'Constantine' airs on NBC: What's the verdict?

Story highlights

  • 'Constantine,' the latest comic book based series, premiered Friday
  • Matt Ryan plays rebellious exorcist John Constantine
  • Critical response mixed
NBC's "Constantine" joined the growing party of comic book-based TV series with its Friday night premiere on NBC. But critics couldn't quite agree on whether it was worth staying home (or even DVRing) to catch it.
Matt Ryan stars as John Constantine, a rebellious and not very likable exorcist with an affinity for trench coats and cigarettes -- at least, that's how he appears in "Hellblazer," the DC comic book upon which the show is based. To adhere to network standards, Constantine ditches his bad habit for TV, a source of contention for Hitfix.com critic Alan Sepinwall and others.
"The absence of John's most physically self-destructive habit is symbolic of a larger issue," he said. "And as John will tell anyone who listens... symbols have meaning, and when you take them away, you can take away the power they represent."
That's not all that worries critics about Constantine, who introduces the real world of demons and ghouls in the premiere. Fans and critics believe Ryan's performance will make this show sink or swim, similar to Hugh Laurie on "House" or Benedict Cumberbatch on "Sherlock." For some of them, it's not looking good.
"Ryan is a particular problem, I'm sorry to say," Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz said. "I don't know if he was miscast or poorly directed, but something about his grooming, makeup, and line delivery make him sound like (and sometimes resemble) Jim Carrey in comic high-dudgeon mode."
Others, however, took a more positive view of his performance.
"More cynical than Supernatural's Winchester brothers, almost as quippy as the beloved Buffy, Ryan's Constantine is terrific company for any monstrous apocalypse," Matt Roush of TV Guide said.
USA Today's Robert Bianco was also in the favorable camp.
"Falling somewhere in the middle of the dark/light scale between Gotham and Flash, tonight's promising premiere boasts a few good jolts, a welcome bit of visual flair, and an appealing star turn from Welsh actor Matt Ryan, who conveys just the right mix of tortured soul, biting wit and hunky hero."
David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle is holding out hope that the show will improve.
"There's good stuff in the pilot — the special effects, for one — and not-so-good stuff, leaving the question up in the air about whether writers David Goyer and Daniel Cerone, who developed the series, can make the fixes necessary to do justice to Hellblazer. "
Viewers were similarly mixed on Twitter.
"It wasn't mind-blowing," comics fan Da Nerdette said. "The pacing was off at times. But, I enjoyed Matt Ryan as #Constantine. It's worth another chance."
"The best thing about the show is Matt Ryan's rowdy and committed performance as John Constantine," another viewer, David Prush, said on Twitter. "For a pilot it was very impressive."
What did you think? Will you watch again? Tell us in the comments.