I’m not certain I even need to describe Tetris. It’s considered by many to be the greatest video game of all time. It has sold over a hundred million copies since it’s debut back in 1984, from it’s humble beginnings in mother Russia. Players manipulate puzzle pieces called ‘tetrominoes’ on a screen as the pieces fall to the bottom. If the player is able to create a horizontal line without any gaps, then the line vanishes, points are distributed, and the game continues. If the player fills the screen with pieces without creating lines, then the game is over.
I shouldn’t have to explain Tetris.¹
It’s hard to fathom exactly how far the cultural impact of Tetris is felt. Everyone I know has played Tetris at some point. There’s been hundreds of puzzle games that owe their concept to Tetris. The famed Tetris song, which is actually a Russian folk song called ‘Korobeiniki’, is instantly recognizable. Studies have been done that suggest that the mind is more efficient after playing Tetris, and this is even referred to as the ‘Tetris Effect’. Tetris truly is a video game masterpiece.
Here’s what the original song sounds like.
And they are making a movie about it.
Wait, did I say one movie? Because now they’re thinking about expanding the movie into a Trilogy. The story I’ve linked states it’s pretty much a done deal, but I’m still reeling over the fact they are making one Tetris film. A movie, about Tetris. There is going to be a movie based on a puzzle game where the objective is to create lines with geometry shapes. I am literally scratching my head right now, as the idea of basing a movie on the Tetris franchise is making my scalp itchy and bothersome.
Now, it would be absolutely fascinating if it told the story of the developer of Tetris, one Alexey Pajitnov. I mean, here’s a guy who built this little game for the Academy of Science of the USSR, and it exploded into the phenomenon it is today. A game created and released just before the end of the cold war. The man went on to work for Microsoft. That would make for an interesting movie, a Russian man who left his legacy on the world with Tetris going on to work for the largest software company on the planet.
But the film we’re going to see is apparently a Action Sci-fi Adventure picture, shot in China in 2017, with a budget of $80 million dollars. They really do seem bent on making a trilogy of it, too.
I’m more than a little hesitant, because:
A) Hollywood typically doesn’t handle movies based on games very well.
B) The Hobbit, the masterful book by J.R Tolkien, was a stretch at three film.
C) It’s a game about solving a puzzle.
Now, movies in the past based on games have done well in the past, and they’ve also done miserably. Clue, released in 1985 with Tim Curry, was a great example of a board game turned into a live action movie. It was funny, well written, and featured three different endings, with different endings playing in different theatres. Battleship, released in 2012 with Liam Neeson and Rihanna, was a bad example of a board game turned into a live action movie. It wasn’t very good, and was panned by critics.
Video game movie adaptations have fared much worse. There’s not a lot of good examples of great movies based on video games, in fact, most of them are terrible. Actually, I’m certain every single one of them is terrible. Here’s a list from Wikipedia. Fun fact, not one of them managed to get over a fifty percent rating on either Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. Not one. There’s movies based on gaming that are a novel, well thought out approach, like Tron and WarGames. But if your movie is going to be based on an actual game with the intention of a theatrical release, then the odds of it being actually good is slim. Out of the 29 movies made based on a video game, zero of them were actually worth watching.
Even at ten years old I knew this was bad.²
Video games are great at being video games. They are terrible at being movies. Tetris as a game is worth playing and challenging. If you’re wondering how the movies are going to turn out, I might be able to help you solve that problem. They are going to be atrocious.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. I lied. Price of Persia scored a 50/100 on Metacritic, and Mortal Kombat scored 58/100.
p.s.s. Don’t sit here and tell me that Mortal Combat was good. It wasn’t. Go watch it again and find out I’m right.
¹ Picture taken from Wikipedia.