‘Tetris: The Movie’ Really Puts Life Into Perspective, Doesn’t It?

My fingers danced across the keyboard, but they kept repeating the same step over and over. All they could write was: Tetris: The Movie… Tetris: The Movie… Tetris: The Movie

Because that’s all there is now, isn’t there? Tetris: The Movie. An abstract concept with no characters or plot. Even the iconic music is in the public domain. And now there is a plan to turn Tetris into a movie, and it is being announced to the world as a brilliant decision. 

This is a video game that involves dropping blocks on top of other blocks, in an ongoing effort to make horizontal lines of blocks. So naturally the movie will cost $80 million and be an international co-production, from Chinese and American companies. It will also be a sci-fi thriller and it is intended to be the start of a trilogy.

Eight years ago, Tetris: The Movie was literally a joke. The idea that any production company would be so completely bankrupt of actual ideas for actual movies that they would try to turn Tetris into a film was the concept for a gag video on the internet, shot against a cheap green screen. And now it is a reality, and again, it will cost $80 million.

And so I sat here at the keyboard, trying to find some way to report this to the world, and for a while I couldn’t do it. There was a time when I could even. But this was so I can’t even, I couldn’t even I can’t even.

We have known for a very long time that production companies would happily swoop up the rights to any intellectual property, in the hopes that their pop culture ubiquity would translate into financial success. But we at least liked to imagine that there was some sort of rhyme or reason involved. Sure, there’s not much going on with the whole Trolls line of merchandising, but at least they’re characters, kind of. They have faces. They had big hair. Maybe you could tell a story about people with big hair who make real-life people with big hair feel better about having big hair? There’s an idea in there… maybe… kinda…

But Tetris doesn’t even have a face. Tetris is blocks. Any story you can come up with to go along with Tetris is something that, technically, you could have applied to just about anything else. Imagine if, instead of being asked to adapt The Lord of the Rings into a motion picture trilogy, you had to adapt the shape of a ring. That’s what’s going on here.

Nintendo

Nintendo

I have nothing but sympathy for the filmmakers of the world who will actually be tasked with making this movie happen, because I have every confidence that they will bust their ass trying to make it as good as possible. They will take years out of their lives, devoting all of their creative energies to the act of bringing Tetris to life. Sisyphus is probably grateful for his boulder when he thinks about that.

But let’s give them a little credit, and let’s imagine for a moment that somehow the filmmakers will actually find a way to pull this off. Even if Tetris: The Movie is a GOOD $80 million sci-fi thriller that launches a successful motion picture trilogy, then we’ll still have to live in a world where that actually happened. Is that really better? Is that the way you honestly want your movies to get made? 

Movies are one of the most expensive art forms on the planet, and that has always been one of their biggest problems. In order to justify spending millions of dollars, you have to be reasonably confident that you can MAKE millions of dollars. But sound financial investment doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with creative risk. And that works both ways. Taking a creative chance can get in the way of safe spending, but relying on “safe” ideas – like name brand recognition – and ignoring their lack of creative value is equally wasteful. Just ask the makers of the Geico Cavemen sitcom.

ABC

ABC

So when a production like Tetris: The Movie gets announced – as an $80 million sci-fi thriller and the start of a motion picture trilogy, mind you – it’s hard to keep pretending that the tail doesn’t wag this dog, that the art form we love isn’t being driven by a calculator. Icarus flew too close to the sun, and his wings melted, and he died. What I am beginning to wonder is if we’ve flown so far away from the sun that our wings are going to freeze over and produce basically the same effect.

Tetris: The Movie is officially a thing now. We have to deal with that. I invite you to go outside and take a walk around your neighborhood, and ask yourself honestly whether that’s actually the way you want your art to be produced. Don’t knee-jerk response on this one. Don’t assume that’s just the way life works. Life could work differently. All it takes is the desire and the will to make it so.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Top Photo: Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved, Rapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.