Well, this isn't good.
We've known for some time that a cigarette-smoking John Constantine might not be featured in the upcoming Constantine TV show, as producer David S. Goyer previously said it was under negotiation with NBC. Now it seems it's official - the famously cancer-stricken, chain-smoking Constantine will not be allowed to light up so much as a single cigarette during his self-titled series.
During a recent interview with Collider, Constantine pilot director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones) confirmed that the occult detective will be missing what many would consider an essential ingredient of the character - a move largely attributed to network standards and practices. That loud sound you just heard was the force of a thousand sighs from Constantine fans who hoped NBC might faithfully adapt the character.
On the surface, one wouldn't think the loss of a single personality trait would be enough to derail as well-drawn a character as John Constantine, but it really can't be overstated just how iconic an aspect of Hellblazer John's addiction is. There's a reason that the 2005 Constantine film starring Keanu Reeves made sure to retain the title character's smoking habit, despite jettisoning many other recognizable aspects of his look and background.
Taking away Constantine's cigarettes is almost akin to taking away Batman's orphan origin or Superman's status as the last son of Krypton. It's an integral part of who he is, one made obvious by the fact that almost any picture of the character includes a lit cigarette dangling from his lips.
While this development isn't unexpected, it's still very disappointing, if only because NBC seemed to be going out of its way to court Hellblazer fans that were unhappy with Francis Lawrence's theatrical take on the franchise. Constantine is once again a sarcastic blond Brit instead of a monotone dark-haired American. Chas is now an adult friend of John's again, as opposed to being a whiny understudy, and is no longer played by a miscast Shia LaBeouf. Yet so much of that goodwill is likely to be erased by the simple fact that Constantine's signature pastime is no longer present and accounted for.
As disheartening as a nicotine-free Constantine is, this doesn't mean NBC's adaptation won't still be worth checking out. Series creator Daniel Cerone seems to have a great handle on why John is the way he is, and every intention to do the character justice. Were it not for broadcast networks' commitment to not promoting cigarette smoking in any way whatsoever, it's almost a guarantee that Cerone's Constantine would be puffing away on butts like his life depended on it. Plus, Matt Ryan's performance in the trailers and clips released so far seems spot on, and it would be a shame if his rendition of John Constantine goes unheralded due to a corporate rule that no one on the creative staff has any power to override.
Would Constantine be better on cable? That's debatable, but there's really no point in dwelling on what might have been. All that's left for fans to do is decide whether they're willing to give a non-smoking Constantine a try. If not, NBC better hope that enough uninitiated newbies show up to keep the show afloat.
Constantine will premiere on Friday, October 24, 2014 @10pm on NBC.
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