine's reaction to and relationship with Hell. Having killed himself as a teenager, he was damned to hell under that rigorous Catholic rule system, and was sent there for a few minutes before the EMTs could revive him. He says of his experience that "even two minutes in hell are a like a lifetime" of pain and suffering, and he has thus devoted his life to working for the "good guys" in hopes of bartering his way into Heaven. But he still doesn't 'believe. He lacks faith because he has knowledge of Heaven and Hell--he can't blindly believe because like most others, he isn't blind. It's a great set up for a flawed hero and would be a perfect discussion-starter for Christians because it asks some important questions. Are good deeds and a good life enough? Are God's rules as dogmatic as Catholicism says they are? Do God and Satan really try to influence or even pay attention to the affairs of us measly humans?

I imagine that in churches accross the country, Constantine is being badmouthed along with all the other "violent and dark movies out there that are corrupting people", but oddly I think it might just be a wonderful device for people of that faith to use as a recruitment tool.