"Sexy" is probably not a word most people would immediately reach for when describing the videogame Tetris, and yet the first trailer for the new Tetris film coming to Apple TV makes it look downright hot.
It's hard to overstate the impact of Tetris. Developed by engineer Alexey Pajitnov, it was originally released in the Soviet Union in 1984 and made its way to the West a few years later. That was a big deal in itself: At that point in history the USSR was still largely closed to the Western world. But once it went wide, it was a massive hit on just about every platform you can name, and it remains one of the best selling videogames of all time.
But it was also very staid. Colorful tetrominoes (that's what the little Tetris blocks are called) drop from the top of the screen, you arrange them into complete lines, the lines disappear, continue ad infinitum. Clever and catchy as hell, yes, but Grand Theft Auto 5 it is not.
Which is what makes the trailer for the Tetris film headed to Apple TV in March so interesting. It starts as a predictable paean to Pajitnov's creation, complete with a look at the game in its original monochromatic form and star Taron Egerton singing its praises: "It's poetry. Art and math all working in magical synchronicity. It's... it's the perfect game."
But then it takes a weird shift. Out of nowhere, a prototype Gameboy appears, which launches Egerton on a trip to the Soviet Union—not the friendliest place in the world to fast-talking Americans looking to make a buck. In short order he ends up dealing with various apparatchik functionaries, Mikhail Gorbachev, and some happily-violent gangsters, none of whom are very eager to let the golden goose slip away without claiming their share of the eggs.
It's no doubt heavily fictionalized (for one thing, Egerton's character in the film, Henk Rogers, is described as an "American videogame salesman," but he's actually Dutch), but there's a kernel of truth to it. The battle for the Western rights to Tetris on various platforms was incredibly convoluted, and much of it took place without the knowledge of Elorg, the Soviet agency that controlled software imports and exports, and thus should have had final say on the matter. The whole thing eventually filtered down to a legal battle between Atari and Nintendo which Nintendo ultimately won, and thus was the world of videogames changed forever.
So did the creator of Tetris ever blast a classic Lada Signet down busy Moscow streets with the KGB in hot pursuit while keyboard-driven hair metal blared in the background? I don't know, and frankly I don't expect this movie will accurately fill us in on that particular point. But that's okay, because it looks like a lot of fun—and we know that when all is said and done, it's a happy ending for everyone.
Tetris is set to debut on Apple TV+ (opens in new tab) on March 31.