Tetris: the movie

Movies such as Prince of Persia, Resident Evil and Need for Speed have been doing extremely well lately, making hundreds of millions of dollars at the box-office. That’s the smartest way Hollywood has found to make big hits, and of course big money. And movies based on video games have almost become a new genre.

Actually, for movie companies it’s easier to sell a movie with pre-existing characters and stories that  audiences are already familiar with. But what about a completely abstract game without characters and without a plot? Threshold Entertainment Group, the production company that turned the Mortal Kombat video-game into films, recently came with a strange idea and annouced plans to make a new movie based on the legendary puzzle game ‘Tetris’. This is a marketing ploy as Tetris celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year.

Tetris’ importance is undeniable as a video game but the idea it could function as a movie is not obvious. “Everyone knows that Tetris is one of the best known, most beloved brands in the world,” said Threshold chairman Larry Kasanoff, producer of the movie. “What everyone doesn’t know yet is this epic sci-­fi story that we’re going to tell. That’s what’s really exciting.”

So it will be a sci-fi movie, but no more information has been leaking for the moment. This raises some questions: Will the famous shapes, called “Tetriminos” be really featured on screen? If so, will they be a danger ? Or is the story based on Tetris geek players ? The people at Tetris remain purposedly mysterious: the release has to be a surprise. According to Kasanoff “This isn’t a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We’re not giving feet to the geometric shapes.”

What’s interesting here is the way cinema has become a business beyond simply selling movies. Kasanoff has understood it, “Brands are the new stars of Hollywood”. All is about marketing. Latest example, the Lego movie has been a success because children knew the building game. And lots of movie companies make contracts to place products, even though it doesn’t yield so much to the production. Movies are becoming products. It’s becoming more and more common to buy children by-products of their favorite characters. So much that some fiction characters become actual brands. Mickey Mouse is now a major selling brand.

So we can say the concept of a Tetris movie follows the trend of product placement. Of course, nowadays this video game is more than a brand, it’s a part of our collective knowledge. As Tetris company’s Henk Rogers said : “What started as a simple, computer puzzle game 30 years ago, today is part of our global consciousness, connecting people of all ages and backgrounds and feeding our innate desire to create order out of chaos” . But cinema is a mirror, a media that talks to us about our world and our time. So what to think of this movie project ? Are we now living in a time when brands, such as Tetris, are the true main characters ? For now it’s hard to know if that movie is an original idea or a simple marketing trick. But time will probably tell.


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