With us nearing the futuristic 2020 and leaving behind a bummer of 2019 in which "existential" was the Word Of The Year, it might be a good moment to start asking more questions about our place in a time when popular technology and A.I. are melding together. Perfect timing then, for a movie that claims to look into the metaphysics of hardcore gaming -- while also clearly written for an audience whose modern video game knowledge starts and ends at having half-watched a Call of Duty Super bowl ad.
In his decade long campaign to become the 21st Century Jim Varney, Ryan Reynolds reprises on the role of Meta Snarky Guy, this time in the genre of video game adaptations. Free Guy is an action-comedy set in an online shooter where one of the often abused Non-Player Characters (the eponymous Guy) is imbued with the sense of self-awareness and discovers his entire world is a lie after putting on pair of reality-revealing glasses. (So exactly like They Live, but instead of discovering he's the plaything of otherworldly sociopaths bent on world domination, Guy discovers he's the plaything of otherworldly sociopaths bent on getting a leopard print for their make-believe assault rifle.)
But from what the trailer reveals (which, like with all modern trailers, is both little and way too much) Free Guy really is trying to be the movie version of Grand Theft Auto, but only in that it's content as a pastiche of references only pretending to be a coherent whole. Which explains why a movie about a hypermodern online shooter with cameos from zeitgeisty gamers like Ninja and Jacksepticeye also has as a title an arcade term no gamer has used in 30 years. Or an N64-style goofy HUD...
20th Century Fox
Or the most dated of all video game references: floor med packs.
20th Century Fox
But most worrying of all, despite clearly trying to be the a movie in the tradition of They Live, Stranger Than Fiction, The Truman Show, and, yes, even The Lego Movie, it seems to have forgotten that the core of that subgenre lies in its satirical commentary on existentialism and the nature of the culture it was lampooning, which means Free Guy will only work if it takes the time to comment on toxic gamer culture staples like racist Twitch stars, the casual misogyny and transphobia, and, of course, the fact that making the games themselves is brutal, thankless work. And that might be a bit too intellectually demanding from a movie which killer line is an "is that a gun in your pocket" joke in a world with an inventory screen.
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