The new movie Free guy plays Ryan Reynolds as a non-player character (NPC) in a massively multiplayer online game who comes to consciousness after falling in love with Millie, played by Jodie Comer. As expected, the film is full of references, creeping into the background of the unfolding world and narrative of the Free Guy as well as cameos from well-known gaming streamers such as Jacksepticeye and Ninja.
While games like Fourteen days and Grand Theft Auto could be obvious reference points in the visual design of the fictional world of Free Guy, says production designer Ethan Tobman Games Like SimCity and Red Dead Redemption 2 most inspired him during the production of the film. “Of course, GTA is thematically a great inspiration. It’s a photorealistic city; there is tons of violence [and] a bit of satire and commentary on the decay of urban America, but for me it’s games like Red Dead Redemption
To build the world, Tobman and his team looked at famous architecture, especially the idyllic virtual world in Free guy‘s last moments. “We wanted to avoid anything post-apocalyptic and instead ask what a city would look like from Millie’s point of view?”
According to Tobman, the answer was a city inspired by real architects like Zaha Hadid, Diller Scofidio, and Renzo Piano; a world that looked as if the city was growing out of itself and fully supporting itself.
“One of the buildings looks like an open book and the pages are hanging down, another looks like a corkscrew, and a huge waterfall is falling from one of them. It’s impossible, but that’s the idea; that water and earth created these structures. We had a field day with this one. ”
One of Tobman’s favorite details in the final shot of the film that audiences might miss on first sight is the range of vehicles on display across the city.
“If you look closely, you will see that we have cars and electric bikes that are a mix of cutting edge technology from different automakers. We found some Cal Arts cars and some Burning Man, as well as some we found on Instagram of this boy building his own unicycles and showing up for production to be on site like 360s. All of these details helped sell the idea of this utopian world that was definitely inspired by Back to the Future Part II as.”
[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for the end of Free Guy.]
The cycle of films-inspiring-games-inspiring-films comes full circle Free guyIt climaxes when Guy beats his digital doppelganger Dude into submission with a quick cartoon-like sequence of guns from popular franchises. We see everything from Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to the unicorn pickaxe from Fourteen days
According to Tobman, the scene should represent the largest and most universal game world possible, with an ironic self-reference, similar to Reynolds’ earlier work on Dead Pool and Deadpool 2.
“That moment came from one of the brainstorming sessions where some of those guns came from Ryan, some from … [director Shawn Levy], and some of them came from the front desk clerk, production assistants, my nephews, or Shawn’s kids. It just makes you kind of a romance movie and it loves that we all have those cultural moments in common that whether we were kids or adults bring back that sense of emotion that makes you cheer. That’s what Shawn and Ryan wanted to do here, to create a world where the audience feels great. ”
Free guy is in theaters now.