The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) Poster

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odd and fascinating
daveygandthekeyboard15 September 2007
King of Kong (or Billy vs. Steve, basically), is an excellent film about a rivalry that says a lot about competition in our culture. The movie portrays Billy, the Donkey Kong Champion, doing everything in his power to keep his record and to deny Steve Wiebe (wee-Bee) the title of world record holder in Donkey Kong. Steve is an outsider in this culture where Billy is an icon, and at first there are people within the video game community who do not want him to succeed. It becomes kind of a struggle between good and evil, as the powers that be try to hold down those not in power. Suddenly, Steve is the guy you're rooting for, if only just to beat that smart-ass Billy. It is a journey that takes you through the darker and seedier side of the video game revolution of the '80s. If it seems silly to be writing about such weighty issues of good and evil when a movie is about a video game, watch the movie: it really does the job of making you care about what happens to these odd, fascinating people.
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Fun and exciting documentary that everyone will enjoy
Jeff Beachnau5 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this at the Traverse City Film Festival and it was probably the best film of the festival.

This excellent film has everything that a movie fan loves to see: the classic hero and villain story, action, suspense, drama, and comedy. Who would have thought all of this would come out of a documentary about Donkey Kong? The story follows Steve Wiebe, a family man from Washington trying to beat the arcade juggernaut Billy Mitchell's world record score on Donkey Kong. The film is perfectly edited by introducing both characters, showing their history in the video game culture, and giving the viewers a sense of which person to root for. It's hysterical the way this simple story is made out to look like an action adventure film. Steve is the underdog, the man that has a big journey ahead of him. But to overcome the challenges and try to claim the title of Donkey Kong master, he must face the opponent Billy Mitchell and his video game minions.

This film is one of the most fun times I've had in a theater in long time. The whole audience was involved, cheering on some characters, laughing at others, and applauding many times. It's so much fun to watch an underground culture and see people you didn't know existed.

My favorite part in the film is probably when Steve has to show up in person and prove his ability. It's so hilarious, suspenseful, and inspiring.

The King of Kong is a terrific film. It's a lot of fun, there's never a dull moment, and it really shows what a great film is supposed to be like.
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a truly exciting, funny, and inspiring 'sports' movie about the players of the toughest game in the world
MisterWhiplash9 September 2007
If it weren't for the sincerity of it all- or maybe because of it- King of Kong could be conceived of as a mockumentary. But there's no joking with these guys, which sometimes makes it a lot of fun to watch the competition between Billy Mitchell and Steve Weebie (right way to say the name?), where sycophants and idiosyncrasies fly on the former's self-spun empire/network and on the latter just your average suburban housewife and kids going somewhat begrudgingly along the ride. It's a saga though not just about them, but about the world of gaming, of the mind-set that pervades everyone from lawyers to 'Roy Awesome' to little old ladies competing at Qubert, and the nature of competition itself. Not since Rocky- and maybe even better in its exuberance and humility- has one seen a tale of the underdog and the king played out in odds that should seem somewhat silly.

But what's so amazing is how first-time director Seth Gordon plunges the viewer into this world, and it's immediately recognizable to anyone over 18 and under, well, 55 to 100- anyone who's ever gone to play one of the "old-school" arcade games like Donkey Kong or Pacman/Mrs. Pacman or even Pong. We see how the players have to not just go into the games haphazardly by luck; like football, there's game-plans and strategies, and like that sport there are also some obstacles that are apart of the nature of the design of the sport. There's a whole incredible facet one takes for granted, for example, about the technology of the machines, which despite being eclipsed many times over by new systems can still be tampered with, as is the case with Steve's first machine that reaches the top score, and then discredited because of a chip possibly (or not) being replaced or implanted in to give leverage at a non-gamer store.

Yet the more slippery side-stepping for players is what's even more intriguing. Characterization can be a tricky thing for the documentary director to deal with, but in King of Kong it becomes something of a controversy left by the wayside as Billy surpasses Steve's score with a game he played recorded on videotape- while Steve set his score by an official Twin Galaxies referee (Walter Day, to be exact, who's a character in and of himself)- with more than a few skips right were the score should register. Saying it skims the line of reality and mockumentary comes with the territory- after a while watching Mitchell is like watching someone who's improvising as he goes along, hiding behind his perfectionist guise as a world-class champ and purveyor of fine hot sauces with his fake-buxom wife and lackeys watching every move Steve makes.

