In a blend of Ready Player One, Last Action Hero, The LEGO Movie, and The Truman Show, the video game action comedy Free Guy finds Ryan Reynolds breaking from his non-player bank teller character routine in the Grand Theft Auto-inspired video game world of Free City to inadvertently becoming the key to stopping the game from being completely destroyed by its douchebag creator (Taika Waititi).
So how does that turn out for him? Let’s talk about the ending, but (obviously) beware of major spoilers.
In the world of Free Guy, gamers are obsessed with the open-world mayhem of a video game called Free City. Inspired by Grand Theft Auto, the video game has characters playing online in a world full of gunshots, explosions, bank robberies, car chases, and absolute mayhem. It’s one of the most popular games around, and it’s about to get a sequel in the form of Free City: Carnage.
Inside Free City, there’s a player who goes by the name Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer). The character belongs to a young woman named Millie, who is scouring the game for proof that Free City‘s creator Antwan and his company Soonami Studios stole the code from her innovative, ever-evolving game Life Itself and put a Free City skin on top of it. Meanwhile, in the real world, Millie’s game creative partner Keys (Joe Keery) has a high-level position at Soonami Studios and carefully tries to help her track down the evidence she’s looking for without attracting the attention of his boss, who is embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit with Millie. There’s a ticking clock on finding the evidence, because when Free City: Carnage launches, it will completely replace the original game and wipe out any presence of Life Itself within the video game. So how does Ryan Reynolds’ character Guy fit into all this?
When non-player character (NPC) Guy encounters Molotov Girl in Free City, he’s suddenly struck with an urge to break free from his typical routine of working at a bank that gets robbed multiple times a day. Not only does he fall for Molotov Girl, but he longs to become one of the “sunglasses people,” the characters who are controlled by players in the real world. When he finally retrieves a pair of sunglasses from a player-controlled character after foiling a bank robbery, he starts leveling up in the game by being a hero. He tries to stop robberies, shootouts, and all the chaos that constantly goes on inside Free City.
Initially believed to be a hacker controlling an NPC, Guy becomes a viral sensation, and slowly it becomes clear that he’s actually the first artificially intelligent video game character to gain sentience. That makes the romance blossoming between Guy and Molotov Girl within the game a little bit weird, but we’ll get to that later. The larger problem is that he’s garnering so much attention in the game that it’s keeping players from paying attention to the forthcoming launch of Free City 2, so Antwan orders the servers to be reset so Guy gets rebooted back to his usual self.
All of this unfolds just as Molotov Girl/Millie finally obtains the video clip that proves the existence of Life Itself within the world of Free City. After seeing the clip, Guy realizes that he’s seen the world of Life Itself somewhere before. But when the servers are shut down, the clip has been destroyed and Guy is no longer the sentient hero that he became when the game comes back online. It appears Antwan has ruined any chances of Millie and Keys being able to prove that Life Itself was stolen and used as the programming foundation of Free City. At the same time, he’s now guaranteed that when Free City: Carnage launches, it will delete Guy and all of the other NPC’s in the game, including Guy’s best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), a security guard at the bank. On the surface, this all feels like a rip-off of Wreck-It Ralph, but the charm of Ryan Reynolds, the wit of the script, and the depiction of this video game world keep it from feeling lazy.
Though it seems all hope is lost, Keys realizes that Guy’s sentience hasn’t been completely wiped from his character. Since Guy’s programming comes from their original code, his inherent desire to evolve still lingers inside, and he merely needs to be broken from his routine in order to remember everything. Of course, the trigger is Molotov Girl kissing Guy in the game, bringing back a flood of memories and allowing him to remember where he’s seen the world of Life Itself before.
Every day when Guy was stuck in his bank teller routine, he would stare out his apartment window, opening and closing the metallic shades. He realizes that the world of Life Itself, an island in the middle of the ocean, was reflecting off the shades. The code for the game is still within Free City, but it’s merely been hidden outside of the boundaries of the game off the shore of Hitman’s Beach.
With the help of Keys, Guy and Molotov Girl head to Hitman’s Beach where a bridge will be built to the Life Itself island in the middle of the ocean. Unfortunately, in the real world, Antwan has realized what Guy and Molotov Girl are trying to do, and he orders his developers to wipe them out, even if it means destroying Free City itself. When literally crumbling the city’s digital infrastructure on top of them doesn’t help, he calls an audible to finish the job.
