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Rights Issues Held Up Constantine 2 For Years

With comic book movies being all the rage at the box office for the last decade or so, coupled with the popularity of Keanu Reeves, it's kind of amazing that fans haven't gotten a sequel to "Constantine" yet. Released in 2005, "Constantine" followed John Constantine, a man with lung cancer who can travel between the worlds of Earth and Hell and communicate with angels and demons. After attempting suicide when he was younger, he sends half-demons back to hell in order to escape damnation for his own soul.

Based on the Vertigo Comic, "Hellblazer," the film was a moderate success at the time of its release with audiences and critics, but it has since gone on to become a cult classic. Within 2022, a sequel finally gained some steam and surprised anxious fans with the announcement of a sequel. According to Deadline, the new film is set to have Reeves return as the reluctant hero, and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" director Francis Lawrence, who made his feature directorial debut in the original, is set to return as director. One of the producers of the first film, Akiva Goldsman, is set to return to write and produce the sequel.

Fans have wondered why it has taken so long for a sequel to get off the ground. Director Frances Lawrence finally shined a light on the process that delayed the much-asked-for sequel.

The rights issues dealing with a J.J. Abrams produced Constantine series contributed to the holdup on the sequel

For fans wondering why it took so long for a sequel to happen, director Francis Lawrence told Collider that it was rights issues holding up the property. One of the major factors was that the character was tied up in plans that had been made for the character's arrival and how he fit in with other cinematic universes being formed.

For example, as Screen Rant reported in early 2022, "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" filmmaker J.J. Abrams was set to begin building a "Justice League Dark" universe through shows and films for HBO Max, which is part of the Warner Bros. Discovery umbrella that owns the DC and Vertigo properties, with one of the shows being a new "Constantine" series. The Illuminerdi reported that "Gangs of London" star Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù was being eyed for the "Constantine" lead, titular role.

However, it was reported in the fall of 2022, via Deadline, that HBO Max passed on the project in favor of the Reeves starring film sequel, effectively killing off the planned series. It was reported that J.J. Abrams and Warner Bros. weren't completely done with the project as they were shopping it around to other streamers. Since HBO Max canceled several planned Abrams projects, and Abrams and Warners are shopping them around to other streamers, that could complicate the plan for a "Justice League Dark" if various projects involving characters in the League are living on different streamers.

HBO Max's cancelation of the Constantine series complicated things further for the upcoming movie sequel

The streamer that might make the most sense to pick up J.J. Abrams' "Constantine" show would be Netflix, as they've worked with Warner Bros. before on the recently renewed "The Sandman" series. Complicating that further, however, is that on "The Sandman," "Doctor Who" star Jenna Coleman appeared as a version of the Constantine character on that show. Plus, she is not the first actor to play Constantine since Reeves.

Matt Ryan previously played Constantine in an NBC series based on the "Hellblazer" comic book that was canceled after its first season back in 2015 (via TVLine). According to Den of Geek, he would go on to reprise that role appearing in the "Arrowverse" in Season 4 of "Arrow" and Season 3 of "Legends of Tomorrow" (via TVLine). Ryan's version of the character's storyline concluded in an HBO Max animated series, "Constantine: City of Demons" (via Collider).

"Constantine" film and sequel director Francis Lawrence further explained the confusing circumstances that delayed production of the sequel to the cult classic first film. He said of the sequel, "It's something that we've been talking about since we made Constantine because we all loved it. So we've been talking about it, talking about it, talking about it. All the DC [properties], because Vertigo is part of DC, that sort of like the control of those properties got complicated with Warner Bros. with DC, with JJ [Abrams]'s deal, you know, all those kinds of things. There's a lot of complicating factors. So it was never Akiva, and Keanu, and I happen to be sort of convinced to do it. It was really trying to figure out how we can get some sort of control over the Constantine character again."

Getting a Constantine sequel made has been on Keanu Reeves' mind since the original's release

Another factor helping the new Keanu Reeves starring sequel get off the ground stemmed from an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" in which Reeves said the character he'd most like to play again was John Constantine. The crowd's rapturous applause might have caught the attention of Warner Bros. executives, that then considered greenlighting a sequel. He even told the crowd during the interview when asked about it getting made finally, "I've tried."

In an interview with IGN from 2005, upon the release of the original film, Reeves already had a sequel on the brain. He said, "You know, my contract didn't have a second film, but myself and some of the producers and Francis Lawrence, the director, and I certainly would, because we fell in love with the guy. I fell in love with the guy. I had one of the best times I'd ever had working on a film working on this particular project." Seems like Reeves will finally get his wish as the 17-plus-years-later sequel is in the works now at Warner Bros.