NBC’s First Trailer for ‘Constantine’ Has Red Flags for Show

NBC just released the first trailer for its fall show Constantine, an adaptation of the long-running comic series.

The show stars 33-year-old British actor Matt Ryan, who had a supporting role on Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. Ryan will try to expunge the lingering memory of Keanu Reeves’s chain-smoking, stoic American demon hunter from viewers’ minds. Reeves was poorly received in the title role of Constantine nine years ago, as his depiction of the character wasn’t aesthetically or tonally similar to the comic character, and also because the film was pretty bad in general.

John Constantine was created by Alan Moore (WatchmenFrom Hell) for an issue of Swamp Thing, and the character was later given his own series, Hellblazer. The first 40 issues were penned by Jamie Delano, who lent a satiric, political edge to the character, taking swings at Thatcherism and portraying financiers as literal demons in need of immediate exorcism. The comic was laced with a sharp, deadpan wit and brooding cynicism, and, unlike other comics, the story progresses in real time, so Constantine aged with every issue.

Delano was succeeded by Garth Ennis, who took the character in a more personal, tragic direction; his story arc “Dangerous Habits” was the basis of the 2005 Constantine film. The film lost the tragic air that permeated the comics because the movie opens with Constantine hacking up a lung, whereas the comics gave us seven years of character development before hitting us with the character developing lung cancer. The Hellblazer series ended last year, after 300 issues, and was replaced by the hugely disappointing new comic book series, Constantine.

Constantine — the show — will be taking Hannibal’s Friday night death slot this fall. Maybe NBC thinks it can draw the Hannibal crowd by placing a sort of similar, horror-themed show in the same slot — though Hannibal had abysmal ratings all season, so that could be a bad idea. The thing with Hannibal is it’s a low-risk investment for NBC: most of the show’s financing comes from international sales and licensing deals assembled by Gaumont International Television. NBC, in turn, doesn’t garner many viewers, but the perennially last-place network can boast that it has a genuinely great show without having to take the financial blow. And Hannibal has enough rabid fans — Fannibals (no, seriously) — and social media presence to make up for its lack of viewers.

Constantine is the newest of TV’s recent proliferation of ambitious horror projects. The pilot for Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is surprisingly good, and it’s streaming online now for free. The show stars Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, and Eva Green as a trio who fight monsters in London circa 1890. It’s a surprisingly literary show, sewn with sometimes clever direction and mottled with subtle references to myriad Victorian-era novels and films inspired by Victorian-era novels. The show knows what it is and embraces it, kind of like how Hannibal Lecter tells his patients to embrace who they are. It’s not quite the game changer like Hannibal‘s brazen pilot, but word on the critical grapevine suggests that the show gets better as it goes.

Constantine’s trailer doesn’t insinuate such self-aware cleverness. And though judging a show by its initial trailer is at best a fruitless endeavor (remember how everyone jeered apathetically at the gaudy Hannibal trailer?), the trailer for Constantine triggers a few warning flags: the overabundance of CGI, which stands in stark contrast to the low-budget, atmospheric menace of Hannibal; and the participation of Daniel Cerone (Dexter) and David S. Goyer (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) as executive producers.

Dexter had a few good seasons but quickly established itself as a one-trick show; it ended approximately four seasons too late. And Goyer, responsible for writing the modern masterpiece Man of Steel (that’s sarcasm; Man of Steel is terrible), has never met a plot hole he didn’t love. His screenplays for Nolan’s films were only rescued by Nolan’s sure-handed direction and an impeccable cast.

Hopefully Constantine is good, as NBC really needs a hit. With the demise of Community and the laughably bad viewership of HannibalNBC’s best shows are dead or lingering in purgatory. But that’s right up John Constantine’s alley.

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