Disillusionment, or loss of illusion, therefore awareness (and cynicism). Free Guy it follows a two-way street, in such a self-sabotaging way that it is impossible to understand whether it is done on purpose or out of naivety. It spends its entire first part building the rules that will guide the enjoyment of the story. Guy lives in Free City: an open world video game of which he is an NPC, Non-Player Character. An extra in the background, if we wanted to use a cinematic language (which the film itself does). The daily routine is always the same, but not trivial: he wakes up, goes to work at the bank, is robbed, beaten, and so on in a continuous loop.
Guy remembers Emmet Mattonowski, who was voiced by Chris Pratt in The LEGO Movie. Those who have always lived in a rigid and inviolable destiny do not ask themselves if there is something outside their comfort zone. An uncanny is needed, an element that upsets everyday life. In the case of Free Guy it is Molotov Girl, a player who passes by him humming a song that stimulates Guy’s virtual receptors and awakens him from torpor.
It is also possible to become attached to the two. All the others who revolve around the couple in the game are nice extras, but they do theirs. Choosing to set the story in a video game has opened up endless possibilities for screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn. Impossible to miss the action. Each element can serve as an original twist. The buildings are modeled and broken down, as already seen in Inception and in Doctor Strange after him. It doesn’t matter, just a first aid kit found on the street or a power up and you are back to explore new solutions. That of discovery is equivalent to the main pleasure that pervades the film, in addition to the lightness of the comedy.
And it is right that it is so, that Free Guy take advantage of the idea of being inside a video game to the last drop. Too bad that, from the middle onwards, it stops doing it. Indeed, it seems almost ashamed of it. From that point Shawn Levy completely loses control of the film which turns into… a Ryan Reynolds commercial.
We talked extensively about Maximum Effort, the communication agency founded by the actor, and how he relaunched his career by building a narratively anarchic character. Reynolds breaks through the fourth walls, looks into the room, winks, speaks the same language as someone who is chewing popcorn in the dining room. Break the illusion, call out of the movie. No one is as good as Reynolds at showing the screen, at making you feel the weight of the armchairs and the presence of your neighbor. Steven Spielberg had tried it with Ready Player One, but in that case the accumulation only turned into a cancellation of the poles: an emotional, nostalgic and at the same time experimental and futuristic tangle that anesthetized itself.
Free Guy, on the other hand, no. Free Guy does worse: he betrays himself, he imprisons himself in the limit. And it does so with a scene that is also remarkable in itself. The one we all remember. The one that will be the only one we will remember in a few years.
Guy is in a reckoning, he is faced with Dude, a version graphically similar to him – and therefore to Reynolds – only infinitely bigger. The star of the film duplicates himself, saturating the screen with his image. He talks, makes jokes and answers each other, punches each other. It is a segment detached from the rest of the film and frankly renounceable. It adds nothing to the texture, it just stretches the broth by pretending to create fake tension. Or maybe not: no claim to involvement. What matters is to show off the intellectual property that you own the rights to.
It could very well be a commercial presented in the Super Bowl halftime. In fact, it is not so different from the marketing operations adopted to promote the film itself, like the “Deadpool and Korg react” to the movie trailer.
Seconds before being overwhelmed by Dude, Guy puts on his glasses and uses the items available to the players. Here he is extracting Captain America’s shield while the theme of Alan Silvestri’s Avengers is triumphant in the soundtrack. “Oh yeah that’s a Disney movie”, You think when his arm turns Hulk green. Once you understand the game, you can also have fun seeing the lightsaber extracted (all around repeat several times “but is it a lightsaber?“). In a few seconds, Fornite, Portal, Game of Thrones are mentioned (with an attempt to break the ribcage instead of the skull) and so on and so forth …
The ambition of a Free life, therefore total creative freedom in the metaphor of the film, contradicts itself at this very moment. Seeing items from other franchises doesn’t feel like an infinite text of ownership to tap into. On the contrary, it shows all the limits: whoever is outside the home buying campaign will also be outside the film.
When looking at an entertainment work you imagine the lawyers sitting at the tables bargaining cachet is always a problem.
The quote, taken as a YouTube clip, is also effective. Definitely pulls a smile. But within the dramatic balance it is very wrong. Shawn Levy said that with Disney’s acquisition of Fox, with the film already quite late in development, they were able to insert more easter eggs. It shows. It is perceived that that moment is something very memorable, but false, added at a later time.
At the end of Free Guy what remains in the discussions of the fans is not the freshness of the idea, the sympathy of the characters or the comic situations that are created. What he remembers at the end is the moment we realized we were seeing a movie. With the symbolic objects (and therefore brands in spite of themselves) of other franchises in plain sight to promote the power of Disney. It is not the only house to do this. The operation Space Jam: New Legends it is not very different, indeed!
Captain America’s shield moment was meant to be a wink to fans, it was instead the moment when Free Guy he stopped walking on his legs. He admitted, unwittingly, that he was unable to impose his own identity, and therefore his freedom from market conditions. Free Guy it looked like a movie that could drive so many other similar products. With one scene he proved to be just a rear end. Very funny and passionate. But still dominated by the properties that make the most money. Seeking their help to stand up.