News has come out about a Tetris movie adaptation. A joint Sino-American production, the budget is reported as $80 million, far less than the typical blockbuster. Yet, the question remains.
For those unfamiliar with Tetris, the goal is to rotate falling blocks of varying shapes into position to clear lines, with the best scores coming from clearing four lines at once. The game combines hand-eye coordination with spatial recognition. There is no cast of characters, no plot, just falling blocks. Yet, according to the report, the Tetris movie will be an “epic sci-fi thriller”. Does this mean the characters in the movie have to discover the source of falling blocks that cause city blocks to completely disappear?
It has been said that video game movies suck. This sentiment can be traced to movies such as Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter: The Movie. Both of those movies were based of games that had actual characters and, at the minimum, a background to explain the reason for the action. The video game Super Mario Bros. III has a plot, albeit the simple scour a world to rescue the princess. Tetris doesn’t have that, just falling tetrominos that need to be fit into empty spaces that won’t cause the wall of bricks to get too high.
What the proposed Tetris movie does have in its favour is Larry Kasanoff, the producer of the Mortal Kombat movie, a film that showed that it is possible to have a video game movie that was enjoyable. The Tetris movie will also have a cast mixing Western and Chinese actors. Right now, though, it looks like associating the movie with the video game is more to get people to notice the work instead of being a faithful adaptation.
In contrast, here is what Kevin Smith said about helming a Buckaroo Banzai TV series:
“I’ve been tapped to adapt BUCKAROO BANZAI into a series, which is something of a dream come true: I’ve loved the 1984 movie since I was a kid. My well-read copy of the film’s novelization by screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch is my Bible. But I’m not gonna be directing this alone: it is my intent to assemble a dream team of cult movie directors for the 10 episodes of this #BuckarooBanzai series – folks like #DonnieDarko director Richard Kelly, #ShaunOfTheDead director @edgar_wright and of course, the #Banzai director himself – WD Richter. Same with the writing: I want to bring in the creator Rauch himself to write the flashback episode detailing the night the red Lectroids came to Earth (with the help of #OrsonWelles and his War of the Worlds broadcast.) The other scripts will be penned by other #BlueBlazeIrregulars who worship this flick like I do. Cast-wise, I’m hoping to get the great Peter Weller to play Team Banzai’s greatest enemy, Hanoi Xan! And any cast member from the original who wants to play is gonna be welcomed like returning conquering heroes. Long story short? Don’t worry: I’m not gonna #KevinSmith this Banzai series at all. It’s gonna be 100% true Buckaroo. Which means the watermelon will NEVER be explained. #MGM #yoyodyne #buckaroobanzaiagainsttheworldcrimeleague”
Smith is making the effort to keep the elements he enjoyed about the original film. The Tetris movie, with the announcement, isn’t making that same effort. It feels much like Hasbro’s accouncements for movies based on their properties, Battleship, Candyland, and Monopoly. The movie is being made to cash in on the name, and Battleship showed why that’s not always a good idea.
However, it is still early, with just the announcement of a Tetris movie. Threshold Global Studios, the partnership behind the movie, wants to create films that bring the East and West together, which isn’t a bad idea. Here’s hoping that the Tetris movie does well enough to keep the partnership going.