Well, here’s one way to do guilt-free true crime: just don’t mention it. The trailer for Tetris, a film about the behind-the-scenes effort to acquire the rights to Tetris and bring it out of the USSR and to game consoles around the world, dropped yesterday.
The film stars Taron Egerton as Henk Rogers, the man who negotiated a rights dispute that led to Nintendo licensing Tetris for the Game Boy, which propelled Tetris to global popularity, and made it one of the most iconic video games of all time. (Between this and Air, we have officially reached the stage of nostalgia where we glamorize businessmen to make movies about our favorite stuff.) Does that sound boring? It kind of isn’t! Tetris is a gold mine of weird trivia and colorful characters, and Henk Rogers went after the global rights as the USSR was collapsing, so the whole thing went down with fin de siècle style. Or, I guess you could say, fin de sickle.
The trailer shows off a lot of Egerton as Rogers, making deals and explaining the allure of Tetris to skeptical businessman, and we also see plenty of Russian actor Nikita Yefremov as Tetris co-creator Alexey Pajitnov, watching his game take off from within the confines of the USSR. But whither the other co-creator, Vladimir Pokhilko? Neither IMDb, Wikipedia, nor the Apple TV+ press site mention Pokhilko at all. True crime aficionados might recognize the name, as Vladimir Pokhilko is presumed to have murdered his wife and child before killing himself in their Palo Alto home in 1998. There is a mostly okay ID docu-series from last year, The Tetris Murders, that outlines the many theories and unanswered questions revolving around this case—many people do not think Pokhilko did it.
But it appears Tetris wants no part of it, regardless, as the trailer solidly gives the impression that Alexey Pajitnov is the sole creator of the game. I mean, I get it. You want to make a wacky crime caper out of the story of a business deal for a video game, you don’t want to muddy the waters with a famous, probably unsolved family annihilation case. That’s super dark! It is, of course, unfair to the memory of Vladimir Pokhilko, but that’s probably why the story centers on Henk Rogers, instead of Alexey. Easier to render Alexey a mere Macguffin if he’s sidelined in favor of the oddball guy who negotiated an industry-changing business deal. Still, I am very curious to see if Tetris, which premieres on Apple TV+ on March 31, has the guts to bring up Vladimir Pokhilko even once.
Here is Taron Egerton at the Newport Beach Film Festival UK Honors yesterday.