Real quick before we mosey down a path less traveled, let me get the big news out of the way…
Ali’s first chapter in Westgate went live this morning! Can’t tell you how excited I am to be back in her head again. If you haven’t started yet, you can hop in here – Westgate. Although it’s only published on Kindle Vella at the moment, I want to remind everyone that once the book is finished, it will be published traditionally on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, yada yada. Oh, plus print! Can’t forget that.
Now for the review. I mean rantview, on a movie we watched Saturday night. Free Guy, staring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, and Joe Keery… and… Taika Waititi?
Beware… there are spoilers… and gratuitous CAPS… and cussing words… This is a rantview after all.
In the extremely popular video game, Free City, a NPC named Guy learns the true nature of his existence when he meets the girl of his dreams, a human player. This player’s interactions with Guy has massive affects on him, the game, and real world as they play it.
It’s reviewed at 7.2/10 on IMDB and a nice 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Being a lifelong gamer, I thought I would love this movie.
Spoiler alert: I did not.
I found this to be odd considering I actually liked Ready Player One, which was reviewed just slightly worse than Free Guy. For Ready Player One, the pop culture and gaming references felt more organic, and the real-world story, although not perfect, was more compelling. With Free Guy, it was just a jumble of mainstream video game references pasted over the most mind-boggling real-world story that lasted two hours. TWO HOURS.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some parts of the movie that got a chuckle out of me, and I’ll go over those bits at the end, but for now, let me get this off my chest.
First I want to talk about the ‘game’ part of the movie. The first part of the movie was great showing the lives of the NPCs, and I enjoyed the scenes when Guy puts the glasses on. I also didn’t mind watching Ryan Reynolds channel Buddy the Elf for the whole movie. The problems started when it flipped over to the real world. We get some mashed together plot where Antwan (Taika Waititi) stole Keys (Joe Kerry) and Millie’s (Jodie Comer) code, or bought, or something. That wasn’t clear, but Keys has an NDA in place where he cannot legally talk to Millie about their game. I guess that’s revenge for her friend zoning him.
So, the first thing that made me go, ‘wha?’ was when Millie was gaming in a coffee shop. I thought maybe she had to use a game center’s PC, even though the server and the diner didn’t look like a gaming center, but no, that was her own laptop. Maybe she doesn’t have WIFI and has to find a free host, but again, no… Later we see her in the privacy of her own home. Guys, you do not go out in public and play a game like Grand Theft Auto (which looks to me what Free City was trying to copy). I mean, hell. I’m a 45 yo woman who still screams obscenities while playing Lost Ark. I don’t want to imagine the shit that would come out of my mouth while playing an action game. I’m a relatively quiet person, but once I sit down in front of my PC, my filter is off, and I can no longer control my impulses. I, unfortunately, found that out when my mother-in-law was visiting. Oy.
The next thing, and it happens quite often throughout the movie, was the SAVING in big letters across the screen. LOL!! MMO’s do not do that. Hell, most single-player games don’t even do that anymore. That was a small thing I overlooked at first, as I get that the SAVING was in place to show the less game-savvy movie watchers that the user had logged out, but it kept happening. Bundled with all the other inaccuracies, all these small irritations started to pile up.
I guess the turning point where I began to really sour on the movie was when Keys and Mouser (Keys’s ‘best friend’ who seemed to be more of Antwan’s henchman until the plot demanded otherwise) were having a ‘gamer’ conversation before they hopped into the game themselves. For those of you who watched this movie and don’t game, let me tell you, NO ONE talks like that. The whole conversation was very cringe. However, once they jump into the game, their avatars did get a chuckle. That was at least accurate.
But then the game… I wanted to see actual gameplay. I needed the game play to make sense with the game world we were seeing. I don’t think it would have been that difficult even. I just couldn’t piece the two together. I’m not even talking about the impossible camera angles following Guy around later in the film, or even Revenjamin Buttons turning to speak to a camera that wasn’t there because the user was streaming. Anytime they showed gameplay, it was just… weird, and it didn’t help me figure out what type of game Free City was. Obviously, it looks like a MMO of Grand Theft Auto, but is it PVP? Purely PVE? What’s the object of the game? Why did the player characters care if they died? Do they take gear damage, lose items, credits, or exp? I can tell you, NONE of that ever stopped me from doing something stupid in a game just to see what would happen. Would adding any of these details have actually made the movie more cohesive?
Probably not, because honestly, where the movie failed was the real-world plot.
Let me see if I can detangle this basic mess. So we have Keys and Millie, and early on we see that Keys might have feelings for Millie, but she has friend-zoned him hard. They were working on a game together, but Keys must have sold out to Antwan, who now owns their code. Perhaps in the buyout, there was an NDA in place that Antwan couldn’t use their code in Free City, but if there was, I completely missed that part. Instead, we know that Millie is searching for evidence that will show that Antwan has illegally used their code.
All that’s fine. Simple plot, but it’s all about the execution.
Antwan gets a big build up before he shows up on screen, and by the time he does, I’m already in a downward spiral, so seeing the great, amazing Taika Waititi show up as a one-dimensional cartoon villain was surprising to say the least. I didn’t know Waititi was even in the movie, so it caught me off guard. Now, I will say I did enjoy watching him play the character, but IT’S FRIGGEN TAIKA WAITITI! The man is a genius. He could do so much more with the role!
Ugh… so much wasted talent. So, so much.
