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If director Shawn Levy and star Ryan Reynolds were nervous about whether New York Comic Con audiences would get excited about next summer’s action comedy Free Guy, then Thursday afternoon’s panel in the Javits Center should have put their minds at rest.
The panel, which featured Levy, Reynolds and co-stars Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery and Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer — as well as a video appearance from Taika Waititi — quickly won the crowd over with its high concept: an NPC (nonplayable character) in a video game achieving sentience. This was accompanied by two clips and an advance trailer for the feature.
“On a very literal level, Free Guy is about Guy, who’s a bank teller. He works in a bank, and his bank gets robbed 17 times in a day, and eventually he realizes that’s weird and not normal,” Levy told the audience after explaining that it’s “exciting” that the panel knew almost nothing about the movie. “Ryan and I have talked about Free Guy as a superhero origin story without the cape and tights and the IP. If you were living in a video game and could master the system, your powers would be limitless.”
Reynolds likened the movie to the 1979 Peter Sellers movie Being There, one of his favorites, saying that both movies approach the idea that kindness in a cynical world can be a novelty. “I haven’t been this fully immersed, engaged and pumped [about] something since Deadpool,” Reynolds told the crowd. “It spoke to the moment in some way.” Particularly, he said, it can seem like everyone’s a background character in relation to current events in the world right now. “I was thrilled to dig in,” Reynolds said about the project.
Levy agreed with Reynolds’ assessment of the story, calling Free Guy “the journey of the innocent in a deeply cynical world.”
The movie doesn’t entirely take place inside the virtual world of Free City, the video game Guy exists in. Ambudkar, Keery and Comer all play characters that exist in the real world, although they also have video game avatars, which Comer talked about. When we first meet [Comer’s real-world character] Milly, she’s quite defeated by the world, and her avatar, Molotov [Girl], is quite empowered,” she said when talking about the challenge of creating multiple characters for the same project. “They move differently. There’s also an accent filter in the game, so they speak quite differently, which you’ll hear. … We create [the] avatars of how we might want to behave.”
Footage shown during the panel — which Levy repeatedly pointed out was unfinished, with the project just six weeks into the director’s cut — included Reynolds’ character, Guy, discussing the nature of his reality with Comer’s Molotov (“I don’t believe in those things — stealing, killing people. That’s just not me,” Guy says when told how to level up inside his reality. Instead, he decides to try and gain points by being “not just a good guy, a great guy”). The footage also included a discussion between Comer’s real-world character, Milly, talking with best friend Keys (Keery) as they realize their code is transforming game characters into artificial intelligence — including Guy.
Levy promised the crowd that the finished movie will include cameos from real figures in the gaming world, including Ninja, Laser Beam, Jacksepticeye and Pokimane.
The panel ended with a look at an early trailer for the movie, which started with the self-aware onscreen caption, “From the studio that brought you Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King … twice.” The action-packed trailer, which included suitably explosive gamelike action, also had Guy using a healing pack for the first time before asking, “Is this what recreational drugs feel like?”
Disney and 20th Century Fox open Free Guy on July 3, 2020.
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