I know the movie has been out a while, but Saturday night I watched Constantine, starring Keanu “I Know Kung-Fu” Reaves, and some other woman who is not really important. It had the person who played Jadis, the Narnian witch who was oppressing those of color other animals. Of course, starring Keanu Reaves is alright, it just means we can already predict the general feel of the movie. (Hint: Reaves is a typecast actor.) The movie is based on a DC Comics version, but I never read it so I can’t say much about that.
In general, I think the movie was pretty well done, the story was reasonably captivating and the special effects blended pretty well into the background. The general story plot is that John Constantine (Reaves) is trying to buy his way into heaven by doing the “dirty work” of sending meddling demons back into hell. I’m not that knowledgeable of Catholic tradition, so I don’t know how accurately it follows that, although I’m sure as a movie it takes some liberties.
Throughout the movie, John is shown as a man trying to earn his way into heaven. He speaks with Gabriel, pointing out the list of rules humans must follow, getting angry that he can never do enough to get God’s favor. John says that he believes in God, to which Gabriel replies that belief is not enough to get into heaven. Of course, this is exactly what scripture says, that we aren’t saved by keeping the law, and that it is not works that saves us. The Bible says that believing that God exists is not enough, the devil does that as well. Towards the end of the film, Gabriel even points out that all John had to do was accept the work of Christ and he would be redeemed. “You have it so easy,” Gabriel says, speaking of the inability of angels to repent.
While I admired the depths to which the film hit home the point of salvation not being works based, in the end John is being let into heaven. For what? For giving up his life to save another, which is a work. In the end the film fails, in that it clearly says God will allow you into heaven if you sacrifice your own life. This would be a works based salvation, but it goes against what scripture says.
Another thing which bothered me was when John said that “They have the Bible in hell, except it puts a whole different spin on Revelations.” His point was, to some degree, that we don’t have the entire Word of God with us, that the Bible is not all there. However, we know this to be false, in that the Bible says “Not one jot or tittle shall pass away”, and it further says God will preserve His word. Throughout the book of Psalms, there are promises concerning what I will call the preservation of scripture. The movie Constantine fails in that regard, that it portrays the Bible as a faulty manuscript, that somewhere out there is the correct version.
Another thing I took issue with, was the treatment of angels and demons, that God and the devil are playing some sort of high stakes game, with people as the pawns. In fact, a premise of the entire movie was that God was not actively participating in the world, that God only acts through angels. However, the Bible clearly shows the path of history to be one which glorifies God through all things. By the end I was especially thankful that Constantine had it wrong, that God does still take an active role in shaping history.
One thing which Constantine does, if nothing else, is point out the one fact I too often forget: As it says in Ephesians, our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and spiritual things. We as Christians, myself particularly I know, need to be constantly on the guard for spiritual attacks. They are not filled with special effects, neither are they usually nearly so dramatic, but the Bible says they are real. John Constantine says that if you can’t see demons, they can’t see you, but the Bible makes it clear that the fight rages on against us regardless of our action: There is no neutrality in the matter, a point which John brought up to his Snoop-Dawg friend.
Thankfully, we know from the Bible that God is on our side, that He takes an active hand in the universe, and that He has given all Christians the Holy Spirit as a helper. Praise God that Constantine is wrong on those issues!