The world of video games has spawned countless stories of success, creativity and rivalry, but few are as fascinating as the story behind the iconic puzzle game Tetris. Apple TV+’s latest movie, Tetris, delves into that history, exploring the intense legal battles and political backdrop that surrounded the game’s rise to fame in the 1980s. Starring Taron Egerton as Dutch video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers, the movie offers a unique look at this fascinating period in gaming history. Despite its intriguing premise and solid performances, Tetris struggles to maintain a consistent pace and balance its many tones, ultimately resulting in an uneven but incredibly enjoyable experience.
Set during the Cold War, Tetris capitalizes on the tense political climate between the United States and the Soviet Union to create a backdrop of intrigue and danger. The high-stakes legal battle over Tetris’ licensing rights as the central focus of the story builds a complex picture that will have you biting your nails right up until contracts are signed and the ink is dry. This context provides a fresh perspective on the familiar tale, elevating it beyond a simple origin story and delving into the high-stakes world of international politics, Nintendo and espionage.
The film’s greatest strength lies in the performance of its lead actor, Taron Egerton. As Henk Rogers, Egerton captures the enthusiasm, determination, and charisma that define the real-life entrepreneur. His portrayal of Rogers’ passion for Tetris and his unwavering belief in the game’s potential to revolutionize the market is both engaging and infectious. Egerton carries the film on his shoulders, providing a compelling central figure that keeps the audience invested in the outcome of the story. Even if you have never cared about the story of Tetris up to this point, Taron Egerton’s charisma makes the fate of the game feel like one of the most important outcomes anyone could imagine, and I am here for it.
“From fashion and hairstyles to technology and architecture, Tetris transports viewers back to a time of rapid change and innovation.”
Tetris excels in its portrayal of risk-taking and pursuing one’s passion, especially the film’s hero, Henk Rogers. The movie effectively shows the lengths to which he was willing to go to secure the rights to Tetris and bring the game to a global audience. The story of Tetris, while it may seem frivolous at first, goes down a rabbit hole I would never have expected, and Taron Egerton’s Henk Rogers sells each step along the journey.
Tetris manages to captivate with its unique story and engaging performances. Tetris‘ exploration of the world of video games in the 1980s is both nostalgic and riveting, providing a fascinating look at a time when the industry was still in its infancy. In addition, the film’s focus on the international legal battle and political intrigue surrounding Tetris adds an extra layer of depth to the story, making it more than just a simple origin story. Diving in, I expected a light, fun romp, and I did not know how wrong that early assessment could be.
The movie’s visual style and production design also deserve mention, as they effectively capture the atmosphere of the 1980s. From fashion and hairstyles to technology and architecture, Tetris transports viewers back to a time of rapid change and innovation. This attention to detail helps create an engaging experience that allows the audience to become fully immersed in the story. While they don’t always work with the narrative, the 8-bit style inertial animations do a great job of sending the viewer back to a more simple time in gaming.
The supporting cast in Tetris delivers strong performances, with each actor contributing to the overall sense of authenticity of the movie. However, their characters often feel underdeveloped, as the movie fails to give them the necessary depth and complexity to make them truly memorable. This problem is particularly noticeable in the case of the Soviet characters, who often come across as one-dimensional and stereotypical. This lack of character development prevents the supporting cast from having a greater impact on the story, leaving the audience wanting more.
That is, beyond Nikita Efremov’s creator of Tetris himself, Alexey Pajitnov, who is shown to be an incredibly deep and conflicted creator, torn between the love of family and the joy of creating. It is the connection between Henk and Alexey that acts as some of the strongest and most fleshed-out relationships in the film and helps set the emotional tone, especially in the film’s latter half.
“Tetris’ exploration of the world of video games in the 1980s is both nostalgic and riveting.”
Unfortunately, Tetris is ultimately held back by its uneven pacing and struggles to balance its various elements. The film often feels disjointed, with certain scenes feeling rushed or underdeveloped. This inconsistency prevented the film from reaching its full potential and left me wanting more from the experience. Moreover, the film’s exploration of the political climate and legal battle surrounding Tetris sometimes feels superficial, with the movie glossing over important details and failing to delve deep enough into these aspects of the story. This lack of depth ultimately detracts from the film’s overall impact, making it difficult for the audience to become fully invested in the narrative.
The inconsistent tone took away from some of the film’s more serious and sombre moments. I love when a movie can intermingle humour to ease tension, but Tetris goes a bit too far at times. Characters like Anthony Boyle’s Kevin Maxwell or Roger Allam’s Robert Maxwell feel almost cartoonish, especially against the backdrop of the life and death of many of the characters finding themselves stuck behind the Iron Curtain. They all played their roles well, but that does not take away the feeling of watching two different films, never fully meshing with each other.
Tetris is a fascinating but imperfect exploration of the origin story of the iconic game and the intense legal battle that defined its early years. While the movie benefits from an intriguing premise, solid performances, and a fascinating political backdrop, it’s uneven pacing, lack of depth, and underdeveloped characters ultimately hold it back. Still, fans of Tetris and those interested in the history of video games may find the movie entertaining, if not entirely satisfying.
While Tetris may not be the definitive account of the game’s storied history, it serves as an interesting and entertaining entry point for those unfamiliar with the subject. The film offers a unique glimpse into a critical period in gaming history and the high-stakes world of international politics and reminds viewers of the passion, creativity, and determination that brought Tetris to life.