Aside from it being compelling storytelling as one sees the transformation of Steve from failed baseball pitcher and drummer to a Donkey Kong (and Donkey Kong Junior) champ, making all-time high scores while his kids cry about their poor behinds, it's one of the best kinds of sport-genre features in years. Many times one sees this played out, and it's been parodied in the likes of Dodgeball ("Nobody makes me bleed my own blood" came to mind once or twice looking at Mitchell, and his smart but biased cronies are like classic supporting characters), and the clichés and conventions get the better of the narrative. This time there's no pressure to push it into what's expected: we genuinely care what happens in this battle of the joystick, as Steve sheds genuine tears playing his ass off at all accounts of live events whilst Billy sulks away in his living room hearing the updates on his phone.

As far as triumph-of-the-human-spirit stories go, King of Kong is hilarious entertainment, sometimes for all the strangest (Day's would-be musical career) and silliest reasons (what's so special about the Guiness book of records, Steve's daughter asks), but engrossing as documentaries should get- one of the best of the year in fact.
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steve is my hero
gennyhardison10 February 2007
This is an incredible documentary, and as with most great documentaries the story arises as the filming happens; it is not preconceived. The film starts out as a story about a battle between two gamers who each want to hold the donkey kong high score records, but what it turns into is a story about man vs. the empire(and not in a star wars sense). It is a story about how who you know is always everything and how much harder an everyman must work to make it in a world of networks. The story of these people, especially steve's, are really inspiring and you find yourself feeling all of the twists and turns of the film along with the characters. A truly wonderful film about human beings not just donkey kong.
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A Fairly Accurate Look At Gaming Sub Culture.
GuyCC8 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After having worked with video games in a professional capacity for several years, the people shown in the film were pretty accurate representations of the various levels of gaming personality: The contenders, the arrogant zealots, the wannabes, and the know it alls who claim to be the undisputed masters of things gaming.

The film was funny in a sad, yet sympathetic way. Steve Weibe is this "average" guy who gets his 15 minutes of fame, only to have it continually disputed by a mullet-haired Billy Mitchell (who bore more than a passing resemblance to Superman's General Zod), who seemed to not defend his titles out of fair competition, but out of insecurity that he might not be known as "the best".

The main prize of the whole competition seemed to be not the point of having the highest score in Donkey Kong, but it was more a battle of Steve's point to be credited for a score which he kept earning time and time again, versus Billy's fragile ego. Steve video tapes his high score, Billy contends that it's not credible unless played live. Steve goes to play live in a public place, Billy sneaks out this "top secret" hi-score tape, where the editing and quality are questionable. And yet, that's somehow okay by the judges board.

The Twin Galaxies organization also seems very much like a "Boy's Club" looking out for their "bro", and are willing to subvert their own set guidelines to keep their buddy's prestigious spot within the organization.

As a gamer, it was very frustrating to watch Steve get his title taken away time and time again, due to frequently changing "technicalities" insisted on by Billy Mitchell, especially when Steve proved it repeatedly, and Billy never bothered to show up to any of these competitions at all (save for one where he skulked in the background like a 12-year old comic book villain), much less even play a game during the run of the whole film. The only game he had at all was just running his mouth, and I'm surprised he didn't start twirling his mustache like Snidely Whiplash.

Even if it was the editing that could have put Mitchell more in a negative light, all the editing in the world couldn't remove his preening, skulking, and making arrogant and ridiculous comments throughout the film. He seemed so incredulous that he would be incapable of losing anything he attempted, but it was obvious that he wasn't willing to risk the chance of even the slightest chance of losing. It was very clear that the guy was willing to do whatever it took to not only protect his high score, but his ego and status within his circle of hangers on.

Without divulging anything regarding the ending. my theater clapped at the end of the film due so several surprises that take place in the last 20 minutes or so. In a sense, this is the "Rocky" of video game films (complete with "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the background at one point). As a video gamer, I've seen the world portrayed in the film, and there really are Steve Weibes and Billy Mitchells out there, along with the rest of the supporting cast. And for a documentary, it's a lot funnier than what one would expect, though in unexpected ways.

