How Does the ‘Tetris’ Movie on Apple TV+ Stack Up?
“This game isn’t just addictive. It stays with you. It’s poetry, art and math all working in magical synchronicity. It’s the perfect game.”
That’s how Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) describes the titular video game in the Apple TV+ movie Tetris (premiering March 31), based on the incredible true story of how the beloved video game was created by Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) in the communist Soviet Union during the 1980s and eventually made its way into the Free World and the free market.
Rogers, who owned Bullet-Proof Software, got hooked on Tetris after seeing the game at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and bought the arcade rights to the game in Japan. When Rogers learned that Nintendo planned to launch the handheld Game Boy, he convinced Nintendo to bundle the game with the system. But first, he had to obtain the rights.
Getting intellectual property rights out of the Soviet Union was a daunting task, considering that the game was owned by the state and Pajitnov couldn’t capitalize on it. With a tremendous amount of money at stake, Rogers tenaciously pursued a deal with Soviet officials, fending off similar moves to acquire by Tetris by Robert Maxwell of Mirrorsoft and Robert Stein of Andromeda Software.
The film, which includes Rogers and Pajitnov as executive producers, is an entertaining, engrossing story of greed, corruption, deception, international intrigue and the lengths people went — albeit for huge profits — to bring the “perfect game” to the West.
Tetris was the primary reason I wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas circa 1989. I still have my NES and my Tetris cartridge, and I use both from time to time. Recently, the Nintendo Switch added Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles to its online offerings, and Tetris is among them. Having played it a lot in the past few weeks, I can pretty much confirm that Tetris is the perfect game. It’s timeless and can be enjoyed by all gamers at any age or skill level.
Did Tetris contribute to the downfall of communism? In one scene, it’s revealed that Tetris was played by so many workers that the government had to have it blocked on computers. The film also suggests that Soviet officials were concerned that the Tetris deal might open up the floodgates to foreign capitalist enterprise in the country.
It’s also a reminder of that period in the late 1980s and early ’90s in which Eastern Europe was finally shaking off the shackles of the Eastern Bloc, and it seemed like the world could put the Cold War behind.
Given the current state of Russia in global politics, Tetris the movie is a nostalgic look back at a time when Russia seemed ready to wake up from history.