Well-known for taking on the role of Elton John in the 2019 biopic Rocketman, actor Taron Egerton now takes on the lead in this year’s Tetris, a biopic involving the beloved video game. But if you’re expecting an exciting retelling of the game inventor’s life and how they came to create it, you’d be mistaken. Tetris plays out as a convoluted snoozefest that doesn’t even tell that history, but instead focuses on the licensing and patenting of the game in the late 1980s.
Henk Rogers (Egerton) is a Dutch-American entrepreneur who travels around, hoping to secure video game rights. The film starts on a point in Rogers’ career at the Las Vegas trade show. There, he witnesses a demo for the tile-matching puzzle game Tetris, created by Alexey Pajitnov. Rogers soon becomes interested in bringing the game to Japan, where he lives with his family. The rest of the film evolves as a retelling of Rogers’ journey to try to get the rights to the game, interacting with Nintendo, the USSR, the KGB, and more along the way.
This could’ve unraveled an interesting story, but instead, it’s a tiresome film that doesn’t seem to settle on what it wants to be. It’s a mishmosh of genres and gimmicks, leading to a confusing and uncommitted narrative that’s ultimately not worth following. With the opening sequence, Tetris first begins to utilize 8-bit animation, akin to that of the video game, leading the viewer to think it may be quite a lively picture. But thanks to the underwhelming hodgepodge of a screenplay, it doesn’t pair well.
Although not as high-caliber, the film is reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), with its exciting visual effects, while the messy and dull storyline unravels in stark contrast. The screenplay itself doesn’t set itself in one particular tone, choosing instead to throw in elements of dramas, action films, comedies, thrillers, and spy films — especially with its abundance of Cold War stereotypes. Of course genre-blending films can work, but here this particular blend just becomes hard to take seriously, on top of just being pretty boring.
To make things worse, the characters are for the most part flat and not well-developed. For one, we barely get any understanding of who the central character of Rogers is throughout the near two-hour long runtime, besides a deal maker interested in the game of Tetris. The film laces in some bits about his family, but it’s all underbaked. We’re introduced to his wife and kids onscreen, but the plot lines involving them are just half-assed family drama bits, wherein his family members—each of whom we don’t even really get to properly know—just appear and disappear whenever the filmmakers sought to create some extra tension.
And while none of the performances are outright awful, none are particularly great either. Sure, given how the screenplay turned out, the actors didn’t have the best material to work with, but none of them stand out in a way that could potentially make the film worth watching.
All this totals to a skippable film. Something like Wikipedia is surely the better option for gaining clearer and more interesting insight on the licensing and patenting of Tetris, and actually playing the game is surely your best choice for a fun and nostalgia-filled time.
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With all the many biopics these days, Tetris will likely become another forgotten one amongst them, thanks to its unfocused and exhaustive narrative.
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