For those who enjoy video games, or even the excitement of seeing an unusual competition, it's a worthwhile film, and definitely recommended if you can find it in theaters.
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Great Film about Video Games, Life, Human Nature and Determination
TheFiftyYearStorm21 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I just attended a screening of "The King of Kong" in which I was the only person in the entire theater. While normally I find this to be fun and unique I feel that I lost something viewing KoK alone. I wanted to gage the reactions of other patrons and make sure they were as impressed as I was with this amazing documentary. What I took from the movie, which has yet to be the subject of mass discussion due to the apparent controversies this film has caused is this: Steve Wiebe is a man who seemingly lost his "life", yet became determined to make something his own and finish it to completion. This movie is a story about a man who wants to satisfy his own desires and does so! I applaud Steve for having conviction...a rare quality in this world.

P.S. In addition to the great story of a man who wants something... If you have ever played any of the Kongs, or Pac-Mans, or have ever marveled at someone else's video game ability this is the movie for you!
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cinebros1 February 2007
KING OF KONG is one of the greatest movies I've seen in a while - not documentaries, movies. The film-making here is nothing short of extraordinary - building suspense, creating anticipation, and playing with the archetypes like the best Hollywood movies.

If you have ever played the original Donkey Kong arcade game, or on the original Nintendo, you have to see this movie. I have never beaten Level 3 on the third cycle - the spring on the elevator stage, if you know what I'm talking about, is going extremely fast. These guys get beyond 20 cycles.

I don't want to give anything away...I heard they are going to make this a feature movie with actors, but I think that eliminates the main draw of this concept - these guys are in their forties, in some freak cases have wives and children, and they play Donkey Kong with as much heart as Lance Armstrong rode bikes. They are some of the strongest characters I've seen in a movie since STAR WARS. To best summarize how enjoyable this movie is, after watching the DVD for the first time, I immediately restarted it from the beginning, and watched it again.
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An outstanding film which earns a perfect score
Alan Rapp31 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great film which is well made and full of fun eighties graphics and music. It's engaging, compelling, and takes you into a world of competitive video gaming which isn't always pretty, but is all good. Although the film is rated PG-13 (for a "sexual reference" which I can't recall) I would recommend it to the whole family.


As I have noticed there are one or two negative comments here on IMDb and I thought I'd offer my two cents here. First of it's important to realize the film is presented from a certain point of view, I would argue against anyone who says it lies, but you must acknowledge that events might be seen differently though different pairs of eyes, that's just human nature.

  • Billy Mitchell: The film is unapologetically presented from Steve Wiebe's point of view - it is his story after all. And although Mitchell comes off as arrogant and egotistical and a jerk at times he isn't "made out to be a villain." In fact the filmmakers offer him endless opportunities to present himself and his case and the reasons behind his actions constantly giving him more and more rope which he only uses to hang himself. It is also important to realize that one of Billy Mitchell's longtime friends, Steve Sanders, who is in the film, stands by his friend but also stands by the film. I had an opportunity to interview Mr. Sanders, who totally enjoyed the film.

  • The "Break-In": I've seen a comment or two talking about the "break in" and saying how if it happened the police should have been called. Steve's wife discusses the event in the film and never alleges the two men broke into her house. What she does say was they arrived when Steve wasn't home as she was leaving and her mother was the only one in the house. Since the machine, and the home for that manner, belong to Steve she asked them to wait as he was expected home shortly - which they agreed to do. Here is where POV comes into play again, the men talked their way into the house after she left and dismantled it before Steve got home. Is that a break-in? Well, I'm sure we can agree their activity was hardly 100% honest and above board.

  • One comment states that Billy never wanted his 1 million score to be recorded, yet the film contains a phone conversation where he asks Walter Day for the score to be submitted, despite some oddities to the video tape which were never accounted for.


I hope that helps to explain what seems to be some issues people have with the film.

