While video game movies have certainly been improving in recent years, it’s hard to say anyone was asking for a movie about how Tetris got licensed and eventually packaged with the Nintendo Game Boy. Yet, here we are in 2023 with an Apple TV+ film about exactly that… and it’s actually good. Let’s take a deep dive into what makes Tetris work.
First off, it should be clearly stated that while there are plenty of historical facts in the Tetris movie, there’s also a lot of fiction. The real Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov were consulted on the film, but that was mainly to get the historical parts accurate. The two founders of The Tetris Company let the production do as it pleased when it came to the more Hollywood-esque aspects of the film.
Tetris briefly covers the story of how Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) created the classic video game, then turns into what may best be described as the Tetris version of a spy espionage film, with Rogers (Taron Egerton) doing everything he can to secure the rights to the game for Nintendo. It provides the historical back story, while also being pretty entertaining with a lot of fiction added in.
Egerton carries the film on his back… uphill. While there are plenty of little graphical nods to the game and the pixelated graphics of the 80s, all of that is ancillary to what Egerton adds to the film. He is the heart and soul of Tetris, and truly brings Henk Rogers to life. By the end of the movie, you will care about this man, his family, and his mission to get Nintendo the Tetris license.
Meanwhile, Robert (Roger Allam) and Kevin Maxwell (Anthony Boyle) of Mirrorsoft are comical in how villainous they are. They’re so over the top that you almost expect Wile E. Coyote to be assisting them with his various ACME products. This is a stark contrast to the Soviet Union antagonists, who are still a bit over the top, but far more grounded than the Mirrorsoft owners.
Underneath the over-the-top antagonists and fun antics of the Tetris movie, there’s a moving story about a man trying to save his business and his family. There are touches of a 1980s Amblin Entertainment film in Tetris, as it pulls on your heartstrings while simultaneously keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. You almost want to cheer at the end of the film.
At just under two hours, the Tetris movie does feel just a bit too long. There are a few portions of the movie where it drags a bit, but overall the pacing was acceptable. If you’re not already a fan of Tetris or Nintendo, you may not be as engrossed in the film, as it really boils down to Soviet Union-era politics and a cartoon villain. However, if you’ve enjoyed a few games of Tetris, and have fond memories of the Game Boy and the 80s in general, there’s a lot of fun to be had with the Tetris movie.
Synopsis: The story of how one of the world’s most popular video games found its way to players around the globe. Businessman Henk Rogers and Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov join forces in the USSR, risking it all to bring Tetris to the masses.
Director: Jon S. Baird
Writer: Noah Pink
Stars: Taron Egerton, Mara Huf, Miles Barrow, Rick Yune, Nikita Efremov, Toby Jones
Runtime: 1 Hour, 58 Minutes
Releases: March 31, 2023 (Apple TV+)
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.