Generally speaking, movies based on video games are rarely worth checking out. From the massive 1993 flop Super Mario Bros to modern disappointments like 2016’s Assassin’s Creed, most video game movies are critical and box office failures. While it’s not based on any particular game, Free Guy breaks the mold of mediocrity and ends up as one of the best video game movies around. Directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, and many more, the film offers an explosive and humorous take on massively multiplayer online games. Drawing inspiration from general gaming culture as well as specific games like Grand Theft Auto and popular online games like World of Warcraft, Free Guy successfully bridges the gap between games and film. While it’s not the most innovative or original film of the year, it’s hard to deny that Free Guy is one of the best video game movies.
How ‘Free Guy‘ Succeeds as a Video Game Movie
Free Guy tells the story of Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a bank teller enjoying his simple life in the violent town of Free City. Dim-witted but charming, Guy follows the same routine everyday while chaos erupts around him, all at the hands of extravagant criminals wearing sunglasses. Unbeknownst to Guy, he is actually a background character in the online multiplayer game “Free City”, where players are free to loot, shoot, and kill to their heart’s content. Despite their blood-thirsty nature, Guy’s programming insists that he view them as heroes, happy to sit on the sidelines while they work their destructive magic. However, Guy’s world is turned upside down when he picks up a pair of sunglasses and puts them on, revealing the gamified world around him. In order to understand his true nature and fulfill his destiny, Guy must go on a bombastic adventure with “Molotovgirl”/Millie (Jodie Comer), a real player searching for a valuable secret inside the game world.
When compared to other blockbuster action films, Free Guy is mostly predictable, but its quirky tone and spot-on representation of gaming culture is commendable. In order to complete his quest, Guy must join the rest of the players in Free City, leveling up and gaining experience by participating in events around the city. Due to his good-willed programming, Guy refuses to commit any crimes, which quickly makes him stand out to other players. Before long, Guy’s actions begin to have adverse effects in the real world, raising the concern of the game’s developers. Hidden between the slapstick comedy and juvenile humor is an interesting tale of artificial intelligence, good versus evil, and pursuing your dreams.
In addition to its exciting action set pieces and likable characters, Free Guy succeeds thanks to its constant nods to the video games it draws inspiration from. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice lots of gaming easter eggs, including popular weapons from games like Portal and Half-Life, as well as hilarious dances from games like Fortnite. More so than most other video game movies, Free Guy seems to understand the aloof humor of gaming culture, but makes it palatable for non-gaming audiences.
My Final Thoughts on ‘Free Guy’
Overall, Free Guy is an entertaining comedy film with plenty of moments of awesome action, played for both laughs and awe. Although some of the CGI is lackluster at best, the movie does a great job of realizing its world and filling it with fun characters and interesting ideas. Ryan Reynolds is perfect in the lead role of Guy, and the supporting cast is stellar as well. I especially enjoyed Taika Waititi as Antwan, the annoying yet hilarious president of Free City’s game development team. Between the numerous nods to popular games and a surprisingly gripping story, Free Guy effectively balances both drama and action while remaining engaging throughout its two-hour runtime. Apart from a mediocre romantic subplot and some forgettable scenes, Free Guy is easily one of the best video game movies of all time and a must-see for any gamer with a sense of humor.
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