Go to RazorFine Review to read my full review of the film and the interview with Steve Sanders.
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Original and Inspirational
James Noble23 September 2007
Maybe the best documentary I have seen in years... A must-see for anyone who loves rooting for the underdog. King of Kong tells the story of two men competing for the highest all-time score in the arcade classic Donkey Kong. Seth Gordon skillfully explores this whole American subculture of die-hard classic video gamers. The fact that this is all real (as opposed to a Christopher Guest style mockumentary) makes it all the more hilarious, but above all this is a true story of inspiration that should appeal to anyone regardless of whether they know anything about video games. In a country dominated by politically-fused documentary/movie propaganda, we need more films like this to remind us of how wonderfully weird we can be. Michael Moore eat your heart out.
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More fun then non-gamers should think
D A14 January 2008
Though this geeky arcade fighting flick may remain an acquired taste, The King of Kong feels like one of the more entertaining documentaries to emerge in years. Even though you would think the chief demographic of forty year old virgins and basement-ridden, antisocial, hardcore, old-school gamers would flip the bill, Kong immediately offers so much more on so many different levels of psychological and sociological intrigue that anyone not self-conscious enough to feel embarrassed for investing an emotional stake into a Donkey Kong showdown, (highlighting a bittersweet anti-climax) will find themselves deep inside a world they never thought imaginable.

The mock-epic tone, which so many supporting characters delightfully contribute to, feels seized by director Seth Gordon and infused into his charming take on good-vs-evil, letting this potentially inspiring metaphor stretch it's wings into a blossomed, well-rounded quirk-fest far more fun then it's rigorous gaming pedigree would suggest.
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An instant cult classic!
seattlesnob16 August 2007
The best movie I've seen this year! I laughed to the point of exhaustion. I'd recommend it to anyone with a heartbeat. Must see!The only thing I can't get over is that this Billy Mitchell guy is a real person. I mean you can't make up a character like this. And Steve Weibe... how humble can you get. I mean the guy is the poster child for humility. (Okay so here is where I admit that I actually know Steve personally. Thing is, he actually IS this humble. No lie. For his recent 20 year high school reunion he listed as his proudest accomplishment: "recieving my teacher's certificate", no mention of Donkey Kong. Now that's the kind of hero everyone should look up to. Especially anyone with a huge ego. And lord knows there are enough of those to go around. So don't walk, RUN to the movie theater and see this movie. You won't regret it. (Just make sure you use the bathroom before the movie starts, you won't want to miss a second!)
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A great film and a great documentary
Coyote2419 August 2007
I just got done seeing this film in Santa Monica and was so happy that it lived up to how great the trailer makes this film and the characters out to be. It was totally entertaining from start to finish and lives up to the obvious Rocky comparisons. And like Rocky this film deserves it time in the sun right now and hopefully a ticket to the Oscar dance next year.

And yes the film was carefully edited to make for some dramatic moments as all films are. It is after all entertainment. But nothing so much that it taints the great story this film tells. I can think of quite a few documentaries and films in the past few years that did the same thing. Fahrenheit 9/11, An Inconvient Truth, JFK and pretty much any story you see told on the news tonight. The truth is left on the editing room floor. AlphaPepper should probably change his login ID to Sour Grapes and remove his head from... well you know.

Billy Mitchell is no doubt a nice guy but is perfectly edited as the villain for this film. Steve Weibe is likewise edited to be the perfect underdog. All the other cast of characters in this film and some of their comments make this a film worth seeing. And without a doubt Steve Weibe's daughters "from the mouth of babes like" comment steals the whole show in the end.

In the end this is just a great story about two men Steve Weibe and Billy Mitchell fighting for title of King of Kong. I hope this film gets picked up for larger distribution so more people can enjoy it like I did.
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Excellent, even if you hate video games
qmcz29 November 2007
Best movie I have seen in years. A wonderful stage is set up for a battle between good vs. evil. Will the underdog, who has been kicked down his entire life, reach his goal of scoring the highest Donkey Kong score ever? Will he meet face to face and defeat the evil, pompous villain in a match of "competitive gaming?" The protagonist is built up as a normal simpleton who has not been able to achieve his goals throughout life even with all the talent that he possesses. The antagonist is portrayed wonderfully as an arrogant hypocrite who thinks that the entire video game world revolves around him. You want nothing more than to see the villain fall down.
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Wonderful Film!
snootchie826 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I usually don't write reviews, but this film compelled me to write how great it is! Yes, Billy Mitchell is portrayed to be a jerk, but after hearing his comments and seeing his actions, there is no denying this is the case. Basically Mitchell and his video game cronies make life difficult for Steve Wiebe when it is found that Mitchell's once long standing score in Donkey Kong has been surpassed. To see Wiebe try to overcome these odds and claim the high score is an inspiring tale and not to be missed!

