2019 NEW YORK COMIC CON: 20th Century Fox did not come empty-handed to their surprise-filled NYCC event. Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Djimon Hounsou, Ralph Fiennes, and Joe Keery were just some unexpected names present at the impressive panel. In addition to the star-studded presentation, the audience was treated to world exclusive footage and lots of laughs. The studio presented not only one, but two of their biggest upcoming films, “The King’s Man,” a prequel to the popular “The Kingsman” series, and “Free Guy,” a virtually unknown film starring Ryan Reynolds. By the time the panel concluded, both films had gained some eager fans.
THE KING’S MAN
“The King’s Man” jumped right into the action with the teaser trailer, followed by the introduction of director, Matthew Vaughn (“X-Men: First Class”). Vaughn spoke about his decision to try something new by doing an origin story to “The Kingsman” franchise. “I think it is important as a director to keep pushing your boundaries and not trying to repeat yourself too many times.”
His goal was a return to the style of classic films such as those he grew up watching. “‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ ‘French Connection,’ ‘Doctor. Zhivago’ — you put them on, you want to watch them again. Let’s go back in time and do something like I grew up on. Especially like ‘The Man Who Would Be King,’ a wonderful example of adventure, but heart and story, a brilliant movie.”
Recreating the massive scale feel of the classics requires a lens with a bit of cinematic history. “We actually used the same lens as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was shot in. Which is good and bad, they kept losing focus and falling apart.” Vaughn continued, “But, for the look, we didn’t have to grade it, we tried to do as much as we could in-camera. I love CG, but I think there’s a little too much of it going on.”
FAMILIAR BUT NEW
While staying connected to the rest of “The Kingsman” film series, Vaughn also wanted the freedom to tell an original story without all the constraints of too many familiar characters — namely plot twists. “I wanted to do an origin story that had hardly anything to do with the original ‘Kingsman’ apart from the tailor shop. This really is a proper origin story. People can watch it even if they haven’t seen ‘The Kingsman.’ You’ll recognize the location, style, and the themes, but it’s done in a, hopefully, original manner.”
Vaughn was joined on stage by cast members, Djimon Hounsou (“Armistad”), Ralph Fiennes (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Harris Dickinson (“Trust”). Fiennes spoke about his respect for the origin film, “when you see the film, you see the richness to how the Kingsman Intelligence Agency started.“ Fiennes continued, “I think Matthew (Vaughn) balances different tones of humor, emotional relationship, and action. I think that’s quite rare.”
The panel wrapped with the screening of the brand-new full trailer (below) an action-packed mix of WWI warfare, secret societies, historical figures, swordplay, and British politeness. All set against the rocking guitar and piercing vocals of Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath’s metal classic “War Pigs.”
The King’s Man rocks into theaters on February 14th, 2020.
20th Century Fox’s “Free Guy” had little to offer before the panel — not a trailer, a teaser or a poster had been released. This would seemingly present a challenge to most films vying for audience attention. The difference here was “Free Guy” was packing a secret weapon. Word was out that in attendance would be one of the most recognizable names in entertainment, none other than Ryan Reynolds. So of course, this little known film presented to a packed house.
A NEW ‘GUY’ IN TOWN
Director Shawn Levy (“Stranger Things”) kicked off the panel to address that, “It’s exciting to us that you know nothing about “Free Guy,” because that means we are a new, original movie. On a very literal level, “Free Guy” is about Guy played by Ryan Reynolds (“Green Lantern”) who is a bank teller. His bank gets robbed like 17 times a day. And, eventually, he realizes that’s weird and not normal. It’s ultimately about a guy who comes to the realization that he is a background player in a video game. So literally he’s an NPC (non-playable character) who realizes that is his identity.”
Levy told the audience that he had “no right to be showing any footage” as he is in the sixth week of the director’s edit. “But given that it’s something new, given that it’s very much about that gamer world, it feels like New York Comic Con was the perfect place to share some info and maybe even a sneak peak.”
Levy and Reynolds see “Free Guy” like a superhero origin story, “minus the cape, the tights, and the IP. Because, if any of us here realized that we were living in a video game where anything is possible and if you mastered the rules of that game, then you would become limitless. The movie is about Ryan, as Guy, learning the scope of his powers.”
