The news that Keanu Reeves will return to the role of John Constantine in Constantine 2 should be the catalyst to establish the DCEU’s long-promised Justice League Dark. The supernatural sequel was announced after much speculation by Peter Stormare, who played the Devil in the first movie opposite Reeves’ Constantine, the British demon slayer also known as Hellblazer.
That critically divisive film from future Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence saw Reeves reinvent the previously British, blonde demon killer as a dark-haired American, although his version retained the antihero’s sardonic wit. Despite its changes, Constantine was largely true to the spirit of the source comics and has gained a sizeable cult following in the decade and a half since its release, thanks in no small part to Stormare’s spirited and campy turn as Satan. Stormare recently set the internet ablaze with speculation when he posted a still from Constantine with the caption “Sequel in the Works.”
Since this unexpected announcement, interest in the proposed Justice League Dark movie series has been reignited. With his first film outing predating both the DC Extended Universe and the concept of shared movie universes more broadly, John Constantine’s return to the screen could be a perfect opportunity for DC to establish the revamped Justice League Dark. Planned for a long time (and almost brought to life by The Shape of Water’s Guillermo Del Toro at one point in its development history), the live-action Justice League Dark was seemingly abandoned by the studio until it was announced in January 2020 that plans for the film series would be revamped.
To win over fans, the Justice League Dark series should capitalize on the popularity of Reeves’ Constantine and piggyback off the actor’s return by bringing the character into DCEU continuity. If Marvel can do vampires in the MCU with Blade, the DCEU can pull off the supernatural elements of DC comics too. Not only that, but Reeves’ career revival of late on the back of the likes of John Wick makes him a prime candidate for a big comic book movie project. The fact that DC already have him tied up and can take advantage is no small thing.
And of course, the DCEU is no stranger to darker content, and there is fan clamor for the likes of Zack Snyder’s darker cut of Justice League and the Justice League Dark could provide a perfect opportunity for the imprint to show off its darker paranormal edge. Since the comic series debuted in 2011, Constantine has been one of the founding members of Justice League Dark, an all-supernatural offshoot of the superhero team. He’s in good company, with the group’s other members including Jason Blood, Black Orchid, Zatanna Zatara, and Deadman. The group even includes Swamp Thing, who was the focus of 2019’s short-lived James Wan-produced DC Universe streaming series of the same name. However, while the team is full of interesting and suitably scary figures, few of the Justice League Dark’s members are household names in the way that both the Justice League and The Avengers’ team members are.
This lack of brand recognition may have been behind the failure of Del Toro’s attempted Justice League Dark team-up movie. Creative issues, particularly in the direction of the script ultimately also cost the film the services of subsequent rumored director Doug Liman, but there was news courtesy of Deadline back in January 2020 that Warner Bros. were looking to revive a Justice League Dark project. If Reeves’ tortured antihero has staying power with audiences, there won’t be a better opportunity for Justice League Dark to establish its place in the DCEU continuity than through the launch pad of Constantine 2.