I also have to comment about the other posters who are speaking of the supposed "break in" to investigate Wiebe's Donkey Kong machine. It is never claimed by Wiebe's wife that they broke in. Rather she told these "investigators" that she was uncomfortable with them looking at the machine while her husband wasn't home. Instead of respecting her wishes, they waited till she left and went in while Steve's mother was the only one at the household.
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Great Documentary
Rob Williams10 September 2007
I totally disagree with the characterization that Billy Mitchell is made the villain and Steve Weibe the heroic underdog. This film did a great job of just letting each person fill in the colors for themselves. At the end, when Billy Mitchell's finally turning hypocrisy inside out, there are a few shots inserted finally that show that the filmmakers notice what is going on, but that is the extent of it.

This is a great film. Like the film American Movie, it is a whirlwind in which the power and depth of the material is remarkable, and yet it is incredibly compelling to watch, start to finish.

Another important point is that the film is not only a great treatise on individual psychology and what our winning-obsessed culture has wrought, but a great meditation on how the various types are fostered by and then fuel their immediate relations.
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Nice guys can and DO finish last.
CrazyJo19 January 2008
Wow! The greatness of this documentary exceeded tenfolds my expectation. Reminiscent of "Spellbound", this documentary deals with a subject that can be considered living on the margins of "hot documentary topics", but when you have a very talented filmmaker telling its story, you find a drama that is very human.

On the surface, this documentary is about classic arcade games (focusing on Donkey Kong) and its players. But by the end of it, you will see what it means to stand up for what it's right, to stand up against your friend, to find the will to continue after what seems to be endless hurdles, and to stay decent and true when it feels like it doesn't do you anymore good - all play out in front of you in a movie about Donkey Kong.

As the credits roll, you will continue to find yourself rooting fervidly for the film's protagonist, Steve Wiebe, and wish that he does find what he is looking for.
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a real gem- absolutely wonderful
lane jarsonbeck18 September 2007
You know how there are so few great films and even fewer great documentaries other than those that make you want to shoot yourself out of self loathing for our planet or our society??? Well here is a film that is dramatic yet fun and will have you wanting more.

I have never rated a film a "10" but this film certainly is a 10 in my opinion. It is as entertaining as the games depicted and quirky as the characters shown. I had never heard of Billy Mitchel before the previews of this film came out- in fact I never knew there was a video game champion of the nation- I never knew there were records kept and scores to beat other than the proverbial 9999999. I wish not to say anything about the characters or the barriers some characters in the film had to overcome because I fear I may give something away and this film is far too wonderful for me to spoil for anyone even if accidental.

Let it be said that one mans quest is endearing, another mans life philosophy proves him to be shallow, void and full of cowardice and yet another is merely a sick groupie for Billy Mitchell. All I can say is that the film is worth the price of admission and concession. I have never rated a film a 10 until now and that when it comes to DVD I will buy it. PLEASE PLEASE see it for yourself!
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Real Life Almost Always Stranger Than Fiction
ccthemovieman-13 February 2009
I love these strange documentaries, where real-life people are interviewed, followed around and we get to witness yet another example of how life is often "stranger than fiction." In this case, it's video game geeks. And, man, I mean "geeks." That's the main story here, more specifically, is the quest between two of these " players" to become the top "Donkey Kong" video game champion in the world.

I'll get this out front first: yes, these are real people doing their thing but a lot of this is very contrived and set up for dramatic purposes. The "good guy" is made to look even better than what he probably is, and the "villain" is made to look like the bad guy so much so it's laughable. I mean, come on, man! It's just tooooo hokey.

Steve Weibe looked like the only normal human being in this film, but if you read the ending graphics, you have to ask how many "nomral family men"would be traveling all over the U.S. to set a video game record? The black-hat-and-clothes villain Billy Mitchell was a little too bad to have credibility. Yeah, he's arrogant, and I do believe he his one of those guys who lives on past glory and is deathly afraid of losing in front of a crowd. But, they (with his cooperation, of course) made him into a cartoon character in this film. It was ludicrous..

