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A Tetris movie, seriously? Hollywood’s brand obsession continues


Here’s the upside of “Tetris: The Movie,” or whatever they’re going to call it: Devoted fan-boys and fan-girls won’t go berserk over character casting or plot reworks, like they do for any Jane Austen or Batman reboot. . . because Tetris doesn’t have any plot or characters!

Well, there’s the downside, too. In announcing plans to adapt the geometry-based video game — perhaps the first real addiction of Gen-X and Millenials — Threshold Entertainment brings us latest proof of creative restrictions and utter desperation in Hollywood, where financing is next to unattainable unless a movie is based on some known entity.

“Brands are the new stars of Hollywood,” production company chairman Larry Kasanoff told the Wall Street Journal.

He’s not wrong. Hollywood is churning out product-placement-as-entertainment, and game-and-toy behemoths like Hasbro are leading the charge: It has a production division responsible for the Transformers franchise, G.I. Joe movies and “Battleship.” Next up: movies based on Ouija, Jem and the Holograms and Candy Land. Threshold already turned the video game “Mortal Kombat” into a successful movie, which spawned a sequel, as well as a live stage show.

“The LEGO Movie” is the third highest-grossing movie for 2014 thus far, with $257 million domestically, just ahead of “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” at $245 million. Number one and two? Adaptations of beloved comic books, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (Everything else in the top 10 is an adaptation or sequel.)

So you can see why film executives are tempted to just find a familiarsomething and turn it into a movie. But the box-office reality is a little more complex. People aren’t going to movies as much as they used to. Even with “Guardians’” huge returns, the summer box office was down 20 percent. People are either willing to wait for movies to be available for home viewing, or they aren’t watching the movies at all.

Meanwhile, even familiar stories falter. If it’s nostalgia you’re going to, returning to the land of Oz seems smart. Yet this year’s pricey animated “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” was a bust — a $70 million budget, only $8 million domestic receipts. Same goes for both Hercules movies, “The Expendables 3” and “Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For.”

As 1980s video games go, “The Legend of Zelda” or “Donkey Kong” would be more cinematic — distinctive characters, good-versus-evil narratives. What could a Tetris movie possibly look like? Probably nothing like the game. You probably won’t be sitting in a theater watching animated shapes dribble down the screen. This version will be live action, but don’t expect Adam Driver to play tall, skinny shape you need to complete your wall.

What’s next? A sci-fi epic about Dyson Airblades, or a quirky romance about Roto-Rooter? Or “Netflix: The Movie”? The trailer narration practically writes itself: In a world where all of the blockbusters are derivative, one discouraged movie fan vows to stay home and binge watch “Orange Is the New Black.”

By Stephanie Merry

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