As of late, Warner Bros. have made a number of decisions that has left the fate of many of its licenced properties in question. It all began with the unprecedented shelving of the Leslie Grace-led Batgirl, which the studio had already spent a reported $90 million on, but instead of paying for reshoots they opted to write it off for tax purposes. Yikes. And while nothing as significant has happened since, it has led to a cascade of various ‘Arrowverse’ CW shows being brought to a close, some unceremoniously, including Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow, while prospective projects such as Wonder Twins, Strange Adventures and a black Superman production are all seemingly dead in the water. There was even slight fear for in-production DCEU projects Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, and in particular The Flash, which has seen Ezra Miller doing everything they indirectly can to get it shelved, though all of these seem to be pretty safe…at least for the time being.
All this moving and shaking is a firm reminder that show business is, well, still a business, and the new owners of Warner Bros. were evidently eager to clean house in the name of profits, yet it also begged the question as to when they would add to their slate, rather than take away from it. We recently got our answer from a totally unexpected place, as they announced production of a sequel to 2005’s Constantine, with Keanu Reeves set to reprise his role as the titular character, while original director Francis Lawrence will return, and J.J. Abrams is to act as a producer.
Of all the many directions the studio could take, this is certainly a curious one, at least on the surface. To begin with, this adaptation of the DC character from the Hellblazer series of comics (he was co-created by the legendary Alan Moore) proved to be quite controversial at the time, as John Constantine is best known for his distinctive blonde hair and Liverpool accent, yet he is portrayed by the black-haired Keanu Reeves who dares not attempt a British accent ever since his role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What remained, however, was the cynical, chain-smoking occult detective who is ever battling forces of hell, and from what I can remember (I haven’t seen Constantine in over a decade), the film handled these elements and the world around him with surprising tact, and Reeves was fittingly sardonic yet grounded, despite his visual and cultural deviations from the source character. Constantine has drawn a considerable cult following since its release, and in recent years Reeves has found new life as an action star in the John Wick franchise, two factors that have no doubt contributed to the decision to produce a sequel.
Still, this sudden development can’t help but feel left of field, especially considering that a property such as The Batman, despite its critical and commercial success, has yet to have its sequel greenlit. Nonetheless, Warner Bros. has been flirting with J.J. Abrams as of late, with reports suggesting he was going to launch a Justice League Dark series for HBO Max, which seemed dead in the water for a time, especially with the cancellation of Constantine and Madame X shows, but now it appears that he may focus on making them into feature films instead of TVs.
Still, this is all speculation, as Warner Bros. and Abrams have yet to confirm if Constantine 2 will even be a part of the DCEU, never mind as part of setting up a Justice League Dark team-up. However, the shift to bringing back the red-hot Reeves, as well as the inclusion of Abrams, all but nods to bigger plans from the studio, who are likely seeking to address the fractured nature of their universe and create specific niches for heroes and anti-heroes who work within varying tonal frameworks.