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In one, very important aspect, The King of Kong is a truly great
documentary film; it manages to address a subject that would seem silly
to most viewers at first - that of competitive (to the point of
obsessive) classic-video gaming - and make them care about it. The film
doesn't, like some other documentaries, look at the situation from afar
while subtly mocking the subjects for their weird obsession; it steps
into their world and makes the viewer, at least for the duration of the
film, care as much as them about who holds the world record in Donkey
Kong. That's an impressive feat and it places The King of Kong firmly
in the same league as the finest master documentarist Errol Morris has
The story told in The King of Kong is simplistic and manipulative, and what it all boils down to is the flawless underdog and the big, sleazy, corrupt fat-cats. It's a simple and timeless story that's been told many times before and as such it's satisfying to watch, but a lot of it is clearly down to manipulative editing that allows for 'good guys' and 'bad guys' to exist. That's the only real flaw I could find with the film, though; because while this trite and simple story takes place, we get some real insight into the world of competitive gaming and what makes these people tick, and that's enough to make for a truly fascinating document.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a lover of vintage video games, and having grown up through their
development, I have a nostalgic passion for the likes of Pac Man, Space
Invaders, Asteroids, Scramble and Battlezone.
This documentary brings all that flooding back, but adds real drama and intrigue. Like Star Wars, there is an obvious Dark Side and Light Side, but the outcome is never obvious.
Being a sceptical sort, I'm not going to commit without rigorous study, but this movie sure shows the perils associated with trusting evidence without scientific scrutiny.
Who am I to judge whether the movie presents a balanced interpretation? All I can say is that this movie is gripping, fun, human and educational.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Utterly fascinating documentary focusing on efforts of a world class Donkey Kong player to get recognition for his accomplishment. Now, you always have to say in these things, what was the point of view of the film maker? I've learned that lesson enough from the contrived PBS & other evolution "documentaries". One of two things is going on here - the film maker got entranced with the idea of the film and took Steve Wiebe's side once he got into it, or the film maker did this film intending to make his antagonist, Billy Mitchell (once legendary video gamer and one strange dude) the villain. There's no way to tell. As it is, Wiebe sets the all-time live Donkey Kong score only to get upstaged by a tape with a higher score from Mitchell. Billy, supposedly an advocate of live competition, is quoted talking up live and head-to-head competition. All you need to know is the gaming world schedules a face-to-face showdown 10 miles from Billy and he fails to show, leaving Wiebe to take the Donkey Kong crown and the video gaming officials with egg on their face. It's hard to figure Mitchell's side on this, but the fact that you care about any of this means the movie works. From Google it appears that the Donkey Kong crown has since moved around, with Wiebe showing the expected class. Excellent job.
The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters is a unique and compelling
documentary set in the competitive world of Donkey Kong gaming.
Directed by Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses, Modern Family) the film
follows underdog Steve Wiebe as he attempts to break the world record
for highest score on Nintendo's 1981 arcade classic. However, the
peculiar record holder, Billy Mitchell, is ready to undermine his new
rival at every turn, manipulating nerds and ducking numerous open
challenges to determine who is the best.
As with any good documentary, King of Kong explores a weird and wonderful world unlike anything seen before. Here, achieving high scores on retro arcade machines is the top priority, and swarms of nerds compete against each other for respect.
The polar combination of Wiebe (pronounced Wee Bee don't get it wrong), a quiet and clean-cut science teacher with a young family, and Mitchell, the paranoid hot-sauce mogul who looks like a magician, makes for a very entertaining watch, and at only 90 minutes, the film flies by.
Aside from the novel plot, assured direction, and excellent editing, the movie is abound with memorable characters that will stick in your head for weeks. Director Gordon and his crew capture scenes of espionage geek style, candid moments of conversation, and of course, Walter Day, the aged gaming referee and founder of Twin Galaxies, an organization to monitor major arcade records.
Recorded over several months gives the movie a tangible sense of development, and we come to know the two leads quite well during this period. It is hard not to feel sympathy for the obsessive Wiebe, whose family must endure his need to overcome this enormous challenge. Similarly, it is hard not to despise the cowardly Mitchell who avoids the much-wanted head-to-head and later steals Wiebe's thunder with a dubious video.
As far as light documentaries go, The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters is up there with the best. Full of interesting characters and nail-biting scenes, this is a surprising film that teases your every emotion without ever losing its playful heart.
