David S. Goyer

Constantine S1 (Amazon Prime)

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constantineDespite his appearance in a cross-over episode of Arrow, the character of John Constantine has always felt an awkward fit with the rest of the DC Comics television universe. Rather than being part of the usual milieu of masked superheroes with fantastic powers, or cartoonish metahumans or angst-ridden dark vigilantes, Constantine exists in an out-and-out supernatural universe of magic, demons and angels.

Originally co-created by Alan Moore, Constantine first appeared in The Saga of the Swamp Thing in the mid-1980s and was subsequently granted his own long-running comic book Hellblazer a few years later. A firm favourite with graphic novel fans for three decades now, the first attempt to make a live action version came in 2005 with a movie starring Keanu Reeves. Unfortunately that strayed too far away from the source material to satisfy fans, such as not honouring Constantine’s famously British (and blond) roots – although having heard Reeves’ attempt at an English accent in Bram Stoker’s Dracula I think we should call that a lucky escape.

This short-lived TV series produced in 2014-15 was much more respectful to the comics than the movie, and consequently rather better received. Even so, it only lasted 13 episodes on NBC before being cancelled; in the UK it’s been exclusive to the Amazon Prime streaming service, which is where I happened upon in this month. Read the rest of this entry »

Da Vinci’s Demons S2 E1 “The Blood of Man” (Fox)

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I watched and indeed reviewed the first season of David S Goyer’s fantasy adventure series about the early life and times of Leonardo da Vinci and found it a handsomely mounted, fast moving but ultimately frustrating show. It did at least build to a satisfying big climax depicting the Pazzi conspiracy, a Rome-backed uprising in the city of Florence resulting in a decent season cliffhanger, but I was left somewhat nonplussed by the thing as a whole and wondered I’d bother sticking with it for a second series, the first part of which aired last weekend.

I gave it a go, and have to admit that I found the opening episode of the sophomore season hugely enjoyable. It carried on directly from the events of the uprising in one long, sustained, breathless chase through the streets and sewers of the strife-racked city as da Vinci (Tom Riley) seeks to save the life of the gravely wounded city ruler Lorenzo de Medici (Elliot Cowan) whose family is meanwhile under siege by a bloodthirsty mob in the family home, and at the same time da Vinci’s friends Zoroaster and Nicos (Gregg Chillin and Eros Vlahos) flee the city only to fall into the hands of da Vinci’s mortal foe Count Girolamo Riario (Blake Ritson), the nephew of the Pope (James Faulkner). By the end of this first episode, everyone is in such overwhelming mortal peril that if anything it makes for a better season finale than the episode before it. Read the rest of this entry »

Da Vinci’s Demons S1 E1-3 (Fox)

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I’ve been meaning to post something about Fox channel’s new historical action fantasy show Da Vinci’s Demons for a couple of weeks now; the problem is, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it, or even how exactly to describe and categorise it.

It’s a frustrating show, sometimes flirting with greatness and at other times just a bit of a mess. Some weeks I enjoy its irreverent modernist fiction (based on the early life of the Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci) and at other times it simply grates on me. There’s no rhyme or reason to it; my response to the show is as up and down and erratic as the show itself seems to be in tone.

It’s best when it’s having some all-out fun with its concept, such as when it presents the young ‘Leo’ da Vinci as a wild eccentric with a swaggering ego and an eye for the women (and the men at times, it’s hinted) together with a great line in high-handed barbs and witticisms with which to put down the likes of the dimwitted Giulino Medici. The little moments when the show does innovative graphical visualisations of the inspirations connecting to da Vinci’s greatest scientific breakthroughs are also particular highlights. Read the rest of this entry »