Having recently seen the 49-year old Keanu Reeves in the trailer for his newest film, 47 Ronin, I was struck with a few thoughts which, to be honest, I still haven't been able to collect. The vast majority of my thoughts centered on the generational perception of Keanu Reeves as an actor. People my age know him as Ted, Johnny Utah, Jack Traven, Neo and even John Constantine; people my age watched him go from the SoCal Valley boy, to action star and, in many ways, those characters were icons of their time. Nobody who lived through the 80s and 90s would not recognize Ted "Theodore" Logan and nobody who lived through the 90s and early 2000s would not recognize Neo. While never considered a great actor, Reeves was the face of both ends of the 90s (Point Break and Bill and Ted early on/The Matrix at the end) and, in 1994, hit on all cylinders as the hotshot in Speed. He had other memorable roles in Dracula, A Walk in the Clouds, My Own Private Idaho and The Devil's Advocate, all roles in films which were relatively big releases and have some life on the AMCs and HBOs of the world.
So, my question is, where does Reeves stand as an actor? I'm in my late 30s and I spend most of my days as a high school teacher surrounded by media savvy teens...and they don't really know who Reeves is. They know Neo, but they don't know Reeves. The vast majority of them do not know Ted "Theodore" Logan and, more disturbingly, they have no clue who Johnny Utah is but a few of them know Shane Falco, Reeves role in The Replacements. It's striking to me that someone so memorable for such iconic roles can slip that easily into the shadows with a few poor films. While never the greatest actor, Reeves could do a few things well, which is why I'm happy to see him return to the role of Ted in Bill and Ted 3. Hopefully a few people go out and pick up the original Bill and Teds and check them out and get themselves reacquainted with one of the most mysterious actors in recent memory. For ever good role, Reeves seemed to dish out 3 bad ones and it seems, his career is destined to be forgotten by the masses.