This is a heart warming perfectly made documentary i am not a video
gamer particularly but i felt so involved. Kudos to Seth Gordon for his
exciting and greatly crafted masterpiece and thank you. The well chosen
score along with a well edited film shoots this high into my top ten
documentaries with a subject that i would normally consider as banal.
This film is not simply about video games, it is full of tension and conflict, it is more about the pursuit of perfection and competition. It turns into the good versus evil David versus Goliath with the hero and the villain which may not be completely accurate but i do feel that this was necessary to allow us to relate to the film and so poetic license was used and should be forgiven for the sake of our entertainment.
This documentary really could not have been better..... Enjoy peoples ))))))
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here is a mildly diverting excursion into the insular world of
competitive Donkey Kong.
Billy Mitchell holds a title won back in the Eighties and is so insecure about giving it up that he refuses to accept Steve Wiebe's challenges to compete in such public venues as Funspot in New Hampshire.
The subject of this documentary is the central characters -- the rather icy, big-haired Mitchell; nice-guy, puppy dog Wiebe, and the somewhat tedious, self-styled umpire of this domain, Walter Day.
There are a bunch of other personalities populating this realm, all talking about the stakes involved. Except for a lovely female octogenarian interested in another arcade game, I couldn't keep any of these characters straight. They're all given way too much screen time.
There's an element of sadness in all of this. Wiebe seems more fortunate than Mitchell in that he has a young family (Mitchell's family consists of a buxom wife). As young as his children are, though, they both seem to question his fixation on what seems like a very monotonous game. Wiebe's uncomplaining wife seems to draw only passing attention from her spouse.
I found out about this movie in "50 Documentaries to See Before You Die," but I don't quite get why it was so honored. I AM happy to have found out about Funspot, though; I think my two boys would love a visit to this iconic arcade.
As a forty year old male, I admit to spending part of my youth
frequenting dingy arcades. I remember Donkey Kong and remember it being
almost impossible to survive more than 3 or 4 levels. After watching
this I revisited the game via MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator).
It really was impossible.
Therefore, the level of obsession required by the protagonists in this movie makes it even more mind boggling. These guys must have played 4/5 hours a day for decades. The fact that they take it so seriously leaves you open mouthed.
Billy Mitchell is simply my favourite movie villain of all time. Yes, I include works of fiction, big budget sci-fi stuff....this man will have you shouting 'Boooo'! and then feeling ashamed that you really care who wins.
Despite the seemingly weak subject matter this documentary will have you laughing out loud, open mouthed with amazement at grown men behaving this way and suddenly getting roped in yourself and cheering on the good guy.
Fantastic stuff. Just like a Rocky movie with inane subject matter and incredible characters. Oh...and it's for real.
This appealed to me on two levels. First off I was drawn in by the old
school arcade games but secondly and more importantly this movie has a
great story to tell that does go so much deeper than video games. This
film is about 2 men as they fight for the right for the top score on
Donkey Kong. Just thought I'd mention this now but you DO NOT have to
be a fan of or even care about video games to enjoy this movie.
Billy Mitchell is the prodigal child- the shining icon of the sport, I dare not say hobby in fear of offending any fanatical arcade enthusiasts who might be reading. Back in the early 1980's he held the high score records for Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, BurgerTime?!? and was the first person ever to achieve a perfect score on Pac-Man. In 1999 he was proclaimed the Video Game Player of the Century so he knows what he is doing and isn't modest about it. There was a point in the movie when he told the film crew to guess what his three character high score name was and I was a little surprised when I found out it wasn't 'GOD' although his answer is nearly as good.
Steve Wiebe, the unknown contender, comes across as a very down to earth and amicable chap in his quest for the high score crown. Life has dealt Steve an unfair hand as despite being extremely talented in sports, music and work he became injured, never found his big break and was laid off as a Boeing engineer (he now works as a school teacher). So your already siding with Steve and this only becomes stronger when you get to know Billy and the hostile network he builds up around Steve to try and discredit his high scores.
During the movie you can't help but smirk with the seriousness that they take their arcade games but then again you have to respect them for being able to achieve these scores that you and I are never going to even come close to achieving.
