Tetris is based on the real-life bidding war for the Russian video game, but it takes some extreme creative liberties that end up making the movie less entertaining. The AppleTV+ movie follows Henk Rogers, who learns about Tetris and attempts to buy the publishing rights to it, only he finds himself in too deep when he discovers that the rights actually belong to the state of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, Russia was still under a communist regime, and citizens couldn’t profit from their intellectual property. As a result, Henk works with Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov to buy the rights from the U.S.S.R.
Rogers did actually visit the U.S.S.R. on a tourist visa when he was conducting business, which was highly illegal and could have seen him imprisoned in the Soviet Union for years. The movie’s depiction of a bidding war with corrupt British tycoons is also true, but it indulges in some major creative license. Tetris sees Taron Egerton’s Henk get double-crossed by his interpreter, who turns out to be a KGB agent, which isn’t remotely true. But it escalates even further in the third act when a huge car chase takes place across Moscow, causing tons of structural and vehicular damage, and it’s the biggest problem in an otherwise solid biographical thriller.
The Tetris Movie Didn’t Need Action Scenes
At the end of Tetris, Alexey and Henk flee to the airport once Henk has gotten the rights to the game from Elorg, but several members of the KGB chase after him after being promised a percentage of Tetris‘ profits by newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell. It’s completely unnecessary, and it shows that Apple didn’t have faith in the material, but the studio should have, as the real-life moments are so engaging. The best parts of the film are the ones that are actually the truest to life.
The scenes that take place in Elorg where Nikolai bounces between rooms, negotiating with Maxwell, Robert Stein, and Henk, and playing them all against each other, are endlessly entertaining. And given the punchy dialogue in these scenes, it’s essentially an action scene where words are the bullets. Then there are the fun moments where Henk and Alexy bond and learn about each other’s cultures, which is completely unchanged from the true story. The action scenes are totally low stakes and overly silly, and it’s as if The Social Network ended with a car chase, which would completely undo the film’s impact and feel totally out of place.
Why The Tetris Movie Action Scenes May Alienate Some Viewers
The action sequences are well shot, and the digital effects where the action is recreated with Tetris pieces are a nice touch. But anybody who wants to see car chases will choose to watch an action movie, not a movie about Henk Rogers fighting for the licensing rights to Tetris. The final act of the movie is almost like a bait and switch, as AppleTV+ promised a riveting espionage biopic about a bidding war over Tetris, but it delivered a low-stakes action movie, especially in the last 20 minutes. Egerton even expressed, “It’s definitely more Social Network than Lego Movie” (via GQ), but that isn’t the case.