The following review contains spoilers.
I had no idea what to expect, and very few expectations, going into watching Free Guy, the latest movie starring Ryan Reynolds that released this past August. I had heard of it, but didn’t know anything about it other than that my partner said it was supposed to good and recently suggested we watch it.
The movie turned out to fun and perfectly corny. Ryan Reynolds toned down his sarcasm a bit and it worked for him. The story about an AI video game character achieving sentience and then helping take on the evil, corporate game company’s owner was well done. The plot moves at a perfect pace, and the characters are both cute and compelling. Even the bait and switch love story felt genuine.
What wasn’t expected was for the ending of the film to turn the entire thing into a solarpunk-ish tale that warms the heart and brings a smile to the already laughing face. In the end, the protagonists prove that the evil game company’s owner stole the code for the video game, and the revelation leads to his ruin. The original coders expand on their recovered work and create an immersive open world utopian game.
In the game, players enter and explore an utopian world. Sleek and rounded architecture is covered in lush green plant life, very similar to what is commonly seen in art and architectural designs that fit into the solarpunk box. The world is bright, optimistic, and even NPCs get along. That’s a stark difference from the violent, more cyberpunk-like dystopian atmosphere the evil corporation had given to the game. The whole point of the new/original game, in fact, is not war and destruction, but simply exploration and observation.
Without climate change as some kind of central plot device or a very diverse cast, let alone one in which marginalized communities lead, the movie does lack important solarpunk elements. To be fair, of course, it probably wasn’t trying to be a solarpunk film. Nevertheless, a number of the elements are present, and by the time the movie ended it felt like a very cyberpunk meets solarpunk, or even birth of solarpunk type tale, at least in the way the story played out, and with the above obvious caveats accounted for.
It doesn’t matter of course. Solarpunk isn’t something to be strictly defined. Free Guy is, perhaps, solarpunk adjacent. Regardless, the move is thoroughly enjoyable, and the solarpunk-ish, overtly utopian ending was a pleasant surprise to end an already fun watch.
This is a movie that lived in dystopia, but it didn’t end there. It ended with optimism, hope, and a beautiful, new, utopian world.
Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is the co-editor-in-chief of Solarpunk Magazine. They live in rural Oregon with his partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.