Apple Tetris Movie is 80’s Retro Fun

Apple Tetris Movie is 80’s Retro Fun
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Apple Tetris Movie is 80’s Retro Fun. Most of the 80’s video game industry is a rubble of nostalgia and happy memories. If you flip back to the game, and give it another spin? It’s like dust in the wind. This is pretty much true of every game on the Atari 2600 (except Adventure), Intellivision (Burgertime? Come on), and most of the Nintendo games… (except the Marios, Zelda, etc., of course…), but you get my point. The video games of the 80’s created the infrastructure for the truly great games of the 90’s and aughts, but there weren’t many standout classics you would play today. That isn’t true of Tetris.

Apple’s movie Tetris is a must see movie for a couple of reasons… 1) it’s campy, 2) it’s an ‘as told to narrative’ style as old as the hills, 3) it’s 100% about a guy who puts it all on the line… and!? And what. Exactly. It’s a great story. Does he land the deal? Or does he collapse under the weight of the size of their expectations?

First things first – this is a Hollywood movie. There are car chases. And Mob Bosses. Guns. And while the movie did hew closely to the broad strokes of how Tetris came to the west, it is still just that… a movie. Henk Rogers has said that both he and Alexy Pajitnov reviewed the script and gave them notes. But, Rogers is on record as saying, “It’s a Hollywood script; it’s a movie. It’s not about history, so a lot of [what’s in the movie] never happened.” Now, he did defend the film by emphasizing that the producers wanted to “capture the darkness and the brooding” that he felt during his time trying to get the rights to Tetris in then-Soviet Russia. So, “they tried their best to accept our changes when they had to do with authenticity. But when it started getting into the car chase and all that, it was like, ‘OK, now it’s all them.’ We couldn’t change anything.” Which, I totally get.

The movie opens in with Henk Rogers, and his own failed video game version of Go. And during a video game conference he first runs into Tetris, bound and determined to snag the rights to the game, he goes all in to license it and partner with Nintendo. Then, the story flips, and we watch as Alexy Pajitnov, the original creator of the game (which was originally made with two brackets for each block because the Russian machines didn’t have any graphics capabilities) gets pinched by the wheels of the Soviet Union. I mean, after all, when the Communist party has to outlaw your video game from all government computers because no one is getting any work done, you know you have a hit on your hands.

Having secured the console and arcade rights to Tetris – Robert Maxwell, a business tycoon with the original rights, squeezes Henk out of the arcade rights. But having already negotiated with Nintendo on the console rights, Henk has to double back to Nintendo in order to get a loan against future sales… in order to figure out how to renegotiate with Maxwell. All of this gets very murky, at best, but it’s regularly punctuated by 8-bit cut scenes and clever segue way graphics tie it all together.

Apple Tetris Movie is 80's Retro Fun

As the movie heads through to the final third, Henk goes all in on attempting to secure the rights to this obvious future gang-buster sales driver. The movie basically shows us how Henk, a Dutch-Indonesian expat living and working out of Japan where he and his wife and children live. The story makes it abundantly clear how shady the deals are between multi-billionaire Maxwell, his son Keen (Mr. Maxwell!) and businessman Robert Stein. The problem? No one thought to get permission from the Soviets. And it is the Russians that definitely work the hardest to undermine the video game savant within their midst.

And it’s in Russia that the story kicks into overdrive. Pajitnov? He’s in a very precarious position. It is here that we start to see the framing of the conflict not as a video game journey, but rather, an East/West conflict of competing political agendas. The government officials know only that they want to neutralize this existential threat.

But where Tetris, the Apple TV film, really hits its stride? Is for us old-timers that remember bootlegged copies of Tetris bouncing around BBS servers, before it was ever formalized to Nintendos and Arcades. We were already impacted by the Tetris Effect, long before the first Nintendo cartridge ever hit the first store shelves.

Edited by: CY