JJ Abrams has seen two more projects abandoned by HBO Max, the latest in a series of setbacks for the producer/director.
Deadline reports (opens in new tab) that the shows that HBO ran are a series of Constantine, a new take on the DC character, which Abrams was working with British novelist Guy Bolton, and Madame X, a supernatural series with the clairvoyant DC Comic of the same name.
Abrams has already seen three projects canceled this year. In June, news broke that Demimonde, which was supposed to be Abrams’ first solo television creation since Alias, had been canceled by HBO due to rising costs.
Then, last month, Abrams saw two more of his shows get canned, with Apple TV Plus deactivating My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, which would have seen Abrams reunite with Alias star Jennifer Garner; and HBO drops Batman: Caped Crusader, a planned sequel to Batman: The Animated Series, which ran from 1992 to 1995, with Abrams and Matt Reeves of Batman on the creative team.
The deadline says that instead of the Abrams Constantine series, HBO’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, decided to pursue a long-awaited sequel to the 2005 film version of Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, the supernatural exorcist and demonologist.
The new movie, which will see Reeves reunite with Francis Lawrence, who has since made billions from the Hunger Games franchise – and it’s not all bad news for Abrams, as he’s slated to produce that movie.
Unlike the original film, which found Constantine in middle age and on the brink of death, Abrams’ series was based on the character’s appearance in the Hellblazer comics, and was supposed to be contemporary in setting, as well as taking place in London. The show has been in active development for over two years, and Abrams will now buy the project to other studios and streaming services.
As for Madame X, Abrams was working on that show with Angela Robinson, whose credits include True Blood and How to Get Away with Murder. Longtime DC Comics favorite Madame X – Madame Xanadu, to give her full name – is a clairvoyant who uses tarot cards to predict the future and who also has the power to teleport and make things levitate.
Robinson was set to serve as showrunner for Madame X, as well as executive producer alongside Abrams. That project will also be sold to other studios, with Deadline reporting that Abrams and his team are optimistic about keeping both shows alive.
Analysis: More belt-tightening for Warner Bros?
It’s no secret that the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, has been in for an epic round of cost-cutting, but you probably couldn’t put the end of Abrams’ Constantine series to be that.
It doesn’t make sense for Warner Bros. having two Constantine projects in the works and trying to release both within a few years of each other.
Warner Bros. was looking at the same situation with The Flash, where it was about to release an extremely expensive movie with one actor in the role, while a long-running TV show with another actor in the role was still happening.
While it was the plan to have Ezra Miller’s version of The Flash alongside Grant Gustin’s, there’s likely some relief that the final season of the TV show will air in early 2023, leaving Miller a clear run when his film version finally debut in daylight saving time.
Trying to sell two versions of the same character to the public, John Constantine in this case, would always be a headache and Abrams’ presence in the TV version of Constantine was probably neither here nor there.
HBO’s decision to pass on Madame X is a bit more of a surprise as, while it hasn’t yet made its way to the cast, the buzz around the show seemed positive. Perhaps it was simply a case that the streaming service already had seven DC shows in the works and decided that was enough for now.