The Matrix released in 1999. Apart from the many wonderful things it brought to the world of cinema, the one we will never forget is Keanu Reeves or “The One”. Reeves added a mystic power to that role, gave it an attitude and a style which is unforgettable, and propelled an epic movie plot to newer heights. Oh, we all bow in front of The One!
The final part of the trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions, released in November 2003, and even though it had the lowest worldwide box-office earnings of the three movies in the franchise, it was still a big success with a tally of $427 million. That happened more than 10 years ago. A time when Keanu Reeves seemed destined to be heading up the charts, for his popularity among the audience had soared up like crazy. But the next Matrix moment never came. You do have to wonder why.
The Gaps: The next movie after The Matrix Revolutions which had Keanu Reeves as the lead actor was 2005’s Constantine. The 16-month gap between the two films would not have helped Reeves in using his Neo avatar to continue with his action hero image. Then again there was a much prolonged gap of about 20 months between 2006’s A Scanner Darkly and 2008’s Street Kings. Stars try to bank on those periods when they are riding high in terms of popularity, but even if not, they usually do come out with a movie a year at least. Keanu Reeves somewhere got the timing of his releases wrong, and so faded in and out of the minds of the audience quite often.
The Big-Budget Failures: Keanu Reeves has worked on three big projects since The Matrix Revolutions, but none have managed to wow the crowds the way The Matrix trilogy did. Constantine at first seemed to have the ingredients of a blockbuster – a popular action hero in the adaptation of a popular comic book series that dealt with supernatural elements – but debut director Francis Lawrence’s efforts fizzled to create any magic whatsoever. The $100 million movie didn’t fare well at the domestic box-office with $75 million earnings, though better foreign earnings cut down the losses with the final tally at $231 million. 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still fared better at the box-office as its $233 million worldwide earnings came against a lower budget of $80 million, which is likely to have made it a financial success, but not a great one. Its reviews too were quite poor as indicated by the 21% score on Rottentomatoes website. The biggest disaster though was yet to come in the shape of 2013’s 47 Ronin. This samurai action movie was released on Christmas last year amidst a ton of other movies, and got completely buried. It eventually earned $151 million worldwide while its production budget was $175 million, making it one of the biggest flops of 2013!
The Terrible Choices: I have to scratch my head to figure out why Keanu Reeves opted for these movies, that never made it to wide theatrical releases, nor achieved any sort of critical acclaim. I can still understand opting for 2006’s A Scanner Darkly which is a Richard Linklater movie after all, different from the usual kind, unlikely to find a mass appeal but may end up with a cult following soon enough. Though A Scanner Darkly in which Reeves plays an undercover cop who gets involved in a new kind of drug, would not be considered among Linklater’s best works. It was a bold movie choice by Reeves, one that did not really pay off. Beyond that, have you heard of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee or Henry’s Crime or Generation Um…? I doubt you would have. These are some terrible choices by Reeves, such that he went the entire period from 2009 till most of 2013 without a wide release (until 47 Ronin came out in December 2013).
The Directorial Debut: Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut Man of Tai Chi released in 2013, but pre-production had started in 2008 itself. The delays in this movie, and the fact that Reeves was in front as well as behind the cameras, would have definitely taken a toll. The movie released in various movie festivals and got largely favourable reviews, but didn’t establish Reeves as a director nor add much to his resume as an actor.
The Modest Hits: In his post Matrix days, Keanu Reeves did find success but on a moderate scale. In 2006, he starred opposite Sandra Bullock in The Lake House, a romantic drama movie which put him further away from his appeal as an action hero, but the movie managed earnings of $115 million worldwide as against its production budget of $40 million. In 2008, his return to action was through Street Kings which was a low budget movie, and did decently at the box-office, but was no blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination. And in 2008 again, The Day The Earth Stood Still fared well at the box-office and remains his biggest earner as a lead actor post The Matrix trilogy.
The recently released Jon Wick is earning one of the best reviews of Keanu Reeves’ career and could setup him as an action hero once again. But Reeves needs more of such movies to bring him anywhere near his glory days. It seems he is already trying to catch up with lost time as two of his movies, Knock Knock and The Whole Truth, are in post-production. He is filming the drama movie Daughter of God and is on board the sci-fi Passengers. Keanu Reeves’ track record of movie selection has not been too great in the past decade but we do hope for better results from his upcoming movies. And as he is someone who tries to be away from the media glare, we should let his movies alone do the talking. Cheer up Keanu, better days should be ahead!