NYCC 2019: “The King’s Man” and “Free Guy”

With apologies to Mr. Fiennes, the picture is from one of the video screens and off-center, hence his slightly askew appearance

It is always interesting watching the division of time when there is not one, but two (or more), projects being discussed during a single panel at a conference.  It doesn’t really mean anything necessarily, it just always leaves me curious.  Today, during the first day of New York Comic-Con, 20th Century Fox offered up a single panel slot giving a look at both “The King’s Man,” a prequel in the “Kingsman” series, and “Free Guy,” an action-comedy with Ryan Reynolds where he discovers he’s a background character in a video game, an NPC if you will.

“The King’s Man” was up first and Matthew Vaughn, who has returned to helm the third entry, was the first person invited out onto the stage by the moderator, Terri Schwartz of IGN.  Vaughn also helmed the first two films, but rather than having Colin Firth and Taron Egerton leading the cast here, for this prequel—a tale of how the Kingsman group began—Vaughn enlisted folks like Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, Harris Dickinson, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

While Vaughn told us that he’s in the middle of editing the film, he apparently got an enough time off to come and talk.  He was joined on stage by Hounsou, Fiennes, and Dickinson.  The last two play father and son in the movie, and as was noted on the panel, Eggsy and Harry have a father-son dynamic and this is sort of keeping that but, you know, with blood.  That doesn’t necessarily mean more always, but perhaps it does this time  As for Hounsou, he plays Shola, something of a “bodyguard meets butler” for Fiennes’ Duke of Oxford.

One of the most interesting things Vaughn stated about the project is that while he directed “X-Men:  First Class,” he wanted to do an origin movie that didn’t have a lot to do with what we’ve seen already.  The idea being that in “First Class” he couldn’t kill Professor X.  Whether or not that means he plans on killing one of these characters is up for grabs, but (SPOILER ALERT), he hasn’t exactly been against killing major characters in the “Kingsman” movies.

Vaughn also promised that the fighting will be somewhat different this time out and that people who didn’t enjoy the first two movies might still find a lot to like here.  Certainly when we got footage at the end of the panel, there was a fight with Hounsou and, I believe it was Rhys Ifans’ Rasputin, that was great and utterly wild.  One particularly pretty shot was an overhead one as Rasputing spun around on a table.  I’m not sure I’d characterize the sequence as notably different from other entries, but we didn’t exactly get a ton to see.

Although it took place second, “Free Guy” found itself with slightly more time in front of the audience.  Maybe because there were more people on the dais, maybe not.  Director Shawn Levy was present in addition to the aforementioned Ryan Reynolds.  We also saw Taika Waititi (not present except via a satellite/videotape bit), Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Lil Rel Howery.

As Levy explained, “Free Guy” is a “new, original movie.”  That is, it is not some sort of IP that’s been repurposed.  And, if you don’t know that much about it, that’s probably because it’s still pretty early in the editing process – Levy joked that the CG effects are pretty much just charcoal sketches at this point.  They still managed to deliver a trailer to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not early.

One expects to hear a lot of bluster during such an event and Reynolds delivered, saying that he hasn’t been this engaged in anything since “Deadpool.”  I certainly do not mean to imply that his statement is untrue, but I wouldn’t swear to its veracity either.

As we learned more about the movie, it became clear that Reynolds plays Guy, this NPC in a game who slowly comes to realize, maybe, that he isn’t living in the real world and certainly that there’s something just not right about the bank where he’s a teller getting robbed several times a day.

This being a movie about a videogame, Ambudkar promised lots of callbacks to other games.  Frankly, scarily, that made me think a little of “Pixels,” but I’m sure that’s just because my son has been watching said movie on a regular basis.  Along similar lines, Howery told us that that a lot of stuff will be going on in the background during the movie – it sounded like this would be, essentially, other people playing the game and things happening outside of what’s going on with our characters.

It was Comer who offered up one of the most interesting ideas of the day.  She has not one but two roles in the movie.  She is both a real-world person and an avatar in the game and discussed how the notion of how the two differ, how a real person controls and changes their online persona, even with things like social media.  With luck that is played out to a great degree in the movie.

Both films are due out next year – “The King’s Man” on February 14th and “Free Guy” on July 3rd.





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