Ryan Reynolds has astonished audiences with his amazing performances. Now, he’s coming out in yet another more or less superhero-ish film: Free Guy, a meta-action comedy that promises not to disappoint. This film is a good fit for gamers and non-gamers alike.
BGN sat down for a few minutes with both Reynolds and the director Shawn Levy during the filming of Free Guy in the romantic city of Boston. Here are just a few reasons Levy and Reynolds shared with us as to why Free Guy should make your list of films to watch this year.
Reason 1 to see this film: To reconnect with your inner nerd.
- This is a video-game–based film; anyone interested in video games will be able to relate. One of the signs that this film is new and fresh is that most people do not know very much about it. It is, in fact, a new film! Levy stated, “[This film] is based on new ideas. There is no prior branding. It is not based on a comic book, a book, a novel. That is definitely an unusual thing in 2019.” And for a film this nuanced and fresh, who better to play a new role than the oh-so-loveable Ryan Reynolds? He did, after all, give us Deadpool.
Reason 2 to see this film: To try new things — including movies you know little about.
- It can be a strange to go into a theater and watch a film that very few people know about. So here is the scoop: Free Guy is about the character Guy who gradually realizes he is a background character — an NPC (nonplayer character) — in a video game. The film follows his slow awakening to consciousness regarding his world, his identity, and the potential of both. The world these characters live in is called Free City, and it is an open world shooter game. There are shades of games like Grand Theft Auto, and like those, you have NPCs and players. NPCs exist to make the entertainment of the players more vivid.
Reason 3 to see this film: To broaden your superhero range and check out a different kind of hero.
- Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, a bank teller, whose very name signifies his generic-ness. Guy loves his life, but he is starting to realize that there might be more to his world than he thought. In a video-game role, where anything is possible, if you become aware of the artifice of your world you might be capable of anything. This film is really about slow empowerment. It is in many ways an origin superhero story, minus the IP of a superhero because he is a regular guy. Think no cape or tights, but 100% more khakis.
Reason 4 to see this film: To discover and add an original yet ordinary story to your collection.
- The character Guy has only known mayhem and chaos his whole life. He has never known anything different. There’s been gunfire in the background and unmitigated violence all the live-long day. But Ryan told us that his character discovered “it doesn’t have to be this way.” There is something fun about this character’s evolution. He wants to change his life and also the world around him.
Reason 5 to see this film: To watch a story with more than one narrative—this film has multiple layers.
- While Guy might be the protagonist of the video-game movie, there are a lot of soft-focus background characters and stories. There are missile launches, helicopter explosions, gunships, muggings, car-jackings, humorous signs about what they will or will not ship — even human-size boxes. This is the norm for Guy. Watching him develop agency over his own existence and how it is gained is truly amazing. Having so much going on in the background while resisting the temptation to focus more closely on it is what makes this film so entertaining. It’s really a fully immersive 3D experience where you feel like you’re in Free City with Guy.
Reason 6 to see this film: To experience multiple worlds, one that resembles your world and the other less so.
- The film deals with two worlds: the real world and the Free City world. Coming up with these two distinctly different worlds took a lot of time. Director Levy and cinematographer George Richmond, who shot Rocketman and Kingsman, spent months of prep basically writing bibles for the aesthetic of each world so that they felt different.
Reason 7 to see this film: To meet Molotov Girl, Free Guy’s other protagonist.
- The protagonist who lives in both the real world and the video-game world is Jodie Comer’s character, Millie/Molotov Girl. Millie, Jodie’s real world character, is a nerd girl. She has basically written the code for Free City, which is a huge hit in the real world. The company is run by Taika Waititi, who plays Antoine. Something went wrong in the game, and now it is up to Molotov Girl to find out what. In order to solve the mystery, Millie has to go into the game as Molotov Girl and team up with Guy to figure out what went wrong.
Reason 8 to see this film: To get some free therapy.
- Both of the protagonists feel empowered by what they are doing. They both feel like background characters in their own world. While Guy is, in the very literal sense, a background character, he still feels “less than” in his own existence. Millie also feels like she is not living. These characters feel more human despite being video-game characters. Molotov Girl is a persona of what we wish we could do if we were “free guys.”
Reason 9 to see this film: To enjoy the unique writing.
- Reynolds told us about a script writing collaborative workshop he attended. “I can only speak for myself,” he said, “but I hate script writing.” At one point, he was offered some advice given to him by rom-com writer Richard Curtis. “[Richard] tries to give as many smaller characters a mini arch, a beginning, middle and end, by giving each of them a want or a need.” This kind of writing also appears in Free Guy, written by Matt Lieberman.
Reason 10 to see this film: To do something with your non-gamer friends (or, if you’re not a gamer, to actually do something gamers love that’s not gaming).
- While the film deals with games and the gaming culture, it is more of a metaphor for our world and what we find acceptable. Thinking in terms of sports films, a lot of those aren’t really about sports, or not entirely. The metaphor of sports is used to tell a deeper narrative to its target audience. Free Guy uses game culture as a vehicle to tell a beautiful human story. As Guy wakes up to how his world works, gamers will love the gamer jokes but non-gamers will also be able to follow along.
In a lot of ways, this film is about NPC’s and how these characters were specifically created to live in the background. But what if you could redefine your own code? What if you could redefine your own place in the world, so you don’t just live in the background of your own life? This film touches on the alienation everyone feels at times. Maybe it can open us up to new possibilities. Let’s start by going to see this film.
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Donnie Lopez is a gay Latino/Hispanic social and political commentator, writer, entertainment journalist, and professor. He writes on topics that affect Hispanic/Latino culture. With his novel insight, veracity, and sense of humor, he entertains as well as educates the world.