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CONSTANTINE: CITY OF DEMONS - THE MOVIE ANIMATED FEATURE REVIEW

Constantine: City of Demons - The Movie
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Blue Ribbon
Release Date: October 9, 2018 - Digital, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray

Synopsis: A decade after a tragic mistake, family man Chas and occult detective John Constantine set out to cure Chas’s daughter Trish from a mysterious supernatural coma. With the help of the mysterious Nightmare Nurse, the influential Queen of Angels, and brutal Aztec God Mictlantecuhtli, the pair just might have a chance at outsmarting the demon Beroul to save Trish’s soul. In a world of shadows and dark magic, not everything is what it seems, and there’s always a price to pay. The path to redemption is never easy, and if Constantine is to succeed, he must navigate through the dark urban underbelly of Los Angeles, outwit the most cunning spawns of hell, and come face to face with arch-nemesis Nergal – all while battling his own inner demons!

Constantine: City of Demons has been produced in a dual format – initially as animated shorts, the first five of which appeared on CW Seed. With a runtime of 90 minutes, the feature-length Constantine: City of Demons film has over an hour of never-before-seen content including the film’s thrilling climax. Doug Murphy (Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost) directs the film from a script by J.M. DeMatteis (Batman: Bad Blood). Art Direction is courtesy of Phil Bourassa (Young Justice). Butch Lukic (Justice League Action, Batman Unlimited) is the film’s producer. Sam Register and Sarah Schechter also serve as executive producers.

Matt Ryan, who set the standard for the role of Constantine on the NBC live-action television series, returns to the famed trenchcoat in animated form – after reprising the role in both live-action (Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow) series and an animated film (Justice League Dark). The cast surrounding Ryan includes Damian O’Hare (Hell on Wheels) as Chas Chandler, Laura Bailey (Critical Role) 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.

PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
-The Sorcerer’s Occultist - Understanding John Constantine - An exciting examination of the powers and abilities used by DC’s working-class occult detective, John Constantine.
-Constantine: City of Demons WonderCon Panel – 2018 - Storytellers join City of Demons’ star Matt Ryan at this year’s WonderCon for an inside look at Constantine’s latest adventure.


Constantine: City of Demons - The Movie 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
By James Harvey

Finally spearheading his own animated project, Constantine: City of Demons - The Movie brings the life of iconic DC Comics character John Constantine into horrific, dramatic focus. Clearly influenced by the Hellblazer comic series published under DC's Vertigo mature readers imprint, Constantine: City of Demons - The Movie is another solid animated product from Warner Bros., littered with great dramatic moments and action beats. However, the feature occasionally suffers from some pacing issues and the odd bit of flat animation. That said, it's still one helluva ride.

Constantine: City of Demons, available on both physical and digital media, finds the title character reluctantly teaming up with an old friend, Chas, in order to save Chas' daughter Tricia from a mystical coma. The pair soon find out that there are demons at work, and set out to save Tricia from the grasps of Hell. The movie, written by J.M DeMatteis and directed by Doug Murphy, seems heavily inspired by the 2005 Hellblazer: All His Engines graphic novel, which roughly features the same plot. That said, the story serves as a great character study for Constantine, and provides plenty of insight into why this DC Comics icon acts the way he does. The movie also offers some fascinating glimpses into Constantine's past, including the infamous Newcastle incident and the toll it took on our lead character. For those looking to better understand the character, Constantine: City of Demons is a solid place to start.

Taking place in the animated universe established by the Justice League: War animated movie, and acting as somewhat of a prequel to the Justice League Dark animated feature from 2017, Constantine: City of Demons is easily one of the most graphic movies to come out from Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics, hands down. Gore flies and blood spills aplenty during this 90-minute feature, but never once does it detract from what's ultimately a pretty interesting dive into the dark underbelly of the DC Universe. Demons are vying territory in our world, and the fallout from those conflicts is seeping over into the streets. While this does allow for some nifty action sequences and some very cool effects work, the movie never forgets to show the drama and impact this has on its characters. Also, it's worth noting some of the incredible creature designs on display here, some of which are truly twisted and creepy.