Next, a promo video played meant to show the chemistry of the cast. As often is the case with Reynolds, things aren’t always what you would expect. Jodie Comer (Emmy Award winner for “Killing Eve”) and Joe Keery (“Stranger Things”) spoke about their love for the genre and working with Levy. Fellow cast members, Reynolds and Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) discussed their excitement to finally meet each other while completely ignoring their previous work in the near-universally panned “Green Lantern.” The video (below) set the perfect tone for the film and this often hilarious panel.
AND OUR VERY SPECIAL GUESTS…
Levy sent the crowd into an uproar by welcoming onto the stage the previously unscheduled to be there cast: Reynolds, Comer, Keery, Lil Rel Howery (“Get Out”) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (“Brittany Runs a Marathon”). Once all six of them were on stage the lighthearted tone of the panel really hit its stride.
Somewhere between odd cast photos and an abundance of sarcastic comments, actual information about the film was shared. Levy explained the film’s setting, “It toggles back and forth between the real world and the video game world of Free City, which is the name of the video game in the movie. We created some pretty strict rules for ourselves so that you as an audience would never be confused about which world you are in. The world inside of Free City is very saturated in color, the frames are clean and wide-angle.”
Reynolds added to Levy’s explanation of the film’s style by making reference to “The King’s Man” panel. “I know that Matthew Vaughn mentioned that for ‘Kingsman’, they used the same lenses as used in Lawrence of Arabia. Our lenses shot ‘Fantastic Four,’ as well (a critical and box office bust). Those suckers can take a licking.”
A FILM FOR WEIRD TIMES
Reynolds took a more serious tone (well semi-serious, maybe) to explain how immersed he was in the film. The script “spoke to the moment” and the “weird, really weird times we live in now.” These strange times helped him find a kinship with a character from one of his favorite films “Being There” (with Peter Sellers). “There’s like this Chauncey Gardener who is truly an innocent. The things that he is saying are innocent and kind. It catches on like it’s a trendy cool f*cking thing that he’s just kind.”
Reynolds’ online persona, Guy, has a similar experience. He starts to stand out from the crowd by just being a good guy. Eventually he takes on superhero qualities, earning him online fame as “Blue Shirt Guy”.
Although this film should play well with the general audience, some aspects will certainly resonate with gamers. Famous gamer cameos, an abundance of Easter eggs and an extreme level of detail attention spent on the background environment. Levy instructed viewers to look beyond the main characters. “Look behind them and way behind them, because there are a lot of inside jokes that reference a lot of games and gaming history. As the Blue Shirt Guy craze takes off, we want it to feel authentic.”
Taika Waititi’s surprise appearance via satellite had fans both cheering and laughing. Connection issues made it difficult for him and Reynolds to get the correct timing for their staged questions. Reynolds’ attempts to ask his co-star questions were humorously full of mistimings due to staged signal disruptions. Waititi, believing the cameras were off, continued to talk, ending with a rant badmouthing Reynolds and his constant “Deadpool” talk.
As the panel was starting to wrap up there was time for an audience Q&A. One rather obnoxious audience member received his just desserts from Reynolds. He followed up the comments with a request for Ryan Reynolds to go out with him on Sunday night. A seemingly disappointed Reynolds responded in a fashion only he could. “I actually, that night, I actually have an appointment to punch myself in the d*ck for five minutes. I’ll see if I can pencil it in.” The audience was rolling with laughter.
OKAY, ONE MORE
Levy took to the mic announcing a final surprise. “Here’s a sneak peek of something that the world will not see for a while.” An early cut of the trailer so exclusive that even the cast had yet to see it began to roll. The cast grabbed some seats in the audience and watched the premiere of the full-length “Free Guy” trailer together.
Set in a violent GTA-like world, Guy (Reynolds), your average bank teller, grows tired of his day to day routine. Being robbed multiple times a day, every day is his essentially his existence. During one of his daily holdups, he decides to stand up for himself. This bold move leads him to find a pair of special pair of glasses. The specs expose to him that he is ultimately just a background character in a video game reality. His new self-awareness makes him the world’s first real artificial intelligence. The more he learns about the world he is in the more he can control it. The action-comedy-romance has elements of The Truman Show, Wreck-It-Ralph and The Matrix to name a few. The combination looks to be a complete original that should speak to gamers and general filmgoers as well.
The audience cheers and the smile on Reynolds’s face as he watched, “Free Guy” looks like a crowd-pleaser.
“Free Guy” will hits theaters on July 3rd, 2020.