Ryan Reynolds’ New Action Comedy ‘Free Guy’ is ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Meets ‘Grand Theft Auto’ [New York Comic-Con 2019]

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free guy new york comic-con 2019

It was a dark and stormy day in New York City, the perfect day for brightly costumed superheroes to come out in droves and crowd the New York streets and subways. But there’s one superhero that stands apart from the rest. He’s a guy simply named Guy, and he’s not actually the hero of the story. An NPC (non-playable character) in a video game, Guy is a simple-minded bank teller played by Ryan Reynolds and the unwitting protagonist of the upcoming Shawn Levy-directed action-comedy Free Guy.

At 2019’s New York Comic-Con, the 20th Century Fox panel rolled out the red carpet for Reynolds and Levy, as well as the all-star cast that includes Taika Waititi, Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Joe Keery (Stranger Things), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect). Here’s everything that /Film learned at the Free Guy New York Comic-Con 2019 panel.

Free Guy New York Comic-Con 2019 Panel

Night at the Museum director and Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy took the stage at New York Comic-Con to introduce a different kind of superhero in Free Guy. The action-comedy follows Guy, played by Ryan Reynolds, as he works at a bank that gets robbed 17 times a day. But it slowly dawns on him that something is wrong, and he realizes that he is a background character in a video game styled after Grand Theft Auto. Sick of players wreaking havoc on the video game world of Free City, he decides to become a superhero.

“Ryan and I talked about Free Guy as a superhero origin story minus the capes and tights and IP,” Levy said. “If you lived in a world where anything is possible and you mastered the game, your powers would be limitless.”

Ryan Reynolds as a superhero? Where have we heard that before? The star has had several brushes with the genre, most successfully with the acclaimed Deadpool franchise and…less successfully with the abysmal 2011 Green Lantern. The latter is a movie that I’m sure all of us wish we could erase from our memories, and somehow, Reynolds and his former Green Lantern co-star Taika Waititi have succeeded.

In a fun clip played at the beginning of the panel, the cast, which includes Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) as Molotov Girl/Millie and Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery, teased the movie and showed off their sparkling chemistry with each other — a big feat considering Reynolds and Waititi had only just met. They’d never worked together in their lives before, no. Despite Keery and Comer’s best efforts to convince them that they starred in Green Lantern together, they refuse to believe it exists (as do we all). The clip is a delight and earned big laughs from the audience New York Comic-Con’s Javits Center, who screamed with joy whenever Reynolds spoke a word. Reynolds accepted the audience’s confessions of love with grace and that dry humor that he is known for, and that Free Guy is filled to the brim with. But this time, Reynolds won’t be playing the sarcastic asshole — he’ll be the hero.

“This movie I loved growing up is Being There,” Reynolds said in reference to one of the largest influences on his character, Guy. “Peter Seller’s a nice and gentle guy and that changes the world.”

I haven’t been this fully immersed and engaged in something since Deadpool, so this spoke to the moment in a huge way. We live in really weird times right now, you go to the news and it’s end of times but five seconds later, it’s what’s between Katie Couric and Tyga. I feel a kinship of feeling like a background character in the world, where you’re in an automatic loop and have no control over the world.

“Guy is the journey of the innocent in a deeply cynical world,” Levy added. That brings him face-to-face with Antoine, the video game publisher and “wildly charismatic asshole” who stole a piece of code from programmers Millie (Comer) and Keery’s character. The movie toggles back and forth between the real world and the world of Free City, Levy explained, with Free City designed to look saturated, brightly colored, and clean. “Real life is messy, but the world inside the game is more aspirational and more heightened reality,” Levy said. But some of the real world will spill into that game in the form of Easter eggs, which include gaming references and cameos from several popular streamers including Ninja, Jacksepticeye, Pokimane, and LazarBeam.

While Keery’s character exists only in the real world, Millie has created an avatar for herself called Molotov Girl, a tough-talking fighter who slowly gets closer to Guy, without realizing he’s an NPC. Levy teased their growing relationship, and Guy’s rising fame in the video game, with two clips previewed at the panel.

Free Guy Clips: All Hail the Blue Shirt

In the first clip, Guy is taken to MolotovGirl’s lair, where she cynically teaches him about the concept of leveling up while stocking up on her impressive array of weapons. She snaps at him when he guilelessly asks questions about the world and slaps away his hands when he tries to grab her weapons. Guy is in awe of the entire concept, while MolotovGirl — which is Mille’s brunette-wigged, armor-wearing avatar — mocks his naivety.

“When we first meet Millie she’s so defeated by the world but she also is so overpowered in the game,” Comer said. “We create an avatar of ourselves based on how we wish to be perceived, so it was interesting to flip between those.”

The second clip takes place later in the film, in the real world, after Guy’s superhero antics have earned him the name “blue shirt guy” and fame throughout the gaming world. Keery’s character bursts into Millie’s apartment to inform her that Antoine stole their code that would “evolve” video game characters, and that Guy was an NPC who had become sentient thanks to that code. “He’s the first artificial intelligence!” Keery exlaims to a horrified Millie, who confesses that she had kissed Guy without realizing he was a video game character.

A trailer was also previewed at the end of the panel, showing how Guy and and his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) endured the chaos and violence inflicted by video game players as part of their normal routine. But when Guy suddenly stands up to a robber and acquires his special glasses, his entire world changes. Utkarsh Ambudkar also appears in the trailer as a player with a penchant for wearing ripped bunny suits. The film seems like a cross between Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph and Grand Theft Auto, along with a dash of the virtual technology from Ready Player One. You could also make a connection to last year’s disastrous Serenity, though no one likely wants to make that.

The cast closed out the panel with a “live” satellite video message from Taika Waititi, who couldn’t resist calling for someone offscreen to park his Lamborghini, and throw in one more jab at Reynolds as Deadpool. “That’s not the only time I’ve been destroyed by a man wearing a denim kimono,” Reynolds joked.

Free Guy hits theaters on July 3, 2020.

IGN debuted the new poster below.

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