Ryan Reynolds' "Free Guy" Showcases The Growing Impact of Video Gaming on Hollywood

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

It is not uncommon for various entertainment sectors to draw inspiration from each other – and even venture into cross-over concepts. After all, pop culture potentially spans across several distinct sectors in music, TV, film, and literature that all feed off each other. And it seems that lately, Hollywood has discovered a new area to explore: video games.

The influence of gaming on movies

Gaming has always paired well with TV and movies. Several hit gaming titles have been developed based on movies, like STAR WARS Battlefront II or The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, which put a gaming spin on the popular franchises. TV series have also served to inspire games, including the never-ending array of Pokémon-based titles or the recent Peaky Blinders video game.

Some blockbuster games, such as the Lara Croft series, World of Warcraft, and Assassin’s Creed have also been turned into successful movies – sometimes to mixed reviews though. Of course, gaming titles also often contain references to some of the most famous movies and TV series. Overwatch, for example, is filled with easter eggs and nods to popular movie lines.

Yet, recently Hollywood seems to have adopted a different approach to gaming. It is no longer about turning successful games into movies and vice versa. Instead, Big movie studios seem eager to dive deeper and explore the appeal of gaming itself and what it could tell us about the human condition. This is not unusual, as Hollywood often turns to contemporary issues, especially those that seem to be transforming our lives.

For example, when reality TV was on the rise, we had The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey as a man who is unknowingly the subject of the biggest reality TV story ever. And, as it became clear that mankind’s future would be increasingly digital, the Wachowskis developed the Matrix trilogy about man’s relationship with AI and virtual reality.

Free Guy departs from the usual video gaming movie tropes

Now, the film industry is keen to explore how video gaming will change us, as TV and the internet did before it. The upcoming movie Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds as a non-player character in a video game who develops self-awareness. Ryan Reynolds is no stranger when it comes to blending movies with pop culture. In 2011 he starred as Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern, which then inspired a free slot game that features his image. Although the movie proved to be a flop, the slot game became immensely popular and was the first in a series of DC superhero movie-based slots to be released, thanks to a partnership between Warner Bros and Playtech.

Reynolds then decided to return to bringing comics on screen and was instrumental in the development of the Deadpool movies, starring himself as Wade Wilson. Deadpool has been praised for its character’s propensity to break the fourth wall and is considered a game-changer across movies based on superhero comics. A movie that explores the boundaries between gaming and the real world is certainly not out of Reynold’s league, it seems. Free Guy is currently scheduled to be released on December 11, 2020. It will star Reynolds as Guy, an NPC in Free City, an open-world video game. Jodie Comer will star as Milly, a programmer, and Molotov Girl, her alias within the game.

Milly co-develops software that allows Guy to become gradually aware of the fact that he is living inside a video game. As the game is scheduled to shut down, Guy decides to take matters into his own hands and race to save his world. While the film is an action-comedy, it also touches upon themes that are familiar to avid gamers and sci-fi fans. The tension between being a background character and becoming the hero of your own story is central to the plot. Free Guy will also star Thor: Ragnarok acclaimed director Taika Waititi and Stranger Things star Joe Keery. According to Ryan Reynolds, the upcoming movie is his favorite project so far – so that has already set the bar high!

Meta-narratives on sentience, control, and agency are an important part of gaming culture. It will be interesting to finally see a film that departs from the usual video game adaptation to examine our fascination with gaming even deeper.

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