Video game adaptations don’t have a particularly good reputation. Movies that deal with video games usually don’t either. Some are generally awful like Pixels with Adam Sandler. Others split minds like the current Mortal Kombat flick. Still others like Ready Player One at Netflix want the right thing, but still look in detail as if those responsible had not dealt quite so intensively with the subject of gaming. And then came Ryan Reynolds of all people.
The action comedy Free Guy, which is currently in theaters, shows the Deadpool star in the role of the NPC Guy. These are the kind of non-playable characters that are always run over in GTA or suddenly go up in flames in Cyberpunk 2077. Much of the film revolves around the question of what happens when someone who is not a real person suddenly develops a human consciousness. Above all, Ryan Reynolds and the rest of the cast make it possible to experience what makes video games so special for so many people and provide an insight into the darker sides of the gaming industry.
The video game world in Free Guy is GTA Online on crack – and still realistic
The fictional multiplayer game that Ryan Reynolds’ Guy lives in is called Free City. The role models are clear: Lots of the online mode of Grand Theft Auto 5, a bit of Watch Dogs: Legion and of course Fortnite, at least when it comes to the colorful look and exaggerated character skins. (By the way, skins, Guy doesn’t know that in the film, are the outfits and optical features of a character that can be selected by the player.)
Interview with Ryan Reynolds about Free Guy and video games
Free Guy: Interview with Ryan Reynolds
In the Free City game world, everything is a bit over the top. More explosions, more flashing displays, more everything. Nevertheless, Free Guy manages to depict quite realistically, how you feel as a player: in an online multiplayer. Everyone wants to kill you, insults are the order of the day and still it’s a lot of fun. Again and again, the film jumps into the real world and shows the people behind the video game characters, who are designed to be cool – and contrary to all teenage-boy clichés, there are also a few girls who meet to gamble. Just like in real life.
Free Guy and Ryan Reynolds play with video game clichés without making fun of gamers
In addition to countless Easter eggs and references to large video game franchises, it is also impressive how many people from the gaming community the film integrates. With successful streamers such as Ninja, Pokimane and Jacksepticeye there are several people who react breathlessly to events in the video game cosmos in the real world – even if German-speaking gamers tend to stop by MontanaBlack or Gnu.
In Free Guy with Ryan Reynolds there are countless Easter eggs for gamers: inside
This closeness to the subject also makes the portrayal of a streamer as a socially isolated mom-child look more like a “We know that you think all players are like that” wink. Because the film makes one fundamentally clear: Actually, it is on the side of video game enthusiasts.
In addition to being an action comedy, Free Guy is also an insight into the reality of the video game industry
Free Guy, however, is much more than a film that for once laughs with instead of at gaming. The part of the plot that takes place in the real world shows surprisingly realistically how games like the fictional Free City are actually created. Overworked employees: inside, unrealistic deadlines, deeply capitalist interests and a studio boss (Taika Waititi) who is more caricature than human: Those responsible behind Free Guy seem to be reporting on inhumane working conditions and abuse scandals in the video game industry to have followed closely over the past few years.
The portrayal of indie game developer Keys (Joe Keery) also feels very close to reality. He actually wanted to change the industry with his own game, instead he ended up with a large studio that would rather produce one sequel after the next than really dare to try something new. A classic career in the video game industry.
The best gaming scene in Free Guy only takes a few seconds
However, the scene in Free Guy that felt most real to me as a gaming enthusiast is different. Without giving too much away, there is a moment when Guy and his beloved Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) kiss. Only: Molotov Girl is not an NPC but a real person, is called Millie in real life and is on the one hand somehow in the game world of Free City, but actually sits in front of her computer.
You can currently stream the video feature film Ready Player One on Netflix and Amazon
Ready Player One – Trailer 3 (German) HD
The kiss happens, the romance controls are turned up – and suddenly there is a cut. Millie stares at her computer screen, obviously not knowing how to deal with this moment. On the one hand she is obviously moved, on the other hand she looks uncomfortably touched. A feeling that anyone who has ever played a game like Mass Effect can understand Flirted with a video game character for hours in order to then get a short and always somehow embarrassing sex scene played.
Especially in these tiny moments, Free Guy proves that not only the cast, but also director Shawn Levy (including Stranger Things) and the people behind the cameras know exactly what they made an entire film about. And not just a good video game adaptation, but a great one.
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