When Guy was at the height of popularity online, Antwan ordered an upgraded version of the character for Free City: Carnage to keep fans satisfied. It’s a super buff, shirtless version of Guy, and even though he’s unfinished, Antwan orders him to be uploaded into Free City in order to stop Guy from reaching Life Itself. The result is the complete man-handling of Guy at the hands of a character who can’t form a complete sentence.
Just when it seems like there’s no hope for Guy to stop Dude, he finally gets a chance to tap into the huge arsenal of weapons that he’s gained access to while leveling up in the game. Just as Dude is about to strike a death blow with a glowing red arm, Guy blocks the punch with Captain America’s shield, complete with the superhero’s orchestral theme to accompany it (and a hilarious reaction shot from Chris Evans making a cameo, watching the video game stream in the real world). In quick succession, he uses the fist of The Incredible Hulk, Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, the unicorn pickaxe from Fortnite, Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun, and the Portal gun from Portal to dispatch with Dude. The video game items are expected, but the injection of Marvel and Star Wars materials feels a little forced, but the moment still works incredibly well. However, the weapon that finally does the trick is giving Dude sunglasses of his own, distracting him with all the flashy colors and icons of Free City and leaving him to make a run for Life Itself.
But Antwan has one last desperate trick up his sleeve. He’s going to literally destroy the servers that hold Free City (and Life Itself) by tearing into them with an emergency axe.
Removed from Free City and left to watch the global live stream secretly initiated online by Keys, Millie appears to be helpless. But when Keys notices Antwan heading to the server room as he’s escorted out of Soonami Studios for trying to help Guy and Molotov Girl reach Life Itself, he alerts Millie to what’s going on.
Millie arrives in Soonami Studios in a last ditch effort to stop Antwan from destroying Free City and Life Itself along with it. At this point, everything except Guy, the bridge, and Life Itself has been destroyed in the game, including all the other NPCs. Antwan doesn’t see why he shouldn’t finish his attack when the reveal of Life Itself will mean that he’ll lose the empire he’s built and everything that comes with it. But Millie offers him a deal. If he doesn’t destroy the last server, he can keep the rights to Free City and everything associated with it. All she wants is the code to Life Itself back, and Antwan can go on with the launch of Free City 2 and not worry about the ongoing lawsuit. Antwan agrees, and Guy is able to make it onto the island of Life Itself, a lush tropical landscape.
Though it might seem like Antwan is getting more than he deserves with this agreement, he gets his comeuppance when sales of Free City: Carnage nosedive. Instead, gamers have found their way to Free Life, a new open world game that has blossomed from Life Itself. It has everything gamers loved about Free City, but it’s far less chaotic, featuring a jungle-infused cityscape containing otherworldly elements like dinosaurs and unique flying vehicles.
In Free Life, Guy is living his best life, but his happy ending with Molotov Girl is not meant to be. Millie knows that striking up a romance with an artificially intelligent video game characters just isn’t going to work. Guy not only understands, but he helps her realize that all the things about Molotov Girl that made Guy fall in love with her are all traits that her partner Keys programmed into Guy as a representation of his own longing for Millie in the real world. Realizing the love that has been in front of her this whole time, she unplugs from Free Life and heads off to spark a true romance with Keys.
Back in the game, Guy is living out his days hanging out with Dude, who isn’t exactly the best companion. Thankfully, Guy’s day is about to get better when his best friend Buddy shows back up after seemingly being deleted from Free City. After a celebratory reunion, the two head off to do whatever they want in the world of Free Life, never to worry about working at the bank again.
What Does the Free Guy Ending Mean for the Future?
There’s no tease for a Free Guy sequel as the film concludes (and there’s no credit scene either), but that hasn’t stopped Disney from wanting one. The question is, where would a sequel go? Now that Free Life has been created and Guy is allowed to live an ever-evolving life on his own within the game, what could possibly go wrong?
Since Free Guy has already dealt with the idea of what would happen if a major game studio was in control of Guy’s fate and the video game world around him, that idea is off the table. But perhaps something goes wrong with an inevitable Free Life update that threatens the existence of the world. Perhaps the success of Free Life results in some questionable decisions made by Millie and Keys in order to appease fans, and it ends up ruining the world that Guy has come to embrace. Maybe Antwan has a grudge after Free City 2 sales took a plunge and he recruits a rival video game developer team to hack into Free Life and destroy it from within the game, just as Molotov Girl did to Free City.
The best thing about there being no clear set-up for a Free Guy sequel is that anything is possible. The downside is that whoever is tasked with writing the script has to figure out a way to shake up the happy ending established by Matt Lieber and Zak Penn’s script without feeling like a desperate attempt to cash-in on the success of the original movie.
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