GULF WEEKLY: The advent of increasingly realistic video games and digital worlds has brought with it a slew of ‘virtual reality’ movies – the first of which, lest we forget, were Hackers (1995) and The Matrix (1999).
Free Guy is the latest addition to this sub-genre, alongside greats like Wreck-it Ralph as well as disasters like Ready Player One. Although there have been other linked multiverses, like Chronicles of Narnia, what sets these movies apart is the commentary they make on an increasingly digitally-networked world.
Sometimes it works, like Wreck-it Ralph’s commentary on the fate of old video games, and other times – Gamer happens, with its terrible look at first-person shooter games.
Free Guy falls somewhere in-between. It goes full-throttle on action starting from the very first scene – with a skydiving Revenjamin Buttons (Channing Tatum) descending into a fully-loaded fast car – with the damsel-in-awe add-on included.
But then, it falls short in terms of actual substance. Don’t get me wrong.
For a movie night out, you could do much worse than Free Guy, but other than cheap laughs, lots of stuff blowing up and an overdose of Ryan Reynolds, the movie falls just short of the promised land – a Matrix-esque movie which looks cool, and remains poignant.
And the reason for its mediocrity, much like other similar virtual reality films, boils down to a lacking B-plot.
The plot of a virtual reality revolves around an ‘A-plot’ which usually happens in the imagined or virtual world, and then the ‘real world’ B-plot.
In Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds aces the A-plot with his regular charmingly confident persona, aided by fantastic effects and a great supporting cast. The story revolves around his character, Guy, being told that he lives in a video game and is a non-player character (NPC). NPCs usually have next to no personality and repeat the same plot and dialogue lines.
Not Guy though. He starts to develop a personality and then goes around, being a good guy. Why? You already know it, so let’s say it together – love.
The ‘real world’ plot revolves around two faux-geeks – yes, the ones that look way too good to actually be social outcasts – who are trying to prove that the open-world game that Guy lives in was built on top of their stolen code.
Molotov Girl/Millie (Jodie Comer) is the character who traverses both universes and does it exceptionally well. In an extraordinarily corny script, she manages to shine and seems to be the only one, besides Ryan, putting effort into their lines.
On the other hand, we have Taika Watiti who plays Antwan, the villain of the flick, and although he is a fantastic actor, he oscillates between phoning in his performance here and turning into Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad.
All in all, Free Guy is a fun flick to laugh at in theatres, with plenty of nerdy in-jokes, but it is unlikely to stand the test of time and close watching.
Then again, in the reality we currently live in, it’s a much-needed escape to a world that is just as stormy, but with the hope of a happy ending lurking around the corner.