Franchise Kings #5 - Keanu Reeves
With a trajectory no one could chart, the man whose name means 'cool breeze over the mountains' has managed to stay relevant for 4 decades, regularly coming back with projects that go on to be major franchises and cult favourites. Starring in movies that interest him personally, Keanu long gave up on picking roles that critics and audiences alike expected to see him in...if at all.
BILL & TED
Some might put Bill & Ted straight into stoner comedy territory, but with its heart in a good place and with a semi-covert, but superseding narrative about the importance of education and destiny, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) was more than a zany adventure. Full of facts, figures and phrases that immediately entered the lexicon zeitgeist, Keanu played 'Ted' (Theodore Logan) one half of a duo that weren't ever going to be known for their academic contributions to society, but were destined to build the founding one through the power of their music. A sequel in the form of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey followed 2 years later, but whereas the original was made for only $6,500,000 and grossed a significantly high revenue of $40,500,000, it's follow up was made for over 3 and a bit times as much ($20,000,000) and only grossed $38,000,000. At the time of writing, a sequel; Bill & Ted Face The Music is currently being shot and this time around sees Bill & Ted in their middle age phase, needing to write a song, that will save the entire universe. I'm not sure if the term 'mid-life crisis' is an understatement in their new bogus adventure, but I'm sure they won't let us down.
In 1999, one of the most original films of 20th century was released - just as we were about to leave it. Making its debut in cinemas at the end of the century came The Matrix, a movie that did not just wow audiences with its high story concepts, but received universal praise for its well executed action sequences and its kinetic originality too. Introducing the world to "Bullet Time" (time slice photography), The Matrix would be the first film to have this particular type of CGI employed, which for about the next decade would have other films (whether they really needed it or not) copying in abundance. The Matrix and its two main sequels saw Keanu play Neo; a chosen-one figure who is suppose to start a revolution against a race of machines that have waged war on humans and plunged the Earth into a dystopian future. From birth, humans are kept in check by plugging them into a virtual reality matrix, where they think they are conducting normal lives. In reality; most humans are living a fake simulated existence, whilst also being used as 'batteries' to power the machine world. The Matrix was made for $63,000,000 and grossed $463,517,383, The Matrix: Reloaded and the last in the trilogy The Matrix: Revolutions were made back-to-back for $150,000,000. Reloaded earned a whopping $742,128,461 and Revolutions grossed $427,343,298. For the first film, Keanu was paid $10,000,000 and received 10% of the movies overall gross. For the second and third films he was paid $15,000,000 per film and received 15% of the overall gross for each film. All in all, he made around $256,000,000 over the course of the trilogy.
Much like The Matrix, nobody knew who or what John Wick was until they actually saw it and of course most were pleasantly surprised. On the face of it (via the trailer) the story looked like your bog standard action revenge thriller. The story didn't come from a comic or a book and so there was no previous knowledge of who this legendary badass was and would become in popular culture. What made the films so popular was the stunt team's dedication to making every move of assault both technically and artistically a feast for the eyes. And it was a nice change from seeing the current dominance of Filipino techniques being overused in films by characters such as Jason Bourne. The methods of attack and defence being bigger and more flamboyant, it was a real visual contrast to see the likes of Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo and Gun-fu so expertly brought to the forefront. The original film was followed with another 2 chapters and a fourth movie has been announced, its release date set for 2021. John Wick was made for $20,000,000 and grossed $88,761,661, John Wick: Chapter 2 was made for $40,000,000 and earned $171,539,887 and John Wick: Parabellum was financed for $75,000,000 and made $321,162,659.
Keanu Reeves is an actor with a fantastic memory and a willingness to push his physicality to correctly portray a character. His one fight scene in The Matrix: Reloaded against the multiple 'Smiths' had more moves in it than the entire first movie. Also appearing on stage as Hamlet (a serious memory undertaking too), Keanu has never been shy about appearing in period pieces and can be seen in films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and Little Buddha (1993). Reeves has shown his versatility appearing in films that you might not expect to see him in and is also happy to not be the lead. Then of course there are his other genre defying, iconic action films, such as Point Break (1991), Speed (1994) and Constantine (2005), which were also reviewed and watched to commercial and critical acclaim. Keanu Reeves' legacy in the acting world is that he remains versatile, open and is willing to take chances despite any label given to him. Other notable films include: The Devil's Advocate (1997), Street Kings (2008) and The Gift (2000).
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