The tale of the DC character Constantine, and his screen adaptations is long and complex. The highly underrated 2005 cinematic version – in which Constantine was played by Keanu Reeves – proved to be something of a box office misfire, and the more recent NBC series didn’t fare much better. The series was cancelled in May 2015 after a single season of just 13 episodes performed poorly in terms of ratings. But, fans loved actor Matt Ryan in the TV role, and were not prepared to let him go.
As a result of vocal support for Ryan, The CW featured his version of Constantine in a fourth season episode of Arrow – and the positive reception of that guest role led many to hope that The CW might be the network to either include him in more existing series, or even resurrect his own. Those hopes can now be shelved indefinitely, however, as producer Greg Berlanti confirmed to press at the Television Critics Association that little progress has been made with Constantine.
“We haven’t had any conversations with [the network] about Constantine. Constantine exists in a certain place in the DC world and universe. [The network is] kind of internally examining what they want to do with that character next.”
This comment, though brief, actually speaks volumes. Constantine is not a straightforward character. He’s not a superhero in the way that Arrow, or Supergirl, or The Flash is a superhero. He is a former conman who has become a reluctant supernatural detective – which makes him more of an anti-hero, while incorporating elements of other dimensions, horror, magic, and spirituality.
These are complicated themes to get right in a comic book TV series, for fans of comic book TV series. To be true to the source material in a Constantine solo show, the target demographic needs to be different from that of his more family-friendly DC cohorts. This is among the reasons why the NBC series struggled. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that Constantine is not high on the priority list for The CW.
All is not lost for those who love Matt Ryan in the role of Constantine, however, as it was recently confirmed that he will voice the character in an animated Justice League Dark. This character is much more at home in the more shadowy side of DC adaptations, so for those hoping that this animation might open the door to a big screen, live-action version, we might yet see Matt Ryan don the demon-hunter’s overcoat once more – just not on The CW any time soon.