The more believable parts still made me shake my head in wonder how some people are just plain nuts......and don't know it! "Nerds" is good word to describe almost all of the old arcade video-game zealots. I think the oddest one might have been the "referee," Walter Day, the bearded transcendental meditation guy. He's is the third leading "character" in this documentary. Actually, he didn't appear too wacked until the second half of the film when we saw and heard him trying to sing, among other things.

And by the way, if you've ever read about guys who set multiple records in the Guiness Book Of World Records, they are, indeed, a strange lot. Notice the intense, Charles Manson-type eyes on a lot of these people; it's scary!

Like other documentaries about unusual people or controversies (i.e. "My Kid Could Paint That," "Crazy Love") this will keep your interest throughout and having you rooting for the good guy, big-time, even if it is contrived. In the end, manipulated or not, we care about what happens in this story, so director Seth Gordon did his job well.
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Just spectacular
jdevriend26 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was lucky enough to see an unfinished version at the AFI Dallas film festival. The best thing about this movie is that you can enjoy it on any level that you want to, and it still works perfectly. If you want to root for the earnest underdog Steve Wiebe as he tries to break the Donkey Kong world record, overcome some truly pathetic human beings along the way, and step out of his own not-quite-good-enough shadows, you can do that. If you want to learn more about one of the hardest arcade games ever made, and see how players are able to crack the codes on classic games and rack up insanely high scores, you can do that. If you want to laugh at some of the social misfits of the competitive classic gaming elite, many of whom look exactly the same as they did 25 years ago, you can do that. If you want to sit back and enjoy the Uncle Rico, stuck-in-1982, puppetmaster douchebag that is Billy Mitchell, you can do that. (Seth Gordon was at our screening and I thought about asking him if he ever wanted to just blurt out, "Man, you're a loser!" at any point during their interviews.) If you want to just laugh at everyone and think to yourself, "It's fricking DONKEY KONG!", you can do that too. Or you can do all of them at once. The film is layered with so many different plots and subplots and a healthy amount of extremely low-stakes espionage and subterfuge. But importantly, it never feels like there is too much going on.

This movie does everything a great documentary does. It finds a subject that you didn't know you cared about until you saw it. Its characters tell a fantastic story but the movie doesn't choose sides (in this case, one character was so incredibly unlikable that Gordon doesn't have to). And it gets lucky to capture moments that are so surprising, intense, and exhilarating that no one could possibly write them in a script. If you see this version first, you may not want to see the fictionalized version that's in the works, because there's no way it can possibly top the real thing.
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Pingo-212 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
KING OF KONG is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It is brilliant. The battle between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell is a classic! I would not be surprised if this film ranks on the Top 10 documentaries, twenty years from now - it's that good.

After watching the trailer I instantly knew that I could not look this movie up before watching it. That was a good call. I started out watching the film with a slant liking for Billy. He was a cool guy with a superb record on Donkey Kong. But here comes this loser nerd Steve and wants to shine and break that record. I didn't think that this Steve-guy was nice, so I started to like Billy more and more.

But then something happened. Billy is surrounded by this Billy Myth and all the people around him believes more of Billy than they really should. The facade seems to crack a bit, and soon Steve really proves that he is The Man.

But everything isn't perfect, and the ultimate battle between Billy vs. Steve is, as I mentioned, a Classic.

Filming, research, editing, music - most in this film is very very good. It's a very interesting film to watch, mostly because you really get close to these people. And it is also very nice to watch a film where you actually see GOOD people. Walter Day impressed me very much, and it seems to me that he is the real Hero of computer games. It is nice to know that Day has been there for the records, because his presence alone makes it believable.

Overall, this documentary is a must for anyone who ever played a computer/video/arcade game.

