Although it has been 16 years since the first film, Keanu Reeves left an indelible mark on the character, even though it was not a wholly faithful adaptation to his DC Comics version. Interestingly, it was one of the last high-profile and financially successful films the fan-favorite Reeves had before his resurgence with 2014’s John Wick.
With his return to the Matrix, is this the right time to return as the chain-smoking supernatural antihero? Read on for more.
He tried, but Warner Bros. isn’t budging
In a live interview with on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Keanu Reeves was promoting The Matrix Resurrections and his comic book BRZRKR for Boom Studios. The breathtaking and celebrated actor was asked if he had another past role that he would like to revisit. Host Stephen Colbert even commented that Reeves could probably just ask and get any role and film done.
Reeves responded that he would really want to get a Constantine sequel done. But he also corrected Colbert that he could just ask. According to Reeves:
That’s not true! That happens. I would love to play John Constantine again from the Constantine movie. I've tried.
This elicited a happy response from both Colbert and the audience. Colbert even suggested he’d cameo as a reluctant demon if a Constantine sequel were to happen. However, when Colbert continued to press, Reeves implied that Warner Bros. has not been as positive with the proposal, shifting the audience’s initial reaction from glee to disappointment.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) December 14, 2021
The actor continued that he has been trying for years to get a Constantine sequel off the ground, but the higher ups of the studio have not reciprocated his genuine enthusiasm.
From Music to Matrix to Magic
Keanu Reeves has made a career out of successful genre films and roles, and then returning to them years later without missing a beat.
The first Bill & Ted film (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) was released in 1989 and its sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey came in 1991. The last installment, Bill & Ted Face the Music was released in 2020, more than 30 years after the first one. Re-teaming with Alex Winter, Bill & Ted Face the Music was a surprise hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite having a moderate box office return, mostly due to costing a budget of only $25 million and a steady streak of home PVOD profits.
Then there is The Matrix film franchise. The first Matrix film exploded into theaters and pop culture awareness in 1999, followed by its sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both released in 2003. The Matrix films and its spinoffs have earned over $3 billion in total revenues since the first movie's inception. And although the newest installment, The Matrix Resurrections, has received initially mixed critical reviews, the film is tracking to be a box office success for its same day theatrical and streaming release on HBO Max.
With such a pedigree of making successful returns to his iconic roles, one would think that it would be prudent for Warner Bros. to give the Constantine sequel that Reeves is lobbying for.
However, the reservations the studio has may be reasonable. The 2005 Constantine film about the supernatural investigator (based on the Hellblazer comic) which starred Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, and Djimon Hounsou was only a moderate success. According to Box Office Mojo, the film had a worldwide gross of $230, 884, 728 against a budget of $100 million.
Although profitable, it was not the huge franchise builder that the studio had been hoping for. Fans and critics generally held that Reeves was miscast as an American version of the British John Constantine. The treatment of the material as more of an action fantasy rather than a cerebral horror as it was in the comics also contributed to the divisive reactions to the film.
Since then, plans for a sequel had been shelved. The character of John Constantine himself has returned to live action on TV, portrayed by Matt Ryan in a short lived series and on various shows on The CW including Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. There are also apparent plans for J.J. Abrams to recast the character for the upcoming DCEU projects on HBO Max, such as the rumored Justice League Dark.
With Reeves set to return as John Wick in a fourth installment and the increasing possibility that he is joining the MCU, it might take years for a new Constantine sequel to even be considered. But if The Matrix Resurrections proves to be a massive hit, it might just be the push that the star needs to get it done.
For now, fans can catch Keanu Reeves in the original Constantine on the HBO Max streaming service. Meanwhile, The Matrix Resurrections is available on HBO Max and in theaters beginning today.