Yes, my name is Guy, and I watched FREE GUY the second day it hit theaters, as required by Guy Law.
Is it worth watching in a theater? Sure. This is a fun summer movie. But that’s not the most interesting question.
The acid test for a movie, even a summer action film or comedy, is simple: Would I watch it again?
And listen, we can make that test far more accurate and meaningful. Here’s how:
- How much would I pay to watch it again, and again?
- How much would you need to PAY ME to watch the thing one more time?
There are plenty of films that are worth watching once and never again. The movies that are rewatchable are golden nuggets of cinema worth treasuring forever.
Here are two examples, both somewhat similar to FREE GUY:
BOSS LEVEL is worth watching again and again, because I have literally watched it five-point-seven bazillion times.
Why is it worth two hours of your life, repeatedly? Because it mixes action with comedy so well, and has moments–like the sword training and fight scene–that never get old.
Similarly, THE EDGE OF TOMORROW is a movie that you can watch again and again. The more you hate Tom Cruise as an actor, the more you like this movie, seeing how you get to watch him die a ton of times in a war zone before he redeems himself. Also, Emily Blunt is a total badass in this thing.
FREE GUY is thankfully an original script and not a movie based on an actual video game or ancient board game like BATTLESHIP, which they actually got Liam Neeson to do a movie about, for the love of all that is holy.
Yet despite being fun, there’s something missing when you walk out of that theater after watching FREE GUY.
Here’s what I think that missing thing is: you can’t buy the ending, no matter how much bubblegum ice cream they pile on it.
Spoilers galore from here out.
So the key relationship is between Guy and Millie, with Guy not realizing he’s in a video game and Millie looking like a supermodel inside and outside the game.
In the end, they do NOT get together, because Guy is just an AI with a pretty digital face, so Guy becomes single and Millie gets together with…Annoying Tech Dweeb.
Listen, this doesn’t work on a number of levels. The audience WANTS Guy and Millie to get together for real. They do not, in any part of their popcorn-munching bodies, want Millie to hook up with Annoying Tech Dweeb.
Honestly, real-life Millie is beautiful enough to get pretty much any man she wants. It’s not believable that she settles for a man she ignored for years despite his blatant crush on her.
How could we fix the ending and the movie?
First, we don’t need three Tech Gurus — Annoying Tech Dweeb, his sidekick, and Millie are all coders.
You need one coder in this movie, and that’s Millie, so we can safely axe the other two characters. I mean, put a gun to my head and I cannot remember either one of their names. THAT IS A SIGN, RYAN REYNOLDS AND SCREENWRITING PEOPLE.
The other stakes were whether Millie and Annoying Tech Dweeb won their intellectual property battle with Korg, and listen, I didn’t not care about that at all.
Second, there’s only one true romantic question built up in this movie, and that’s whether Millie and Guy get together.
Third, how do we give the audience what they want–Millie and Guy actually getting together–in a way they don’t expect?
Here’s how: you go MATRIX or TRON LEGACY.
The MATRIX path has Neo take the right pill (I don’t know if it’s red or blue and do not care, sorry) and enter the Matrix so he can hang out with Trinity.
If he stayed in what he saw as the real world, there’d be no future with her. Zero. None. Nada.
The TRON LEGACY option means going the opposite route and taking somebody (Olivia Wilde!) from the digital world to the real world.
So let’s pick one of those options: you make Guy a real Guy or bring Millie into the digital world.
Turning the digital Ryan Reynolds into a real-life Ryan is the easy and expected choice. The more surprising and deep thing would be making the stakes more real for Millie and going digital for her.
Give her a ticking clock–a deadly cancer, say–and have her desperately needing the servers and such to upload her consciousness into FREE CITY to survive.
High stakes now, right? And that would be an ending that stuck with audiences.