We have previously discussed the announcement a few years ago about a movie based on the Tetris franchise. Film producer Larry Kasanoff, probably best known for his work on the Mortal Kombat series of movies, recently said some words about his current project, the appropriately titled Untitled Tetris Sci-fi Project. In an interview with Empire, he informed the world that this Tetris project would, in fact, be a TRILOGY of movies, to stand alongside such classic trilogies as the I Know What You Did Last Summer trilogy, the Delta Force trilogy, and the BloodRayne trilogy. Actually, given disaster producer Uwe Boll’s involvement in the BloodRayne trilogy, that may not be a bad comparison.
Now, the producer has stated that this epic trilogy will not feature anthropomorphized giant blocks with hands and feet. In fact, he seems pleased that people expected that. “We’re not going to have blocks with feet running around the movie, but it’s great that people think so. It sets the bar rather low!” In the alternative, he continues to emphasize that this will be a big sci-fi movie experience. “I came up with the idea as I was thinking about Tetris and the theme of creating order out of chaos.” Apparently, Kasanoff has more respect for the thematic depth of Tetris than I do.
Movies based on video games are nothing new. Producer Larry Kasanoff already made his mark on the genre with 1995’s reasonably successful movie, Mortal Kombat. Others have tried, most of them with little actual success. But what concerned me with the original Tetris movie announcement and this more recent trilogy announcement is the fundamental lack of narrative or storytelling depth of Tetris.
There’s something to be said about taking a game with some sort of story, no matter how flimsy or poorly conceived, and trying to restructure it into a cinematic experience. There are characters, themes, and vague story lines that a creative writer (or, a mediocre film making hack) can re-purpose into a 90 minute story. It can be done well or it can be done poorly, but there is a clear direction for what the movie will be about.
But that isn’t the case here. We are talking about the classic puzzle game developed by Russian game designer Alexey Pajitnov. There are no characters. There is no story. You drop pieces of a puzzle into a pile and make them disappear. This game has all the narrative pop of taking out the garbage. It may be that the closest comparison to a Tetris movie is the 2012 “military thriller” Battleship, based on the classic board game, or maybe even the 2016 family film Angry Birds, based on the popular toilet-time-waster. Neither of those games had much of a particular story and both were adapted into successful (or, at least profitable) cinematic experiences. But at least those games had a theme that the “writers” were able to latch on to. Or, in the case of Angry Birds, recognizable characters. Tetris has none of these things.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand the public skepticism concerning this Tetris movie trilogy. ‘I guarantee you it’s not what you think,” Kasanoff told Empire. It’s difficult to imagine any sort of movie based on the popular puzzle game, so his assertion is valid. “No-one has come remotely close to figuring out what we’re doing.” At least we don’t need to worry about a weird spaceship full of astronauts that correspond to Tetris blocks.