Tetris is a long-popular video game, featuring gameplay that has tiles falling from the sky and the player organizing them into straight lines. It was developed in the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, arriving in the U.S. on some of the early home game consoles including a very popular NES version that debuted in 1989. The game has since been adapted for every major gaming platform, including mobile, selling hundreds of millions of copies around the world.
There are no characters in the game – just puzzle pieces – nor is there a narrative or plot. So naturally, Tetris is going to be a movie.
As reported by Deadline, a deal has come together at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival that will lead to Tetris: The Movie. And while the game may have originated in Russia, the movie will be made possible by money from China.
Deadline describes the project as an $80 million co-production under Threshold Global Studios, a new banner formed by Chinese producer Bruno Wu and American producer Larry Kasanoff. The project, which has been in development since 2013, will film mostly in China, with a Chinese cast, and is described as a “sci-fi thriller” and the first part of a planned trilogy. Kasanoff described the idea as “not at all what you think; it will be a cool surprise.” Whether the release is China-only or will make its way to North America as well is unclear.
There is, needless to say, reason for skepticism here. How can Tetris work as a movie, where the source material provides no people, characters or storylines to speak of? And if the film takes shape as a sci-fi thriller, what connection does that have to the Tetris that audiences know?
Then again, in recent years filmmakers have come up with a lot of creative ways to position properties that didn’t sound especially cinematic. The LEGO Movie, as one example, was much more of a creative triumph than most observers likely thought when it was first announced. The Angry Birds Movie, which comes out this week, didn’t sound especially promising at first either, but the filmmakers found a way to make it interesting, while only briefly making use of the birds-flung-at-pigs-with-slingshots premise of the video game. And let’s not forget, Tetris has had over three decades of staying power, and is a well-known brand around the world.
Tetris: The Movie is set to film in 2017; no release date has been announced yet.