Tetris: An unexpectedly thrilling tale about legal rights dispute
While contemporary popular culture doesn't quite recognise its ubiquitous presence as being worthy of celebration, Tetris has been one of the highest-selling video games ever for quite some time now. The game is incredibly simple and infinitely replayable, leading to popularity amongst people of all ages.
Behind the experience of the actual gameplay, however, lies a convoluted story of greed, friendship, and the complexity of distribution rights.
Tetris (2023) is a very fictionalised – and an incredibly fun – story that follows the legal drama that went into acquiring the rights for the game, leading up to the release of the Game Boy version and its subsequent stratospheric success.
Set mostly in 1988, the movie follows Henk Rogers in a spellbinding performance by Taron Egerton as he navigates through the complex waters of corporate bureaucracy in an attempt to acquire handheld console rights all the way from Russia, then known as the Soviet Union. As someone with very little knowledge about how the whole situation unfolded, I found the movie to be surprising in many parts. In the opening scene, we see the actual creation of the game, coded by Soviet programmer Alexey Pajitnov, briefly glossed over. This then follows a rather 80's style spy thriller of sorts where Henk eventually finds himself in the Soviet Union and manages to befriend Alexey.
In terms of the story, while it does tend to drag on in the middle somewhere, the overarching experience is, simply put, fun. From the get-go, we are put in a race against time and other interested parties as Henk moves from country to country resolving one legal issue after another. While too much legal jargon risks boring the audience, it is Taron Egerton's standout performance that keeps the ship afloat throughout the entirety of the film.
All of this is also presented coated with segments of 8-bit graphic art to give the film more personality from a visual standpoint. And frankly, it most certainly works. Toward the end of the film, there's a car chase scene that's filled with visual quirks and 8-bit artwork that stands out quite a bit. While these visual quirks may certainly take many away from the movie, they mostly helped to give the film a distinct and memorable look.
Another thing that stood out to me was the movie's score. Every track accompanying a scene was distinctly synth-wave from the 80s and was curated with absolute care. The retro-futuristic sounds of a bygone era brought to life with such energy helped carry the momentum of the film even in its slower scenes.
The direction of the film, while adequate, serves mainly to keep the movie afloat over legal jargon and historical namedrops. The real story is obviously labyrinthine and tied into corporate and political situations of the time. The movie skims through – or even blatantly ignores – a lot of it, and hands the audience an experience that is very cinematic but not necessarily always truthful.
It is up to the viewer to decide whether they want to allow the unfaithfulness to affect their experience because everything else the movie offers is, albeit rough around the edges, still very much worth a watch.
Raian likes liking things and he likes to think that you also like liking things. Reach out to him about the things you like at IG: @raian_is_burning