WARNING: Spoilers for Free Guy.
As a piece of original IP, Free Guy has bucked Hollywood’s sequel trend while still leaving room for more. Written by Matt Lieberman and Zak Pen and directed by Shawn Levy, Free Guy has been the largely unexpected hit of the summer, earning strong reviews and exceeding box office predictions for its opening weekend. This is thanks in large part to it being much better than the marketing has suggested, a movie that’s genuinely funny, and far more clever and heartfelt than the trailers have indicated.
That heart and humor come from the small but stellar ensemble cast for Free Guy, led by Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds plays Guy, an affable video game NPC who doesn’t know he’s in a video game and works at the Free City bank with his best friend, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), but longs for love. That love appears in the form of Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) a player in the game who sends Guy tumbling head over heels in love, and it prompts him to go off-script and develop free will. Meanwhile, in the outside world, Millie (also Comer) and Keys (Joe Keery), two brilliant game designers, are trying their best to take down the CEO of Soonami, Antwan (Taika Waititi) who stole their code and is using it illegally in the Free City video game, while fellow game developer Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) is torn between loyalty to Keys and wanting to keep his job.
But Free Guy did something refreshing in that it told an entire story. As it was initially meant to be a standalone movie, 20th Century Fox, the originating studio of the project, did something bold and actually wrote it as a complete story. In the modern franchise era, most tentpole movies spend half their time setting up future sequels, leaving multiple plot threads dangling, or only tell half a story while clearly meant to be a franchise starter. The result is movies that tease the future in a tantalizing way, but all too often frustratingly fail to conclude the actual stories they’re telling in a satisfactory way. Free Guy eschewed that, with its ending one that viewers can walk away from satisfied.
That said, the stories told in Free Guy and the world it built are rich enough to have left the door open for Free Guy 2, which Disney did indeed greenlight according to Ryan Reynolds. Here are potential stories that can be explored in the sequel.
The central romance of Free Guy is that between Guy and Molotov Girl, but it’s one clearly doomed as Molotov Girl is really Millie and Guy is an NPC. But the movie does something clever in that all the while that relationship is getting the focus, it’s obvious that’s not the real–and realistic–romance actually playing out in the background. No, that goes to Keys and Millie, with Keys quietly pining for his close friend and former business partner, while Millie is mostly oblivious to his unstated love. It’s obvious to both Mouser and the audience that Keys is the one Millie is meant to be with and Guy is simply an unrealistic diversion, and by the end of the movie, Millie finally recognizes Keys’ feelings for her and reciprocates. It ends just as she acknowledges his feelings, which leaves the door open for their relationship to be explored further in Free Guy 2.
Free Guy did an excellent job of creating well-rounded characters in the central trio of Guy, Millie, and Keys, and an actual romantic relationship proves plenty of opportunity for new character development. Neither Keys nor Millie appears to be particularly adept at love, both of them brilliant but socially awkward, and it will be interesting to see how they navigate the ups and downs of new love. It will be especially fraught considering they’re now in business together, both co-founders of their new startup. As anyone who has ever dated a coworker knows, keeping business and romance separate and afloat when mixing them is tricky business.
In Free Guy, it was Millie and Keys who really started the ball rolling on the story. Their proprietary A.I. algorithm, which Antwan stole to build his Free City code around, is what enables Guy to break free from his base coding and develop sentience and free will in the first place. Now that Millie and Keys have taken back their code and launched their original game, it will be interesting to see how their SIMS-meets-A.I. software might evolve–or how it will affect their relationship. The end of Free Guy indicated their game was a success, but right now, it’s only Millie, Keys, and Mouser working at their startup. As the workload grows, it’s likely that new fault lines will form in their relationships as success brings with it its own kinds of stress. It’s also possible that Millie and Keys (and, by extension, Mouser) will be faced with some sort of ethical dilemma. Right now, they have the luxury of being idealistic. Their startup is still small and they control every aspect of it. But as it grows and their startup turns into a legitimate business, what happens then? They may be forced to relinquish some control over their company and find that it’s forcing them to make decisions they’re not comfortable with.
It’s also unclear how the new software might affect Guy and the rest of the former citizens of Free City. For now, they’re peaceful and happy living in their new world free of crime, murder, and theft, but it’s unclear how they’ll feel about things after enough time has passed. Maybe the NPCs will get bored with there being zero danger or strife in their idyllic world and start committing crimes of their own. Maybe one or more of them will grow restless and try to break free into the real world. Maybe some of Millie’s or Key’s coding will break off and go rogue again. There are a number of ways the Free Guy 2 story can further develop the concept of A.I.-based NPCs gaining sentience.
Finally, there is the question of Dude. By the end of Free Guy, he’s living happily in the new world with Guy and the other NPCs, but Dude was never meant to be launched in the first place–at least, not as early as he was. Unfortunately, that translated to Dude’s programming being less than finished when he was dropped into Free City 2 to fight Guy. Now that he’s gained some semblance of autonomy, he’s shown himself to be a sweet but dimwitted guy who is loyal but has the mental capacity of a toddler due to his unfinished code. While it makes for some great comedic moments, it’s hard to believe that Millie and Keys would leave his programming unfinished, even if that code was originally written by one of Soonami’s developers. If Dude is now indeed part of Millie and Keys’ game, then it’s likely they’d finish his coding so he doesn’t remain quite so half-baked. Who he might become, however, is an entirely different question. It’s just one of the ways in which Free Guy told a great story while still leaving plenty of room for a sequel.