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.



Xeus said...

I feel obliged to comment. Beautiful post, Anakin :)

Welcome to the club of people who worry as to how Keanu's films perform at the box office. I'm one of them. My friend who used to run Reeves Drive was another.

I guess it's because we want him to succeed. He's gotten a lot of flak in life so it's nice when one of his films trumps the BO and he can thumb up his nose at all his detractors.


coolfreeze said...

Nice post, and yes it is reasonable to want Keanu to do well.
But, I don't know. I think that lately Keanu seems to want something else.
This is just an educated guess, because I obviously do not know him, but he seems to be going more and more under the radar, shunning the public life more and more, and getting interested in behind the camera stuff more than he once did.
I can only assume that yes, he wants his movies to do well (who doesn't?) but with big-time box office comes a lot of publicity too, even more prying in his private life, and even more paparazzi.
I can't help but predict the following: Keanu gets out of big budget movies, and starts doing mainly smaller films, either acting or producing but probably not both.
Based on that, the success of TDTESS does not really matter.
As for thumbing his nose at anyone, I don't think Keanu has really ever done that even when he has had a chance to, nor is BO success necessarily a "nose thumbing" thing.
A lot of actors of his generation and even younger, have moved on to smaller, more serious roles once their BO success insured their financial stability, and once their marketability becomes questionable do to their age. Keanu can take on more serious roles as a way to "thumb his nose" at critics too, not just by big budget success. By 'serious' roles I don't mean he should start courting the Academy, or take on the infamous 'brain damaged' roles. I just mean something where acting, in and of itself, becomes the center of a movie.
A lot of his detractors already know he has had BO success despite the criticisms. A lot of them also know that he has had quite a few bombs. What his detractors need is the ability to watch him get more serious roles.

Anakin McFly said...

Yeah, possibly; it would probably be sort of coming full circle, then, seeing as how his earlier films were of the more indie variety, focusing on acting and story more than box office appeal and which got his talent a fair amount of praise. I recently read a 1980s article which lauded his career thus far and called him the 'next DeNiro', which is such a large difference from what's going on today. It's very strange. :\

He's going into producing though - there's this awesome script entitled 'Passengers' which his company is producing. And I'd really like to see him write something too, be it a script or a book. :D

Leisha Camden said...

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.

I would bet my head on it.

I would seriously bet my actual physical head.