It was quite refreshing to watch a film about video games that wasn’t lame and sloppy and had some excellent ideas. The last time I saw a decent movie with a plot about video games was Ready Player One back in 2018. Free Guy understands video games on some levels, and subsequently, we get a good video game film with some new ideas behind it.
*This review contains spoilers for the Free Guy film*
Free Guy is the Story of an NPC called Guy who lives his routine, coded by game developers so that the actual players referred to as Glass-Wearing People would have fun and complete their quests. But things get weird when Guy meets his dream girl and therefore does something that he is not supposed to do.
Apart from Guy (Ryan Reynolds), we have the story of two young indie game developers, Keys (Joe Keery) and Millie (Jodie Comer). They created the algorithm that caused Guy to become intelligent and do what he wanted. I was surprised to see how beautifully Shawn Levy managed to keep the balance between these two stories. Both parts are told and shown by the director to avoid getting frustrated by watching one part or not building a connection with the characters.
Once Guy realizes he is in a video game, he gets an existential and identity crisis similar to Neo in the Matrix series. But since Free Guy doesn’t want to become a severe and profound philosophical movie, it keeps that part shallow. I think it’s intelligence not to fall into the trap of turning a fun film into a philosophy lecture course. A trap that most movies these days fall into.
Guy’s relationship with Molotov Girl looks complete for a reason. Keys coded Guy’s dream girl based on the things Millie likes; therefore, everything we see happening between Guy and Millie is what would happen if Keys and Millie tried to sort a relationship. Although I immensely enjoyed this new approach to the relationship, I wished the movie had shown more history about their friendship. A simple interview with IGN back in the day is not enough for offering a relationship like this.
The game in which Guy is an NPC is called Free City and is very similar to GTA Online. Players do quests and missions to gain XP and money to buy things in the game. Matt Lieberman knows what games are popular and what is going on in those games but doesn’t understand video games well.
How characters move and fight in action sequences in Free City is way too realistic for a video game. Free Guy is set in 2021, judging by streamers like Pokimane and Jacksepticeye, and I’m sure the closest games to Free City are Fortnite and GTA Online, which are still is not as realistic as Free City.
Not to mention that Soonami’s office, the creator studio of Free City, is not that close to the reality of a video game studio. Fortunately, we’ve had some excellent documentaries about video game developers like Raising Kratos in the last couple of years. In real video game studios, there is a big hall in which all department members work. They don’t have enormous desks with high-end computers and laptops.
Antoine, portrayed by Taika Waititi, is the founder of the Soonami. Antoine stole Willie and Kyes’ video game code and used that for his own game without paying them. Because of name similarities, it reminded me of Konami and Kojima. I know it’s not the same, but it does make sense that the writer would put a real-life tragedy into the film.
When Guy starts leveling up by doing good things rather than destructive ones, gamers start to think about their action towards NPCs and how they use them as objects to have fun with. That is because we know NPCs don’t have emotions and even if we kill thousands of them, it won’t affect the world.
But this changed with two particular games, The Last of Us Part II and Red Dead Redemption II. The way people treat NPCs in these two games is much different from how they play other video games. Everything you do in these two games has a direct effect on the world.
It is not about NPCs having feelings or not, it is about our society. It shows that rules are not the only thing that keeps us from tearing each other apart. We don’t hurt people most of the time because we don’t want to see that happen to us. Consequences are the main reason we think about everything we do, whether in real life or in a video game.
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Free Guy is a fun and enjoyable film to watch with decent acting. The story between the real world and the virtual world is perfectly balanced and has good pacing. Everyone can understand and enjoy what’s going on in this film, but gamers would undoubtedly enjoy it more. I wished the film’s set design would be better and Free City itself be a little close to our reality. The side love story between Keys and Millie is beautiful and has a new approach that, with a little background, could have become a perfect one.