Apple’s Tetris movie, set to premiere on March 31st, is an adventurous take on the true story behind the classic game. The film’s plot involves corporate intrigue, government agencies, and globe-trotting, turning the tale into a spy adventure with hyperactive pixel art and cartoonishly evil villains. Directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Noah Pink, the movie seeks to entertain general audiences but may leave die-hard Tetris fans cold.
The film follows the story of Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton), who recounts his first encounter with Tetris at CES as a young entrepreneur. Rogers becomes obsessed with the game and teams up with Soviet programmer Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) to bring Tetris to the world. Despite the compelling character of Rogers, the movie fails to explore why he risked his life and business, though his obsession with the game is a universal response to playing Tetris for an extended period, which the movie portrays through hallucinations of falling blocks.
While the film understands the power of games, it tries to position itself as a cheap spy movie and embraces fantastical elements. British billionaires Robert and Kevin Maxwell, as well as Soviet intelligence officers, are portrayed as cartoonish villains. The real-world licensing dilemma, which kicked off after the British software seller Robert Stein sold rights to the game before the Soviet Union’s approval, could have been compelling enough. Still, the filmmakers overshadow it with their additions to the story, such as an obligatory car chase that turns into pixelated graphics.
Despite its flaws, Tetris may inspire more people to explore the actual history of the game through other media, like the BBC’s documentary Tetris: From Russia with Love, Dan Ackerman’s The Tetris Effect, and the graphic novel The Games People Play. But, for those hoping for a more artful and faithful adaptation, this movie may disappoint.