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Why A Sequel To Keanu Reeves’ ‘Constantine’ Is A Big Risk

I remember enjoying Francis Lawrence’s Constantine seeing it amid a crowded opening night AMC Burbank showing on February 18, 2005. I had no deep knowledge of the Hellblazer comic books and no issue with Keanu Reeves being cast as the traditionally British, blonde, bisexual supernatural detective. My pre-release takeaway was that Rachel Weisz had gone from Reeves’ tag-along girl in Chain Reaction to being a ‘name-checked in the trailer’ co-star. She would win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for that year’s The Constant Gardener. I was pleased that Constantine was a religious horror movie first, a detective flick second and a superhero actioner distinct third. The 121-minute fantasy had few big action scenes with a finale predicated on the anti-hero taking his own life to save the world. That climactic gambit would amusingly be repeated in Lawrence’s blockbuster I Am Legend 2.5 years later.

Now that every old film has a vocal contingent of diehard fans, and every prior hit movie gets repositioned as a potential franchise, we’re seemingly getting Constantine 2. Yes, Keanu Reeves is returning alongside Lawrence. But, of course, there are miles between ‘the trades say a movie is happening’ and ‘here’s your first trailer.’ If this gets fast-tracked, it’ll presumably be sometime soon after Lawrence finishes work on The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Reeves concludes promoting John Wick: Chapter 4. That’s a big “if.” I’m inclined to think that the deal happened partially because J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot needed something concrete to justify the $500 million Warner Bros. threw his way amid the recent spree of mega-bucks development deals. I can also suggest that a studio make a sequel to a cult comic book hit featuring an Internet-friendly movie star.

Anyway, Constantine was a good movie. I rewatched it in April of 2020, and it mostly held up. It was a solid little hit when movie stars and glossy high concept were enough. It grossed $232 million worldwide on a $100 million amid the DVD boom when marketing was cheaper. Until Patty Jenkins’ $821 million-grossing Wonder Woman in 2017, it was the biggest-grossing DC superhero movie that didn’t feature Batman or Superman. Among all DC films, heading into the summer of 2013 (Man of Steel), the third biggest DC flick (behind Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight sequels with $1 billion each) was Zack Snyder’s 300, with $457 million in 2007. Constantine wasn’t so big of a hit that it vaulted Reeves back onto the A-list during a (comparative) quiet period between Matrix Revolutions (and Something’s Gotta Give) and John Wick. Its earnings certainly didn’t suggest a franchise.

Is Warner Bros. and Bad Robot attempting to play the ‘legacy sequel’ card with an at-the-earliest 19-years-later follow-up? If the budget is kept super-duper-tight, absolutely no more than whatever Lionsgate eventually spends on John Wick 4, I guess it’s worth a shot. But WB just took a $190 million bath on Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections, which (Covid and HBO Max variables aside) was never going to break out no matter how much this generation’s media circle has correctly anointed Reeves the coolest of cool dudes. Remember, the difference between Halloween being a massive smash at $255 million and Terminator: Dark Fate being a disaster at $261 million is one cost $10 and the other cost $185 million. Most (but not all) of the legacy sequel successes since 2015 (Creed, Scream, Halloween, Ghostbusters: Afterlife) were reasonably-budgeted films that didn’t have to break records to break even.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Top Gun: Maverick were pricey films that soared to infinity ($2 billion in 2015) and beyond ($1.463 billion thus far). Quasi-legacy sequels like Jurassic World and Spider-Man: No Way Home (part MCU Spider-Man threequel, part Spider-Man 4 and part Amazing Spider-Man 3) earned $1.67 billion and $1.91 billion. Unless you have a genuinely four-quadrant, all-encompassing blockbuster IP (as Top Gun turned out to be, mea culpa), you must make something that appeals to folks with no inherent interest in the IP. You have to make it cheap enough that it doesn’t have to play to the unconverted. Otherwise, Blade Runner 2049 grossed $242 million in 2017, good for an R-rated, action-lite, 2.5-hour sci-fi drama but not good enough on a $155 million budget. See also: Doctor Sleep, which earned $72 million but on a $45 million budget.

Constantine is not an A-level character. The previous film, amid a far more generous time for theatrical moviegoing and when films of its ilk were far less par for the course, ‘only’ earned $232 million global. In 2022, the character has been played on television/streaming by both Matt Ryan (Constantine and Legends of Tomorrow) and Jenna Coleman (The Sandman). Outside of John Wick, Keanu Reeves is not an A-level asses-in-seats draw, as Matrix Resurrections (quality and subversive meta-commentary aside) proved last Christmas. The mere notion of DC Films interconnectivity will no more benefit Constatine than did Birds of Prey ($205 million) and The Suicide Squad ($168 million) benefit from being connected to Wonder Woman ($821 million) and Aquaman ($1.148 billion). That’s not to say this potential/theoretical sequel is doomed to burn in hell for all eternity, but… they are unquestionably playing with fire.

About Yashoo Mashi

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