The first half of Apple TV’s new Tetris is a winner for fans of classic video games and tales of emerging technologies. The second half of Apple TV’s new Tetris is a winner for fans of intricate entrepreneurial negotiation, cold war politics and arguing in general.
Unfortunately, viewers lacking this particular collision of interests are in for a slightly dull hour one way or another – or indeed a dull pair of hours if neither sphere holds much draw.
It’s a curious film: it tries to marry quirky video game elements of presentation with an edge of Soviet-era threat, and the result is that sought-after tension melts away. The feature is perhaps a unique example of portraying the flouncing of laws in Cold War Russia without any major sense that the perpetrators are in actual danger as a result.
These slights aside, Tetris does have some things going for it. Taron Egerton is commendable in the role of video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers, a complex character with a slightly irresistible verve, but a frustrating habit of prioritising video game development over family values. The movie is also funny, with the humour well poised and sparingly deployed, offsetting the array of austere KGB affiliates that are encountered. The final edit is also charming and effective. Animated additions in a pixelated 8-bit style adorn the establishing shots preceding scenes (almost invariably a discussion surrounding the purchase of some intellectual property rights) and even spruce up the car chase with a little impact detailing – all very pleasing to the retro gaming fan.
Tetris has mustered an impressive amount of cinematic material given the relatively placid series of real-world events upon which it is based. There is excitement here for the viewer who takes a particular interest, but the seemingly interminable rights negotiations drag on too much in the end for it to bear a big universal appeal.
Tetris is released on Apple TV+ on 31st March 2023.
Watch the trailer for Tetris here: