The first Free Guy trailer dropped online last week at CCXP, where I was lucky enough to be in the room for the panel and get a sneak peek at some exclusive footage from the film and a few more details on what to expect from the original new action-comedy from Stranger Things and Night at the Museum director Shawn Levy. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a bank teller who realizes he’s a non-playable character in a shared-world video game called Free City and becomes a viral phenomenon when he takes his life into his own hands in becomes a good guy in a bad world.
Reynolds and Levy took the stage at CCXP alongside co-star and Stranger Things favorite Joe Keery to tee up the film, and Reynolds had some seriously strong words of praise, saying, “Free Guy is my favorite movie I’ve ever made, and that means a lot because I also made Deadpool.” The actor and producer described the film as a “modern-day Back to the Future for this generation,” highlighting the combination of action, comedy and adventure they’re hoping to bring to the screen.
But the film didn’t just offer a creative opportunity to tap into the movies he loved growing up, it also allowed him to play a pure-hearted character that he likened to those played by Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and specifically, Peter Sellers in Being There, which he name-dropped twice during the panel. Levy explained that Reynolds plays “an innocent in a cynical world. So the movie is about the rise of the idealist in a world that’s cynical and dark. So you really root for that character,” he said, comparing Guy to characters like the 40-year-old Virgin and Will Ferrell in Elf.
And so does the rest of the world in the film. When Reynolds’ Guy starts acting of his own will, he determines to be a good guy in action, and suddenly, the NPC becomes an overnight sensation, earning fans across the globe. We got to see some of Guy’s good nature in action during the footage. In the first scene, we saw Jodie Comer‘s Millie — a programmer in the real world who takes on the avatar of Molotov Girl inside Free City — escorting guy into a bright white chamber, stocked with guns, ammo and all kinds of battle weaponry.
“Is this the north pole?” Reynolds asks with wonderous wide eyes, still clearly trying to make sense of his world. Millie tells him to stock up, arming herself to the teeth in the process, and explains the rules of Free World; basically, anyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want, including killing people. “I would never hurt innocent people,” he responds all rainbows in his demeanor.
At first, Millie can’t believe what she’s seeing, asking, “Are you shitting me?” Guy replies, “No, I don’t believe in those things.” She tells him the world is pretty bleak and he should meet the dick who built the place. “You met God?” Guy asks, “And he’s a dick?” It’s charming and sweet, and as Millie tells him, refreshing.
It was a refreshing filmmaking opportunity for Reynolds (who also produces) and Levy, who were excited to get a film made that wasn’t a sequel or based on existing IP. “It’s just so unusual thee days to get a movie made that’s based on nothing,” Reynolds said. “For us to get this made was a huge feat and triumph for us. Free Guy is my faovrite movie I’ve ever made, and that means a lot because I also made Deadpool.”
That desire to create something original also reflects in the film, and in the next scene we see Millie and Keery’s Keys, her old programming partner, reunite to realize that the code they created together was stolen and implemented in Free City — and it worked. Turns out Taika Waititi‘s Antoine, the morally dubious owner of Free City, stole their code.
“I’m talking about the fact that Blue Shirt Guy is not a player, he’s an algorithm,” Keys says excitedly, “He’s the first real artificial intelligence.” To which Millie completely freaks out. “No, no, no, no,” she says, admitting that she let Guy kiss her. “The first time I kissed a non-toxic guy, of course he’s not even real,” she says. They share a bit of banter about how creepy that is. “Millie, food for thought, he’s like four,” Keys says.
Reynolds and Levy also teased a movie full of Easter Eggs for gamers, including appearances from real-life gaming celebrities and Twitch streamers. The free-for-all world also allowed them to embrace every kind of action in staging the film. “The visual possibilities of this movie were more ambitious than anything I’ve ever directed,” Levy said, explaining he shot the game-world as clean and bright, with wide-angle lenses, while the real-world is darker, messier and more cramped.
Free Guy arrives in theaters on July 3, 2020.