This a spoiler-free review, but please read it at your own risk.
Tetris is one of the best selling video games of all time, outranking well known titles such as Pokemon Gold, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Skyrim.
The story behind this video game is not well known by the masses, but this movie crafts it in a way that makes you fall back in love with the game and the soundtrack in what feels like an action movie.
For the entire two hours I was hooked, and it left me feeling like I wanted more. I want more video game development movies, and I want them now!
As soon as you press play the movie pulls you in, giving you an insight into the what the game is and how the main character known as Henk Rogers discovers Tetris in 1988.
His immediate obsession is well directed, and the editing alongside the impactful nostalgic soundtrack makes it easy to understand his love for the game.
The set, alongside costume design, vehicles, and props makes you feel like you’re in the 80’s, especially when the opening scene starts at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Director Jon S Baird sets up the movie flawlessly.
Which leads me onto the first 30 minutes.
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The first 30 minutes were incredibly fast paced. The editing felt like it was some kind of long-form Tik-Tok video. It featured constant cuts, voice over from the main actor and pixelated visual overlays that showed consoles, text and transitions that kept me glued.
Within this timeframe I knew the backstory of Henk Rogers, where the game was made, who made it, and what the problems were to obtain the rights.
It was a flawless setup for a video game movie, and it kept everything simple so that newcomers who have never played Tetris, would understand yet was filled with enough retro nods and features that it keeps retro gaming enthusiasts hooked.
I really do think that Jon S Baird understood that the attention span of media consumers has dropped significantly over the last 10 years, and used this to his advantage for the introduction.
If you’re on the fence about watching Tetris (The Movie), I advise watching the introduction; you’ll find yourself half way through the movie without even realising it.
Quite simply, the plot is about how Tetris found its ways to players around the globe, and follows Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) on a journey that introduces him to the game, and has to secure the rights from Russia in order to secure a deal with Nintendo.
There are double-crossing villains, unlikely heroes, wholesome characters and a nail-biting storyline that keeps pace with the game itself.
Tetris is a fun, fast-paced movie that gives you an insight into how difficult it was to obtain the rights to a game that was developed in the Soviet Union, in a time when Russia didn’t like the United States of America.
On paper, you wouldn’t think a story about securing rights to a video game int he 80’s would be interesting, but Jon S Baird pulled it off, even if he had to over-dramatise the real story.
Taron Egerton plays Henk Rogers incredibly well; there were no issues with his American accent, and he secured a young, energetic entrepreneurial performance that added to the intensity of the movie.
His character would often crack jokes, would look at the glass half full and have a child-like nature to his decisions that would soo bite him in the butt further into the story.
There were obvious and not so obvious antagonists in the movie that played a pivotal role in making Henk Rogers feel like he was chasing the clock. Throughout the entire movie I was cheering Henk on, hoping he would get the job done and make Nintendo and his family proud.
There were pivotal moments that changed the direction of the movie and characters that double-crossed out of nowhere, keeping me on my toes and wondering if Henk and the inventor of Tetris would ever have a happy ending.
The soundtrack played a big part in making the movie feel nostalgic, and the original theme tune was edited in a countless number of ways to change the emotion in certain scenes.
For example, you can hear the 8-bit sounds of Tetris when he is pitching Tetris to his bosses in a slower BPM, and also when Henk is in a toe-curling car chase scene towards the end, each musical piece has been tweaked slightly to entice a certain emotion in the viewer.
The soundtrack is superb, up there with Tron: Legacy.
Were there parts of the movie that I disliked? Yes, absolutely, no movie is perfect.
What stood out to me where a few things, firstly, I noticed about half way through the movie that i grabbed my phone to “check social media”.
This in itself is not a good sign for any production. Without me spoiling anything it was at a part in the movie that had a lot of back and forth in the storyline.
It dived deeper into the rights, who owned it, who wanted to own it, who didn’t own it, requiring the director to go back and forth between conversations by a select few characters.
This part of the movie admittedly bored me a little, and it could have been edited into half the time. But that being said, it was the only part of the movie that didn’t hook me and it only lasted for about 20 minutes.
I also noticed some poor visual effects, more specifically the use of green screening in some shots and in the car scenes. If I noticed this, then i am sure many film critics did too, and this leads me onto the whole production value of the movie.
I am not sure how much Apple TV spent on production costs for this movie, but I can certainly see areas where budget seems to have been constricted.
For example, there’s not really that many actors through the 2 hour production, I can only really remember approximately 10 characters.
I also noticed that there wasn’t many sets. I am not sure if this is the professional word to use, but the movie goes back and forth between a few countries, for example USA, London, Russia and Japan.
Each had only a few sets per country, for example Henk’s office, Henk’s home, Nintendo’s offices, Russian governments offices and so on, making myself less immersed into the surroundings and instead focusing on the storyline, characters and props.
Here you can get a sense that it wasn’t a huge budget, and nor it should be; this is a movie for a very niche audience, but it was noticeable to a point where the sets got repetitive.
Overall Tetris (The Movie) is an incredibly fast-paced production that shows the historic story behind one of the world’s most popular video games and how it came to become a worldwide hit.
It showed the difficulty behind game development in Russia during the 80’s, but it shined light on how this era was a pivotal moment for the gaming industry.
The low production budget did shine through on occasion, and some moments were a little repetitive, but it was saved by the quick pace and an incredible soundtrack.
If you are a fan of Tetris and love a fast-paced movie that keeps you on your toes, this is one to watch.
Tetris comes to AppleTV on the 31st March 2023.
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A 31 year old British fella that’s had a Gameboy ever since he was a child. Brandon is the founder of RetroDodo and has created a YouTube channel with 260,000 subscribers dedicated to retro gaming products. He now wants to create the No.1 site to showcase the latest retro products from around the globe.