‘Tetris’ review: This video game-inspired adventure is a winner

ONE Tetris The movie sounds like a movie about how Hollywood has really run out of ideas. After a sea of ​​sequels, remakes, and movie adaptations based on every genre of game on the market, a movie based on a block-stacking video game seems like a bridge too far. It should be stupid. And honestly, thisTetris he gets a little stupid, albeit in a great way.

Combining its weirder-than-imaginary creation story with a fervent embrace of the game’s aesthetic and nostalgia for the era more broadly, Tetris is a surprisingly clever, silly and satisfying adventure.

I went in cynical and came out smiling like a fool.

Tetris is the true story of Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov.

Credit: Apple TV+

Written by Noah Pink, Tetris introduces us to Dutch video game designer Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) in 1988, as he watches a demo of Tetris at a conference in Las Vegas. It dawns on him that he’s watching nothing less than the future of gaming. As the founder of Bullet-Proof Software, Henk is willing to make a deal TetrisIts international rights, and is trying to mediate with a British company as well as Nintendo. But all his hard work – and his life savings – are put at risk when it turns out that the Russian government owns the game and has no intention of playing fair.

Caught in the Cold War crosshairs of this battle of business, politics and shady dealings Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Yefremov), a Soviet computer engineer with a love for games; What started as a hobby became a viral sensation — in the age of floppy disks, no less! With the possibility that Tetris could bring significant money to the Soviet Union, it is not Pajitnov making the call to distribute his puzzle game. It is up to a government that is collapsing and becoming increasingly corrupt.

Amidst political intrigue, not-so-subtle threats from the KGB, and harassment from wealthy British billionaires, Hank and Alexei form an unlikely friendship that will be tested as Tetris’his future is determined.

Taron Egerton is just the star Tetris requests.

Three businessmen toast with alcohol

Credit: Apple TV+

As much of the film consists of Henk bouncing from one business meeting to another contract negotiation, Tetris Director Jon S. Baird faced a major hurdle in keeping this seemingly mundane sequence of events entertaining. In combating the menacing affliction of business, business, business, his secret weapon is the Welsh actor who brought unflinching courage to the working-class super-spy. Kingsmanhis lucky underdog Eddie the Eagleand the blinding charisma of Elton John Rocket man.(Opens in a new tab)

Right out of the gate, Tetris He greets us with his goofy grin and attitude oozing from Egerton’s bushy, deep 80s moustache. Playing a man born in Denmark but raised in New York, he affects an American accent with an enthusiasm that gently reflects the capitalist expectation that everything is for sale and the never-say-die optimism that fueled American business in this era. The open enthusiasm of Egerton’s persona is key here. While there is an air the founder’opportunistic businessman (Opens in a new tab)for him, Hank’s passion for Tetris It is not only tied to his belief that it will be a success but also his genuine love for the game itself. Greed is not good for Hank. the games are good.

His enthusiasm is contagious, bringing audiences back into the experience of discovering the iconic puzzle game and its enchanting, addictive wonders for the first time. This pervasiveness connects us with Hank as he travels around the world, from his family’s bustling apartment in Tokyo to Nintendo’s secretive R&D offices in Seattle, to major media offices in London and even government buildings in Moscow. As the tension mounts, turning the stakes to life or death, Egerton’s charm turns from lure to flotation device, assuring us that he will see us through the sure glint in his eye.

Tetris comes to life with elements from the game.

Credit: Apple TV+

The other important conservation tool Tetris moving and entertaining – even as he stumbles through the mire of business and corruption – is how Baird works in elements from the game. From the beginning, 8-bit animation is used to emphasize the film’s aesthetic. The chapter titles introduce the “players”, with 8-bit avatars of Henk, Alexey and their friends and enemies. Typical location shots like a convention center or Hank’s house are replaced with 8-bit illustrations as a new “chapter” title card is introduced. Otherwise, the subtitles use a font reminiscent of the sharp lines of 80s video games, while the music played in an underground club embraces the outrageous behavior of Western culture of the time and its sheer fun. When Hank goes out on Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’,(Opens in a new tab) I dare you not to get stuck.

Elsewhere in the soundscape, sound effects drawn from old-school games replace real-life sounds like pinging footsteps, which add extra zest to simple actions. The falling block animation appears as a dreamlike overlay as Hank waxes poetic about his magic Tetris game. All of this is in stark contrast to the starkly grey, cold and concrete world of Moscow, where things are bleak and utterly devoid of glamor. TetrisColorful graphics and zing score.

This strange juxtaposition reaches its zenith during a climactic car chase scene punctuated by Tetris game music. It is ridiculous! It’s dumb! It is glorious! The car itself escapes its metal reality and transforms into an 8-bit car. Rather than undermining the stakes of this escape attempt, Baird’s playful flourish gives the audience a visual reminder of what Henk and Alexey are fighting for. It’s not just a game, but the dream to share their creative vision with the world, to break down the barriers of what is and what could be, and the overwhelming tedium of our daily lives, eight pieces at a time!

Style and star power can’t smooth it all out Tetrisits rough edges though. Despite Byrd’s best efforts, the second act gets a little bogged down in scenes away from our two heroes. These sequences draw the distinction between the film’s heroic dreamers and their greedy, cold-hearted business rivals. These villains are very heavy because they are such solid stereotypes of greed, entitlement and cynicism. While these figures are another staple of the 80s, growling at the vices of the decade, a little goes a long way with such characters. However, Baird still has a long way to go with them, which means repeating the same punch lines and posture over and over again.

Yet, Tetris it’s a much better movie than I dared hope for. I loved the game growing up, as expected from the Game Boy generation. Admittedly, the trailer teased a self-conscious sense of wit, playing this Cold War thriller like a zany comedy. Still, I had my doubts, because on the face of it a movie based on Tetris it seems absurd. Despite my reservations, I can’t deny that this biopic is thoroughly enjoyable.

At times, Baird struggles to balance the tone of Hank’s whimsical enthusiasm with the sharp intensity of the Soviet spy. In total, Tetris is a thrilling romp full of humor, heart and a moving message of hope.

Tetris reviewed since its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival(Opens in a new tab). The film will debut on Apple TV+ on March 31.

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