9 out of 10
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Turns into a startlingly fascinating character study.
Movie-Jay28 September 2007
This movie proves two things: 1), a documentary really can be about anything, and 2), movies aren't always what they're about, but how they are about, as Ebert puts it. This movie begins by retracing the early video game craze of the early 80's, and it focuses on the 20 year plus record-holder of the highest score ever for 'Donkey Kong'. His name is Billy Mitchell, and he's the Michael Jackson or the Wayne Gretzky of the video gaming world. We learn of other players who helped to define the era, one who no longer plays but gives much of his time away by refereeing video game competitions. Perhaps all that would've made for an interesting doc in it's own right, but in walks Steve Wiebe, a pretty normal guy with a wife and two kids, and we learn how he got into video gaming after a handful of setbacks in his life. As it becomes clear to us that Wiebe is an amazing player in his own right, politics enter the picture and we end up with a fascinating study about the nature of people that gets beyond simple competitiveness and digs a little deeper into the psyches of how we perceive our own selves. I'm so happy to have run into this title. You don't have to be interested or know anything about video games to really care about this movie.
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Best Documentary I have ever seen.
jbardet20 September 2007
Documentaries are my favorite genre, and this blows everything else completely out of the water.

I will be talking about this movie for years and years, and I will make it a goal of mine to spread the word about this film.

Easily one of the funniest movies I have ever seen as well. It was CONSTANT laughs. The characters are unknowingly hilarious.

Film of the year. I seriously can't believe how much I liked this movie, and I had no idea about the complexity of the gaming world. This is such an insightful film, and it was cut so perfectly. Everyone needs to get to a theater showing this.
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Really great quirkumentary that is entertaining enough to make you ignore the twisting done in the editing room
bob the moo31 December 2008
If there is a genre that I love when it is done well, it is the quirkumentary. The quirkumentary is a documentary but it focuses on an unusual activity that is rich with unusual little characters and the focus is often to produce an entertaining film much more than it is to inform. King of Kong appealed to me as a gamer (my favourite t-shirt is a Donkey Kong screen) but also as a lover of the genre and I was very pleased to find that, as a quirkumentary, it was one of the better ones I have seen. Part of the reason I liked it was that you could easily see this film being remade as fictional, with Will Ferrell as Mitchell, Vince Vaughn as Steve and having it be a spoof sports movie in the mould of Dodgeball. In essence this is what director Gordon has done himself with reality, is deliver a classic sports movie with an arrogant champion who has built a life off his teenage successes, an underdog trying to break the record as part of countering his teenage failures, a ruling body perhaps a little too attached to the status quo and a rivalry that has tension you could cut with a knife.

It is all here and it is really well put together. The film starts by presenting the history and success of Mitchell and it does so in a way that makes him look arrogant and a bit of a t*sser – although to be fair the bad ties, blow-dried flowing hair and definition of "having it all" don't help him refute this presentation much. Then we move to Steve Wiebe – a "normal" guy who is unassuming and relaxed about everything but decides to shoot for the title. We see him do this, only to be rejected by the ruling body (whom we also get to see as an enthusiastic but still geeky group of men), which leads Steve to decide to compete live and prove his scores in front of a crowd and in direction competition with Mitchell if possible. So the film has a clear villain, it has a guy we can easily support, it has a showdown and it has suggestions of conspiracy, with the deck stacked up against our hero that he must overcome – basically everything is in place and works really well. As a result it is surprisingly gripping considering it is a film about grown men playing a retro video game and you will be willing Steve on in his attempts and really feeling for him when things go against him.

In the aims of fairness though, it must be noted that a lot of this is brought out in the edit and I can totally understand those involved having issues with how they have been presented. For example, Mitchell's videoed score was only formally accepted after months of review – it was taken off the website despite having been put on it immediately, and the inspection of Steve's machine was probably not as shadowy as the film suggests. However, beyond individual feelings this didn't matter to me and actually I think Gordon deserves credit for what he managed to produce in the editing room because he has made a film better than many of the comedy sports underdog films out there – yes it is a shame that Mitchell looks like a pr*ck to get this, but the film is gripping and fun enough to prevent you thinking about this while watching.

As well as the drama the film is also surprisingly funny. In some ways the humour is painted into the characters themselves, whether it be the comic creation of "baddie" Mitchell, the couple of hangers-on that he has who treat him like a God or just the constant juxtaposition of geeky men playing games with their words and attitudes suggesting a pursuit of much more import and worthiness! This stuff runs constantly and well but there are also some great lines scattered around outside of this – the best coming from Steve's daughter who can't understand why anyone would care about the Guinness book of records.

