Hmm....well I am no fan of Keanu. I still laugh watching scenes from Speed. But...I thought the Matrix was one of his exception movies. Or better to say that the character was well written for his "style" of acting. Kind of like how Conan was a perfect role for Arnold. Or the terminator for that matter.
By the way since I started this I guess I am saying that sometimes I think we are overly critical of actors just because a.) they can't act as well as Al Pacino or Anthony Hopkins, or b.) because of this they have probably ruined many a movie that could have been much better. Which is kind of how I felt about Star Wars Episode I and II. If only a better Anakin had filed the role.
My point above being that even though Arnold, John, and Keanu have starred in some stinkers, they have also starred in some of the most popular movies of all time. And for that they deserve some credit and respect.
Agreed there - but I don't think I'm overly critical of Keanu - I could get considerably worse critizing him. It isn't a respect factor problem - he is respected for his work - though not lauded. I've watched his movies - and I do have "Speed" on video at home. I liked him in "The Devil's Advocate" and will always like "Bill & Ted".
However, just because a movie is commercially popular - a great actor it does not make. A great actor is a persona that is believable and enjoyable regardless of the vehicle put around them in a movie. An actor like Jack Nicholson can walk out on a stage and simply lift his eyebrow - that gesture carries the same weight as 1000 words. Al Pacino is in that class too, and so is Sir Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, and Sean Connery to name a precious few. Denzel Washington is not. As popular as Samuel L. Jackson is - he's not in that class either - yet.
Sylvester Stallone was massively successful commercially with great movies like "Rocky" and "Rambo", but had stinkers like "Driven" - he can act, but he's not in the above class either. "The Matrix" and it's sequels will be great for Keanu - and great for the fans to watch too - but I'm certainly not waiting impatiently for their release. If a different lead was cast, however like you pointed out with the role of Anakin Skywalker, I'm sure I'd feel differently. It is a cool part to play.
As wild as the original "Batman" was - notice how Jack Nicholson's portayal of "The Joker" rose above the visuals, SFX, music, and everything else including the rest of the cast?
"Alien" as groundbreaking a movie that it was (and still is after all this time) had a cast that was stronger and more compelling than the amazing creature SFX - that was the star. That brilliant casting continued on into "Aliens" - and even the Colonial Marines held their own against bigger alien SFX. None of these actors are considered in the same light as an Al Pacino, but were solid character actors and performers.
With all the money and SFX backing "The Matrix" - I don't feel it compares with these three examples - regardless of the commercial results. Heck - I like "Ghostbusters" better!