Without going into spoilers, Constantine: City of Demons also makes sure that there are consequences for the events that unfold during the movie. Nearly every major character pays a terrible price by the time the final credits roll, including Constantine himself. It was a welcome surprise that this film has a rather bittersweet ending. Sometimes stories such as this tend to wrap things up too easily, and everyone just moves on, but here? Oh no, there is some rather palpable loss, and it works perfectly with Constantine's ongoing story and, basically, his lot in life. Everyone that Constantine meets eventually pays a price, and that's no different here.

A story such as this requires a lot of heft and talent to pull it off and, when it comes to the film's voice cast, Matt Ryan clearly gives it his all as John Constantine. Having played this time multiple times already - in both live-action and animation - it's refreshing that Ryan is still heavily invested in bringing the DC Comics character to life. His association with the character, stretching back to the short-lived Constantine 2014 live-action NBC series, really makes it easier for viewers (especially new ones) to get comfortable with this strange new world that they may not be entirely accustomed to. The entire cast does solid work, and it sounds like more than a few members are relishing their chances to play otherworldly creatures.

In terms of any shortcomings, Constantine: City of Demons suffers from only a couple small hiccups. While overall the animation is solid, it does stutter on occasion. The effects used on blood splatters at times looks cheap and distracting, occasionally looking like said effects are floating over the image and not actually part of it. The animation is appears stiff and limited, though that too is a limited occurrence and likely due to the film's budget. The film's pace also takes a bit of a hit during the middle act, slowing down a shade as it sets up the climax. It's worth noting that, according to the film's writer, Constantine: City of Demons was written as a movie, which the CW Seed then chopped up into 5 - 6 minute chunks to stream online. While this movie may have debuted on CW Seed first, it's not a series of animated shorts, but an actual movie, which we're getting in its proper format here.

Overall, however, Constantine: City of Demons is yet another solid installment in what has been a truly fantastic year for DC Comics-based animated features. While sometimes hampered by the limitations of its budget, Constantine: City of Demons exudes confidence in both its feature character and the story it wants to tell, and even that is bolstered by having Ryan back in the trench-coat as DC Comics' top occultist. It's a great showcase for the character and builds nicely on his ever-growing cult following. Constantine: City of Demons stays true to both the character and his comic book origins, and also isn't afraid to shake things up to keep things fresh. It goes without saying that the movie comes Highly Recommended, but what about it's home media release?

Released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on both digital and physical platforms - including Blu-ray, 4K Ultra Blu-ray and DVD - Constantine: City of Demons gets both a fair shake when it comes to the feature presentation and the bonus materials.

In terms of video and audio, The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray offers up the ideal presentation for Constantine: City of Demons. While regular Blu-ray also looks good, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray does add a little extra pop to the video, especially when it comes to the use of magic effects in the film. Blacks appear deep, colors full and details crystal clear. The color banding appears to be non-existent when it comes to the 4K release, though is a occasionally noticeable on the regular Blu-ray. In terms of audio, it's a crisp and well balanced, but definitely has a fair bit of heft. Some actions scenes sound especially loud but, overall, it's a solid front-heavy mix.

In terms of extras, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has included over thirty minutes of extra content in the form of two featurettes. "The Sorcerer's Occultist: Understanding John Constantine," which runs over 13 minutes, takes a closer look at the DC Comics favorite. The other, "Constantine: City of Demons WonderCon Panel 2018," which clocks in at nearly 21 minutes, presents the panel following the film's 2018 WonderCon debut. "Understanding" features a mix of comic and cartoon professionals (and even an occult expert) to go over Constantine's history and enduring cult status. The "WonderCon" featurettes basically presents the cast and crew panel discussion following the movie's WonderCon debut. Really entertaining and riddled with interesting tidbits.

In terms of on-disc content, the disc is wraps with trailers for other assorted DC Comics-based projects. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release also includes a regular Blu-ray copy of the film - that disc actually houses the bonus content - and a digital copy of the film.

Overall, the bonus content acts as a nice supplemental material to the main feature, and is definitely something both long-time and casual fans will enjoy. Since the bonus content comes with both Constantine: City of Demons' digital and physical media releases, it boils down to personal preference which version on part of the consumer which edition they want. If they aren't sticklers for video and audio presentation, the digital is fine. But, between digital, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the latter is the way to go. While the difference isn't that much of a jump between the regular and Ultra HD Blu-ray editions, it is noticeable. If you want the absolutely best presentation for Constantine: City of Demons, than the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition comes Highly Recommended.

Check out a trailer and a clip in the players below: