Free Guy (2021): An Ode to Internet Culture
There are so many knock-off films, remakes/reboots, sequels, and spin offs in the Hollywood machine that we forget about some of the more original ideas out there. Not every film has to be Marvel or Star Wars related but a fresh concept that can capture the minds and hearts of both children and adults. That is basically what happens with the film Free Guy.
Guy (played by Ryan Reynolds) is an NPC in a video game called Free City which is run by an eccentric video game designer called Antwan (played by Taika Waititi). Although Guy does not realize that he is in a video game until he meets gamer Millie (played by Jodie Comer) in Free City. After this meeting, Guy begins to see Free City differently and decides to try and make it a better place, which Antwan does not like. Guy and Millie along with every citizen of Free City must work together in order to save the game from being deleted forever.
This is a very stacked cast with the likes of Ryan Reynolds still basically being himself and we are here for it. He still finds new and interesting ways to make us laugh with his unique sense of humor. Plus, he is very relatable as Guy so we cannot help but root for him. Somehow Jodie Comer is able to keep up with Reynolds and his wit, but she also brings a sense of urgency to the story as she is trying to uncover a mystery that the audience does not know yet. And of course Taiki Waititi took that annoying “trying to be hip” boss to an over the top level that was really lovely. He played the jerk well and was charismatic about it, making him seem all the more slimy as the story inside Free City unfolds.
We have seen films take the audience inside a video game before with films like Ready Player One, but we have never seen the film from a Non Playable Character perspective before. This adds a level of nuance to character interactions throughout the film, whether they be between NPCs or NPCs and gamers, it creates a delightfully unpredictable story making for a breath of fresh air in terms of both light hearted comedies and storytelling. The way the story unfolds also adds themes of free will and choice, such as other classic films have done like The Matrix, only this one does it in a funnier way.
A lot like the film Ready Player One, Free Guy is filled to the brim with pop culture, gaming, and overall meme references. With YouTubers such as Jacksepticeye even making cameos in the movie to ground it in reality, but one of the best cameos has to be when Guy brings out Captain America’s shield which then cuts to a hilarious blink and you’ll miss it scene of Chris Evans watching the “Guy vs. Dude” fight. Oh yeah, it also manages to bring in a lightsaber from freaking Star Wars and everyone clearly and rightfully loses their shit! It makes it even better that Ryan Reynolds acknowledges this moment with nothing but pure joy on his face. What makes Free Guy better than most in terms of Easter eggs and cameos, none feel forced or overstuffed unlike other films, such as Space Jam: A New Legacy, making Free Guy much more of a time capsule than a shameless pop culture machine.
It starts off as an action comedy at first, but we realize within the last five minutes that this was actually a romantic comedy. Guy was coded by Millie’s best friend and former partner Keys (played by Joe Keery) who has had a massive not so subtle crush on Millie for a long while. It is also a nice change of character switch too, as I have watched a lot of films and TV shows that use the clueless love interest as male characters instead of female ones. I am not saying that Free Guy is the only film to use the clueless love interest trope this way but it is definitely in the minority.
Free Guy is a breath of fresh air in terms of original film ideas and popcorn escapism. Ryan Reynolds continues his winning streak as Guy and hopefully this streak continues with other upcoming projects. The supporting cast is excellent with Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi standing out from the rest. I can’t leave out every pop culture and internet meme references the film drops as it brings YouTube and Twitch streaming to the forefront of the film. This film not only is a great piece of entertainment but also may have helped save the movie theater industry during the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. If we get a sequel, hopefully they find more inventive ways to engineer internet culture seamlessly into the plot.