A different approach to telling a video game story that kind of works.
If I think back less than a decade ago if someone said they were going to make a movie about the video game Tetris, I’d cringe at what would be some wacky story probably involving aliens and some closet-dwelling anti-social guy becoming a hero to stop the Tetris invasion! How times have changed for the better in this aspect because Tetris is actually a very novel way to adapt a story about video games. See, Tetris is not an adaptation of the game Tetris but an embellished retelling of how the game Tetris was pulled out of the crumbling Soviet Union to children and adults alike the world over on the Nintendo Game Boy.
As a video game fan, I have to admit I have a bit of a bias toward this movie. It’s interesting to get to see late 80’s video game business dealings and wrap my head around that time of transitioning from arcades to home consoles and portable consoles. It was the wild west, there were no rules, and to get the publishing rights to one of the biggest games of that era meant going into the chaos of a collapsing Soviet Union. To this point, I have just been discussing this from almost a documentary point of view, but this is a Hollywood movie. It’s there that the movie attempts a balancing act between the very dark side of a corrupt authoritarian government on the way out and a more playful tone of a hopeful businessman that wants to sell great video games.
On the shoulders of Taron Egerton playing Henk Rogers, it mostly works! Egerton injects passion and positivity into Rogers when he is caught up in a situation that to most would scare them from the get-go. His charm infects those around him including Nikita Efremov’s Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris. It’s in their meeting that the movie shifts ever so slightly from almost a business drama thriller to a story about two men becoming friends in difficult circumstances. It makes for a fun watch where you really really want them to not only pull off getting the rights to a video game but to help save Pajitnov and his family from the Soviet Union itself.
Now, what could bother some people would be this movie’s embracing of video games to the point that they have sprinkled in Tetris-style video game graphics and sounds throughout sections of the movie. The movie even has scene transition title cards that are in full 8-bit style adventure game mode. Again, a video game person here, so for me, this didn’t bother me. It fits in with the tone of the movie which didn’t try to take itself too seriously. Outside of this, the movie bathes in the 80s with 80’s hit music, and production design set to the times. It only adds to the mood of what this movie is trying to capture.
I was pleasantly surprised with Tetris, not just because of my fears of what could have been, but from the always excellent acting of Taron Egerton, the solid direction from director Jon S. Baird, and the overall unique approach of making a movie about a video game. Anything that expands the options of what could come to screens next is a big winner to me.
If this sounds like a movie you’d like to check out, get a free trial of Apple TV+ and give it a watch.