Saturday, August 23, 2008

For posterity's sake.

I wrote and posted this on IMDb some time back in response to yet another post making the highly questionable declaration that all of Keanu's characters are exactly alike.

So here goes; an analysis of those of Keanu's characters that I know well enough to analyse.

[Literature student cum writer]

Neo - the introverted loner geek and unwilling saviour stressed by his destiny because of his low self-confidence; Ted Logan, the cheerful, trusting teenager who sees the good in everyone and isn't that conventionally intelligent, but with a quick creative mind and a sense of awe at the world; John Constantine, hardened world-weary exorcist who sees the world through cynical eyes and takes orders from none but himself, armed with his own personal moral code, stubborn to the point of personal detriment; David Allen Griffin, slightly psychotic serial killer who enjoys playing with people's minds;

Jjaks Clayton, somewhat confused guy who means well and is just trying to make his own sense of things; Tommy, the eccentric teenager with an impulsive streak who's a bit of a prankster; Matt, lost in his frustrated despair at the world, sometimes feeling like the only sane one around whom no one understands; Alex Wyler, regular nice guy, but filled with growing desperation at the lack of direction in his life; Donnie Barksdale, angry wife-beater, who knows his strength and is not afraid to use it, and who would be fun to poke with a stick; Johnny Utah, brimming with self-confidence bordering on arrogance, spirited, crazy and carefree and wild;

Kevin Lomax, torn between pride and his conscience, suffering quietly the moral consequences of his actions that he pushes aside and tries to bury, hating himself for the things he does and living a life of denial; Siddharta, the Buddha, raised sheltered from the hurts of the world, full of innocent horror at the harsh realities of life; Scott Favor, recalcitrant rich not-straight kid, rebellious for the sake of rebellion, quietly manipulating others for his own selfish ends, betraying their trust and leaving;

Conor O'Neill, kind of twitchy and always on-edge with a somewhat volatile personality, a messed up guy suffering from alcoholism and addictions and gambling problems and all sorts of other things in his screwed up life, and sometimes he just wants to give up but there's a defiant fighting spirit in him that won't let him do so; Julian Mercer, womanising doctor who seems simultaneously puzzled and amused with life; Jack Traven, quiet jock prone to sudden explosions of temper, a person with good intentions but not much ability to properly execute them;

Shane Falco, the perpetually accident-prone, going doggedly about his life and viewing his better past with nostalgic resignation; Perry Lyman, philosophical dentist who can't quite decide what he thinks about life, which frustrates him, secretly, in bursts of private controlled anger that the public only glimpse, tempered with a paternal, almost motherly gentleness; Paul Sutton, polite gentleman who just wants to do what's right, even if at his own expense; Tod Higgins, somewhat of an airhead, with a one-track mind that enables peaceful oblivion to the possible consequences of his actions, living for the moment and not quite conscious of either the past or future;

Tom Ludlow, rough foul-mouthed cop, brutal, working on his own terms with his own sense of justice and not caring about what others think of him; Nelson Moss, arrogant self-obsessed workaholic with no time for others; Eddie Talbot, a teen with a good heart, emotionally damaged by his family problems but hiding it and presenting a cheerful facade to the innocent parties, while in private is mired by feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, and a deep-seated anger at his family that sometimes turns violent; Jesse Walker, energetic, talkative, won't effing shut up, touchy-feely, impulsive and yet still very much a kid;

Eric: No one ever cares about Eric. Seriously this guy is the only of Keanu's characters who doesn't have a single photo on any of the three main fansites. Poor guy. People don't know he exists. I don't know anything about him other than that he has a motorbike; Bob Arctor, still trying to hold his life together as his mind slowly breaks down, angry at the system and the inhumaness of the almost-robotic people who run society; Eddie Kasalivich, eager nerd trying to prove himself;

Marlon James, practically brain-dead drug addict, sleepwalking through life; Ron Petrie, rebellious smart aleck, defiant of authority but it's mostly just an act, for when it gets down to it he still has his own internal sense of right and wrong which he feels pressured to follow; Kip, dazed fellow, an introvert and a bit of a socially-inept weirdo who's not too aware of his surroundings, and yet someone who can hurt people, mostly out of avoidance, because he's someone who tries not to get too involved in things and prefers to keep his distance.

[/Literature student cum writer]


There are more, but I don't know them as well and so I'll just leave them out here. I haven't even watched most of those films; what I know was garnered from things like pictures and short Youtube clips. It takes talent for an actor to be able to project a character and have people 'get it' in the span of five minutes or so.

They make a brilliant ensemble cast, seriously. Characters who are all alike do not make brilliant ensemble casts. Ergo Keanu's characters are not all alike. QED.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Four months to the Day...

Maybe it's a sign that I've become too involved with Keanu fandom when I start to actively worry about the success of his films. I want them to do well; not because of any financial gain - I would get none, obviously, and the film studios are unarguably more than sufficiently rich - but because a flop would just mean even more fuel for critics to bash Reeves and hold him once again accountable for everything that went wrong, from the acting (which is at least somewhat justified) to the script to the themes to the special effects.

