If there’s one thing that just about anyone can agree on, it’s that movie adaptations of video games are almost always abysmal, as so much is often lost in the process of reshaping an interactive experience into that of a passive one. Whether it’s the bizarre live-action Super Mario Bros., Mark Wahlberg’s misstep Max Payne, or the overstuffed and clumsy Assassin’s Creed, you can rest assured that you’re getting a substantially worse experience from the film than you would by simply playing the game(s) it’s based on.
But in a time when the gaming industry’s revenue has surpassed that of the movie industry’s many times over, it’s no surprise that more and more filmmakers are seeking to capitalize on that success by creating films that are simply about video games – and to far better results, too. These types of movies are so much more compelling because their original narratives focus on what’s unique to the gaming experience instead of just awkwardly retelling a pre-existing story via a new medium.
For instance, 2018’s Ready Player One was an incredibly enjoyable nostalgia trip from director Steven Spielberg that took place primarily in a virtual reality world and highlighted dozens of pop culture references, while Disney’s 2012 hit Wreck-It Ralph featured plenty of classic gaming characters and concepts throughout its touching tale about a video game bad guy on a journey to rebrand himself as a hero.
The upcoming movie Free Guy is another such entry seeking to use gaming as a backbone for its storytelling, with Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds taking on the role of an NPC who suddenly becomes aware that he’s living inside of an open world video game. But though the new trailer certainly features plenty of hilarious and clever gaming references, Reynolds has gone to great lengths to insist that Free Guy will be just as appealing to non-gamers as it is to those who are more informed on how games work.
In an interview with Collider, he had a lot to say about the project being labeled as a “video game movie,” stating:
I always look at it like, sports movies are good metaphors. The greatest sports movies ever made are not actually about sports. Field of Dreams, I wouldn’t characterize that as a baseball story. They used baseball as a vehicle to tell a really beautiful story about a son and a father trying to connect. I think that we’re doing the same thing. We’re using the video game world, the Free City world, and video game culture as a sort of vehicle to tell this really beautiful and powerful human story.
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The actor also promised that the film will do a good job of explaining the rules of the game world to viewers who may otherwise not understand the fundamental rules of video games.
What also helps is, if you have a character who is realizing the rules of a world, you’re able to have an audience surrogate. It’s basically a very smart way of educating the audience about the rules of engagement, the rules of the game. Free Guy does something similar because, as Guy awakens to ‘Wait, what is happening? How does this work?’, it allows us to have him learn it, just as a non-gaming audience member would be learning it.
If all of this works as well as he says it does, it definitely sounds as though Free Guy will be an accessible film regardless of your knowledge of the medium, so you’ll want to be sure to check it out when it releases on December 11th, 2020.