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#162. Keanu Reeves

Typecasting can be difficult to overcome. If an actor succeeds at a role, studios might be tempted to continue casting them in that role. The true talent of a typecast actor is to be able to transition from one typecasting to another. For Keanu Reeves, this has been a key to some of his success. Early in his career, he was typecast as the airhead stoner teenager, but a role that is age-dependent like that cannot last forever. From here, Reeves transitioned to the action hero typecast, as seen in the success of the 1994 film, Speed. Next, Keanu Reeves landed in the sci-fi hero typecast, which he is mostly known for today. Films like The Matrix trilogy and Constantine (2005) have placed Reeves at the forefront of many science fiction roles. This week’s two films highlight two of Keanu Reeves’ typecast roles from two ends of his career.

A Scanner DarklyA Scanner Darkly
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

If you were to ask most people to name the role Keanu Reeves is best known for, it would probably be that of Thomas Anderson, also known as “Neo”. This defining role from The Matrix (1999) was repeated in its two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003). As such, Reeves has been inseparably associated with these films, which themselves are well known for their special effects. Those films helped carry Reeves to another science fiction film heavy with visual effects. No, I don’t mean Constantine, but instead A Scanner Darkly (2006). The unique attribute of this film is that, after it was filmed, it was animated using a technique known as “interpolated rotoscope”. As such, while it appears animated, it holds a high level of detail usually associated with live-action films.

In a future overrun by a blue drug known as “Substance D”, detectives going undercover to find the source of the illicit substance wear “scramble suits” to hide their identity. One such detective is known as “Fred” (Keanu Reeves). When he’s not wearing the scramble suit, he lives in Anaheim, California under the name of Bob Arctor. Bob uses Substance D regularly with his roommates, which is part of his work as an undercover agent. Unfortunately, because the drug alters the user’s brain, when Fred starts monitoring Bob, he doesn’t realize that he’s watching himself. Eventually, Substance D controls Bob’s life and causes him to have a breakdown at work. The healing process begins soon afterward at New Path, a rehab center for users of Substance D. Bob is eventually transferred to a New Path farm where he finds a curious flower amongst the crops.

Bill and Ted’s Bogus JourneyBill and Ted's Bogus Journey
Year: 1991
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

The one role that formed Keanu Reeves’ first typecasting was that of Ted “Theodore” Logan. This character is half of the titular “Bill and Ted” franchise, rounded out with Alex Winter’s William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq. Both of these roles were characterized as airhead stoner teenagers, which made for curiously entertaining films dealing with time travel and the afterlife. In fact, not only did Bill and Ted have two films (with rumors of a third), but also an animated television series, of which Reeves and Winter did the voice acting, albeit only for one season. It’s fortunate for Keanu Reeves that he was able to move on to roles outside of this typecast, as Alex Winter has not had quite the same acting career after the Bill and Ted series as Reeves has. And yet, it will be curious to see if this series will become a trilogy, considering the amount of time that has passed since Bogus Journey.

After successfully passing their history assignment from the previous film, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), the duo and their 15th-century fiancées sign up to compete in the San Dimas Battle of the Bands. While the medieval princesses play their instruments well, Bill and Ted do not. Unfortunately, in order to stop them from winning the contest and setting up a future full of peace and rock music, Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) goes back in time and kills the duo with evil robot versions of themselves. Now Bill and Ted must defeat Death (William Sadler) in order to escape from hell and reverse the damage their robot selves have done. Along the way back from the afterlife, the trio (which now includes Death) gathers some allies so they can confront Chuck and the evil robots. But even if they save the day, they still need to win the Battle of the Bands!

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Reeves roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Day the Earth Stood Still / John Rothman -> Picture Perfect / Kevin Bacon)

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4 responses to “#162. Keanu Reeves

  1. Pingback: #068. Bullet Time | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #069. The Trilogy Conundrum | Cinema Connections

  3. Pingback: End of Act Four | Cinema Connections

  4. Pingback: #246. The Price of Simulation | Cinema Connections

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