Then we have the weird love story, and no, I’m not talking about the relationship between Millie and Guy, but we’ll get to that. It starts with Guy, who instantly falls for Millie because she’s his dream girl, and this is what wakes him up as an evolving, growing, learning AI. Millie, not knowing that Guy is an NPC, starts to catch feels, and ends up letting Guy kiss her. The camera switching back to show real-world Millie’s face as they’re kissing on screen was pretty funny, but later once Millie finds out that Guy is just an AI, she has a breakdown over it.
Really? Cuz her Avatar kissed an NPC? She might have a stroke playing Dragon Age: Origins since Alistair practically climbs into bed with you after so much as a smile. Kissing NPCs (and more) has been out there for decades in many well-reviewed games. How is that news to a game programmer? I don’t know. Maybe she felt guilty because she might hurt the AI’s newly formed feelings, but it sure didn’t come across that way.
And what is Antwan’s motivation? To make a SEQUEL to a freshly launched and very popular MMO. Eh? No. Sequels have been made before, but not while the original is still in its prime. And he thinks he’s going to make more money off that than the very popular Blue Shirt Guy who he knows is a conscious AI? The very FIRST conscious and popular AI?
This is where my brain broke, y’all. I just hope Waititi enjoyed his role. At least he looked like he was having fun.
And are we gonna talk about how Keys codes in 1s and 0s? (cackle) No? Alrighty then. (No one does that. No one has ever done that.)
At one point in the movie, when Keys is working to help Millie find their code hidden in Free City, Keys tells her that Guy’s ‘dream girl’ was based on a real person. It’s obvious he’s talking about her and has feels, but it goes completely over Millie’s head, and she has no reaction to it other than to run off and kiss Guy. Then, at the end of the movie, Guy and Millie are ‘breaking up’, and we get probably the best line of dialogue in the whole movie. I actually found it touching and unique despite the previous misrepresentations and grievances. Guy tells Millie that he was just the love letter that someone else wrote. It’s then that she realizes Keys has feelings for her. Ya know… Because he programmed Guy and BASICALLY TOLD HER IN ACT 2! But she has to pull up the video again to rewatch it before chasing him down.
With no other conversation, no build-up, no chemistry, she runs off and finds Keys on the other side of a busy street. They stare into each other’s eyes for a moment, then run out to embrace and kiss… in the middle of the ******* street.
Friggen, WHAT? There was so little focus on any romance between the two, and for the movie to end like it was some rom-com just did not fit at all. Obviously the movie was building to the two ending up together, but there were better ways to have done it that would have fit their relationship and resulted in a more satisfying ending. I mean, Keys liked her, true, but even he wasn’t pining that hard for her, nor did he ever try to pursue her or make his feelings known. Okay, Keys not making a move was probably the most accurate portrayal of a gamer’s lifestyle and actions in the whole movie.
So what did I like? Well, aside from the fact they were trying to smash in a reference to every popular game ever, some scenes actually pulled it off. The Portal gun was great and used well at the boss battle, and I even caught sight of Megaman’s blaster at least once. Of course, the highlight for me was the Avenger’s theme as Guy pulled out Captain America’s shield followed by the cameo from Chris Evans. I think they ruined it a little bit by using the lightsaber RIGHT after because it was just too much in too short of time. There was no time to focus on the greatness of both pieces before they were gone and moving on to the next thing. Dude as the final Free City boss was good, though. I especially liked his dialogue. It was adverb great.
And of course, BIG thumbs up to all the different skins and vehicles. I got a kick out of the horse and carriage in Revenjaman Buttons’s garage. Also, all the PCs and NPCs running around in Free City doing random shit was true to form. Even the poor guy that was ‘bugged’ and walking around with his arms up all the time got a laugh. Cyberpunk much?
I think, overall, what I was hoping for was an authentic representation of true gamer culture. But that’s just me. I know that some of my friends really enjoyed the movie, and of course, we all game. It just would have been so easy to consult someone familiar with the culture to make sure a few details were accurate. It was painfully obvious that whoever had the final say on the finished product had never picked up a controller in their life, or at least not in the past decade. Maybe two.
Oh, and shoutout to Ninja, Pokimane, and DanTDM. REAL streamers instead of the knockoff Revenjamin Buttons that was set up as a stereotype to get some laughs. If he was as popular as the movie made him out to be, he would not still be living in his mother’s basement. Popular streamers make BANK, y’all. Be jealous. I am.
The movie did really well though and many enjoyed, which adds to how disappointed I am to know that gamers are still a massive joke. This isn’t who we are. We’re adults, we have careers, we have friends, and when we go out, we’re normal people. You don’t look at us and think, ‘oh, those are gamers who live in their parent’s basements.’ … Okay, maybe a few of us, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. The majority of us live in our own houses and apartments.
We do, however, jump around incessantly in the games we play, or run around in mindless circles. Even I, 45 yo mother of 3 and productive member of society, have tea-bagged my fair share of opponents. We collect and show off all the gear, transmogs, and skins we can, and we take pride in the work we put into our avatars, no matter what the game. From Minecraft to Lost Ark to Elden Rings, and so many more I couldn’t possibly list. Oh, and we can’t forget the gamer tags like Revenjamin Buttons. Most of us carry the same tag with us for years. At least that part, they got right.
Now that I got that off my chest, we’ll see what I find to review next. Until then, Happy Reading!