The King of Kong seems a limited-interest film that will only appeal to geeks but this is far from the truth. In reality the film is a "real life" underdog sports comedy, with the real-life aspect making it more gripping than any similar Will Ferrell film has been. Yes, it is unfair on the individuals to twist the facts to suit the film, but it is also unfair to Gordon not to give credit to him for how well he does it and what a great little film he has produced as a result. Ignore the fact you hate video-games, this film is engaging, funny and it will have you caring deeply about the outcome more than you should. Great film.
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Brilliant documentary of a personality cult
Scott W. Larson10 August 2008
While this documentary may at first seem to be a "Trekkies" of classic video game players. it's actually a battle between two very different personalities in a very rarefied and unique crowd of people who don't just take video games seriously but even view the masters of these games as heroes and leaders.

The messiah of this strange subculture is Billy Mitchell who at 17 years of age achieved fame by setting several world records at various classic arcade games just as the video game craze had peaked. As these arcade games were replaced with more advanced games, Mitchell apparently lost interest in setting new records just as people lost interest in attempting to break his old ones. His records seemed to be unbreakable. No one was more certain of that than Mitchell.

When there was a sudden revival of classic arcade games in the 90's, Mitchell's nearly-forgotten records once again dazzled another generation of arcade game fanatics. Mitchell apparently had been unaware that he had ever left the public limelight and speaks to camera as if it were still 1982. Nothing about his appearance or behavior could have been changed to make him more villainous to the audience. His hair and clothes make him look like he had just stepped out of 1982 yearbook. He touts his ancient glories to the camera with sneering grins and the unblinking stare of a salesman who is trying to get you to spend a lot of money on something you don't want. His motives are completely transparent to the audience yet he's unaware of this. More disturbing, his fans are just as clueless. We realize we're seeing a personality cult straight out of a college textbook.

Then enters Steve Wiebe who has built a Donkey Kong game from spare parts in his garage and clearly breaks Mitchell's "unbreakable" record on it. Wiebe's personality could not be more different than Mitchell's. He is a smiling unassuming and somewhat introverted science teacher, a good musician and has an incredibly kind and supportive wife with much smaller breasts than Mitchell's wife's. Wiebe sends in the video tape of his record breaking game to the web site who keeps track of such things assuming that he would simply be awarded the new world record.

The results of this video tape could not have been anticipated by Wiebe nor anyone in the audience who is unfamiliar with the strange cult of gamers. The documentary has to unweave an odd history of rivalries, personality clashes, and bad blood going back decades to explain why this community had no choice but to claim that Wiebe's new score was a fraud. He was not part of the cult and even worse unwittingly made a connection to someone who is considered an "enemy" of this cult. For the record to stand, he must "redeem" himself by going through what can only described as an initiation ritual. Only then can he be considered someone worthy of having his name placed next to the name of Billy Mitchell.

It's clear that these men are not looking at Wiebe as someone has mastered Donkey Kong. They're looking at him as a potential new hero, a new idol, a new leader for their isolated subculture. Wiebe is not interested in worship; he simply wants his record to be acknowledged. This causes dissonance to the ranks because worship was all that Mitchell ever wanted from them. As Wiebe publicly demonstrates his mastery of Donkey Kong, Mitchell is shown actively avoiding Wiebe and his new fans and having a Svengali-like power over his most dedicated fans as he plots against this new interloper.

If all this sounds outrageous beyond belief then you simply must see this film. It shows how desperate some people are to be part of a community, how certain personalities can shamelessly control these people and make them say ridiculous things to the camera to show their worship and devotion, and how someone who enters the community and refuses to play by the unspoken rules can throw their make-believe world out of balance.
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Kajagoogoo Kong Style
robogil-117 June 2008
Gnarly. What can you say about a movie that pits one of the central themes of the 80's with all the characters that you could possibly muster in a mocumentary that is reality!

Billy Mitchell should be up for villain of the year.

King of Kong is well done in it's ability to take engineering and technical aspects of gaming and presenting it commercially and in a visually descriptive fashion.

The complexities of Donkey Kong were never evident to me when I was playing it way back when, but King of Kong explained these complexities and broke the code all in one motion.

Brilliant!...I mean Awesome!
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