Shawn Levy Director of “Free Guy” speaks about
making a video game movie despite their reputation for being bad
seeing it on the big screen, and more.
Like many of the other major studio films that came before it, Shawn Levy’s “Free Guy” release was delayed due to the pandemic. If anything, the film’s use of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” is an excellent representation of an escape from the cynical world that we live in now. And given the uncertainty, we could use a glimmer of hope and a few laughs to take us away.
And that’s what “Free Guy” is. The action-comedy is based on a video game premise but not any titles. As such, it is free to write its own rules and operate without worrying about paying homage to any source material. Plus, when you have the sweet and charming sarcastic humor of Ryan Reynolds leading the charge, it is genuinely a video game movie that rises above all the others.
ThatsItLA had the chance to talk to director Shawn Levy during the virtual press conference for “Free Guy.” During that time, the director spoke about making a video game movie despite their reputation for being bad, seeing it on the big screen, and more.
The history of video game movies is rife with overwhelmingly negative reviews. It is nearly impossible to tackle because of the high expectations to be respectful to the source material while also being entertaining. However, “Free Guy” bypasses all of that by not being based on any previously released game. “This movie was about threading the needle between wanting to represent the gaming world correctly and accurately,” Levy said. “And for that, I spoke with a lot of game publishers, coders, game designers, and played and watched a lot of games in preproduction.
So, getting that right was really important. But it was also important to make a movie that required no gaming fluency.”
That lack of gaming fluency would prove to be vital for “Free Guy” because its originality doesn’t require any prior knowledge of any previously released game. So, you don’t need to worry about characters or the history of the game because there is nothing else like Free City, the game in the film. This gives the film the room to play around with multiple genres rather and connect with its audience using some hilarious nods to popular IPs while also connecting to them through its character dynamics.
And when you have a comedy that stars the likes of Reynolds and Taika Waititi, you know you are in for some fun. Especially when they have room for improvisation. Of course, not everything can make it to the final cut. Levy had mentioned that there was a Waititi improvisational supercut that lasted 39 minutes. Which hopefully finds its way onto the home entertainment bonus feature.
While there’s plenty of fun to be had, one cannot ignore how Waititi’s character provides some comedic commentary on the state of video gameplay and how consumers want more of the same and less originality. And the irony of a film like “Free Guy” is that the game that characters are playing has more than enough room for an expansion into a sequel.
When asked about the possibility of a sequel, Shawn Levy said yes. “I’ve made things that launched franchises, and I’ve made enough things to know that you just don’t know the outcome,” he said. “My favorite thing in ‘Free Guy’ is that we have Taika’s character, in an original new movie, literally mock the possibility and value of releasing something new.”
And so, to have the Antwan character, played by Taika, literally talk about the value of sequels and have this, like, cynical attitude towards the new.”
But any film with hopes of getting a sequel hinges on the success at the box office. Though “Free Guy” has been delayed multiple times due to the pandemic, it is finally finding its way into theaters despite many uncertainties and an uptick in Delta Variant cases. While Levy recognizes the current climate of how we view entertainment, he sees “Free Guy” as a film that is so much more than how we view it but who we view it with. “Well, I know for me, as a filmmaker, every filmmaker wants the stories they tell to be seen as loud and as big as possible. We live in a brave, new streaming world, and I very much have some feet in that world as well,” he said. But, ‘Free Guy,’ was made with one goal in mind, which is a collective delight. That’s what we were going for. That is an experience that you can feel on your couch at home. But it feels really different among other humans in the dark.”
“For that reason, we’ve seen this movie with audiences, and it becomes this collective energy in this collective delight that, I think, is done justice on the big screen and in cinemas,” Shawn Levy added. “We live in, obviously, wildly unpredictable and unknown times, and it shifts every day. And, how we spend our time and live our lives is a very individual decision, as it should be. But I know that we tried to make a big, new, original movie with spectacle, scope, and big heart. And that those things are really experienced most on that big canvas and big screen.”
And Levy believes that the cast is championing hopefulness and optimism in the cynical world that we live in. With so much going on, he believes that a film like “Free Guy” is the kind of thing we need to remind ourselves that there is still light during these very dark times. “This cast comes to life in a movie that feels in some ways like an antidote to much of what we’ve been living through, in that the movie is about hopefulness and the preservation of some innocence in the midst of a very cynical world,” he said.
“Free Guy” is out in theaters now.