By: Amanda Guarragi
Whether you’re an avid gamer or not, video games have been developed for decades. These games are distributed globally, but the story of their production is rarely discussed. Tetris is one of the oldest games that found success through multiple avenues, as we learn in Tetris, directed by Jon S. Baird. This is the story of how one businessman named Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) and the inventor of the game Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) joined forces in the USSR, risking it all to bring Tetris to the world. Even though it sadly does fall under the generic spell of biopics, it’s still interesting to see everything game developers and publishers have to go through to get the game to consumers.
The first half of Tetris starts in a fun way because they used the 8-bit game animations to help give backstory to the developers. Baird showed all the corporations involved through the animation and where they worked. It was like placing every block at the bottom at the beginning of starting a new level of Tetris. However, the animation’s strength in the film’s first section didn’t last. Before heading to the USSR, Baird wanted to integrate animation to make it visually interesting. Egerton’s performance as Henk Rogers carried the entire film, even when it turned into a dark, political drama halfway through. It also made the tone shift jarring and disappointing, to the point where the second act dragged to the end.
The best part about Tetris was when Henk Rogers visited Nintendo, and they showed him the first handheld Gameboy Advance. Tetris would be paired with Super Mario, which makes the most sense as a starter pack. Watching the section at Nintendo headquarters made me realize that biopics about game development, especially for a big-name console, would be interesting to explore in a film or series. Only if they make the project visually interesting and do not fall into historical drama territory like this one. The main reason why this film didn’t work was because of the dullness that had fallen on the USSR at the time. Of course, it will be historically accurate, but there are ways to integrate the energy from the beginning to keep the audience engaged.
Tetris, directed by Jon S. Baird, had the potential to be a solid biopic that uniquely explores game development, but its history got in the way. It was almost as if they didn’t want to go too bold and stray away from the truth of that dark time. The focus was on the USSR and Pajitnov, which took away from the actual colourful creation of the game itself. It would have made for a great gaming biopic if it was balanced between the two. This isn’t to say there isn’t a market for this type of film. If anything, it would be nice to see projects surrounding the development of other video game products or even Super Mario and Nintendo because its beloved by so many. If you’re a huge gamer or just a fan of Taron Egerton, then check this out. The film will be streaming on Apple TV Plus on March 31st.