And perhaps it's all the more important for this film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, remake as it is of a well-loved sci-fi cult classic that has more than its fair share of violent detractors who find the very idea of a remake to be a deep and very personal insult. Most likely they would have objected to the film regardless of who was cast in the lead as Klaatu, but in this case too many of them are using Reeves as the main point around which all their objections revolve.

I can't really fault them, admittedly. I have my own favourite films which I would never ever like to see remade - Back to the Future, most of all, and I have spent just as much energy as some of those guys shooting down and suggesting suicide to anyone who suggests that it is time for the BTTF trilogy to see a new light with a new script and new cast (most common suggestions are for Shia LaBeouf as Marty; I vaguely like the guy, but as Marty, no. Just no. He's... uh... uh... TOO TALL! Yes.)

So I do at least have some idea of where they are coming from.

Mostly what annoys me is firstly the way people seem to think that the remake is all Reeves' fault. Because it isn't. Actors usually do not propose scripts or remakes; sometimes they do, but not in this case. They do not write the script either, so complaints that Klaatu will hop down the spaceship ramp with a big grin on his face going: "Whoa! How's it goin', Earthling dudes?" are completely unfounded.

Even if Reeves did write the script, which he didn't, or excessively ad libbed, I would bet a whole pineapple that he would not have turned the remake into Klaatu & Gort's Egregious Expedition. He has, after all, spent the last two decades or so trying to break out of the Ted type-casting that has haunted people's perceptions of him since that brilliant performance in 1989.

Secondly, there have been the usual schools of fish (fish = Keanu critics, for the uninitiated) flooding the boards of the TDTESS remake to raise their objections. It's been filmed, folks. The trailer is out. It's already in post-production. Nothing you say will be able to change that, no matter how vitriolic your rants.

What makes it all the more ironic is that this is the role for which most fish should be celebrating over. Klaatu is supposed to be an emotionless monotone alien, which is exactly what people have been repeatedly accusing Reeves of being in all his previous films. It makes more sense then that they would consider this perfect casting, and derive some smug sort of satisfaction from it.

There are a few who have expressed such views, and I congratulate them on their consistency if nothing else.

But the vast majority do not. The usual criticisms are out - that Reeves is too wooden (ironically, 'wooden' is the exact word used to describe Michael Rennie's portrayal of Klaatu in several reviews of the 1951 original that I dug up) with only one facial expression, always plays Ted, or - as an off-shoot from that - incapable of appearing intelligent.

When presented with photographic proof that Reeves does indeed have more than a singular facial expression, a fish came back with the puzzling rebuttal that he was simply 'acting' that emotion, not 'portraying' it. But isn't 'acting' what actors are supposed to do? And how much difference is there, really, between 'acting' and 'portraying'? Aren't they more or less synonyms of each other when it comes to playing characters?

As for the intelligent thing - it's been shown time and again that Reeves is not dumb and probably surpasses the majority of the population in and out of Hollywood in intelligence and knowledge: his IQ is reputedly 160 - though a definite source for this has yet to be discovered - and friends and co-stars have repeatedly enthused about his intelligence and how he is the most well-read person they know. And one who is brilliant at chess, as Laurence Fishburne admitted after a quick 15-minute defeat.

And perhaps the most appropriate and telling for this instance is a quote by Scott Brown of Entertainment Weekly, in which he says: "Reeves doesn't sound stupid -- far from it. He just doesn't sound human, either. Rather, he sounds like he has a deep affection for humans and has made a purely anthropological effort to integrate himself into their charming little society." ("The Man Who Would Be Keanu" - Entertainment Weekly, Issue #736 - 7th Nov 2003)

Sounds perfect for Klaatu.

'Intelligent' is, in fact, one of the most common words used to describe Reeves. Sure, they might just be sucking up to the guy out of hopes that they would benefit from it somehow, but there are lots of other positive adjectives out there that they could have used instead.

Then the usual counterargument - that just because he is intelligent doesn't mean that he can act intelligent, apparently implying that the moment Reeves steps in front of the camera and starts acting, he loses all visible semblance of intelligence.

...So much for him not acting.

That aside, though, if Reeves does, as people claim, exude intelligence in real life, then I don't see how it would be much of a stretch for him to carry this on to the screen in a role that demands it, which this one would. All he would have to do in this case would be to tone down the acting facade and let his true self shine through, which is a somewhat apt analogy for a character who is supposedly an alien in a human body - again, something that people through the ages have accused him of being in all his films and in real life.

There is, basically, only one good argument for why Reeves should not have been cast as Klaatu - and that is the fact that he is not an unknown actor, which I agree would have been the optimum choice for an alien. This is the only objection so far which I can understand, and it would have applied just as well if any other well-known actor had been cast in his place. Although something tells me that if, say, Christian Bale had been cast instead, there would have been a whole lot less complaining going on about the remake.

But all the same, it's too late. The film has been made, and it's coming out on the 12th of December this year. No amount of tantrum-throwing or whining is going to change that fact, so everyone should just calm down already. You don't have to watch the film if you don't have to. Gort isn't standing by to disintegrate you with his awesome disintegrator ray if you refuse to watch the film.

So just chill, be excellent to each other, and hope that Reeves successfully baradas the nikto to everyone's satisfaction.