It was especially well produced and I liked the way in which there seemed to be minimal involvement from the documentary makers. If they did ask any questions then it was edited out and it make the whole story seem less contrived. Although there were interviews during the movie, it felt as if a film crew had just pitched up and were following everyone around rather than being intrusive. No doubt there has been some editing to alter the story but every movie does this.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I put this on but I really got into it as the makers create suspense, anticipation and drama out of something that really shouldn't have made that much of an impact on me. After all it is essentially about a video game but you, like me, will find yourself rooting for Steve in this emotional roller coaster. It's not only an exceptional documentary but a exceptional movie as well! For further reviews feel free to check out: http://www.fanaticalaboutfilms.com
Everyone knows that one family member or friend who hates to lose.
Whether its chess in a competitive setting or Go Fish with a bunch of
kids, that person tries their hardest every time. "The King of Kong"
unveils the extremes of competitive time-wasting in a way you didn't
even know was possible and offers complete proof of the war-hungry
spirit that some possess more than others.
When we see that mentality in a pro athlete, we admire it; many know that Michael Jordan was the best in the game because he had that fire and drive to be the best. But when it comes to racking up high scores on Donkey Kong -- you start to wonder. Seth Gordon's documentary puts that into perspective quite well in addition to capturing some unique and quirky subjects who make for compelling characters.
"King of Kong" establishes quickly that Billy Mitchell set the Donkey Kong record in 1982 and became the Tiger Woods of arcade gaming. Around that time, LIFE magazine had put together a spread of the then-world record holders, which helped popularize the past time and lend credence to Twin Galaxies, a small group that was establishing itself as the official record keeper/verifier of game scores.
Enter Steve Wiebe, a Washington native who as his family tells us, was so great at so many things but could claim the ultimate in any of his endeavors. Without shame, Gordon paints Wiebe as an underdog (with mad hand-eye coordination) whom you feel obligated to root for on his way to breaking Billy's record. Billy Mitchell's conditioned long hair, weird ties and general cockiness rub off more and more as the film goes on. I'm sure he's not that awful of a person, but Gordon plays up the tension between these two vying world record holders, even if their actions justify it.
The controversy stems from Twin Galaxies disputing and disqualifying Wiebe's video- recorded record-breaking score due to bad blood between TG and Roy Schildt, the man who helped Wiebe replace his Donkey Kong Jr. hardware. Truth is, the only reason they knew about that was because they intruded on Wiebe's property and examined his Donkey Kong Jr. game out of disbelief that someone not in their "fraternity of arcade guys" (whose poster boy is Billy Mitchell) could have beaten the score.
When Wiebe goes out to Funspot, an arcade where Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day holds a live tournament every year for arcade games, he hopes breaking the record live will clear his name, but then we meet the whole cast of characters who worship Billy and start to realize how sad some of this is and how normal and well-meaning Steve is despite his competitive nature. When Steve breaks the record only to find Billy sent a video of an even higher score to Funspot, the drama really cooks.
An underrated part of Gordon's filmmaking that deserves a quick mention is how he uses seemingly irrelevant parts of the doc that simply show Steve's life to enhance the telling of the intense game-related moments. Steve's hobby of piano becomes the soundtrack, for example, of his final attempts to beat Billy's record. It's a nice touch that makes the documentary feel more organic.
In the end, how on Earth these two simply couldn't come together for some friendly competition blows my mind. The only time Steve and Billy are seen together is when Steve's playing at a tournament and Billy comes in and walks around solely to put the pressure on Steve. Doesn't say hi or anything. It's sickening, but it's what makes "King of Kong" a powerful documentary that regardless of exaggerations, reveals the dark heart of our competitive nature.
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The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a 2007 American documentary
film that follows Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score
for the arcade game Donkey Kong from reigning champion Billy Mitchell.
This film is counterintuitive examination of the competitive gaming
world. You may think computer games like the classic arcade centipede
of Donkey Kong has been resigned to the 80s along with Betamax and
Dolph Lundgren. Your wrong, there is a group of ageing man who wouldn't
look out of place in a clandestine paedophile ring still playing and
competing as we speak.
The film follows Steve Wiebe a genuinely kind hearted soul who as failed at most things in his life to the bewilderment of his wife, who always thought big things, would happen to him. His friends states that he has exceptional, bordering on the autistic hand eye coordination. So the obvious path to take is, buy a classic video games machine and queue the rocky training montage. This documentary really comes into its own when you learn about the lengths and tactics the record holder and "gaming legend" Billy Mitchell goes into preserving his record. I am talking dirty tactics that would make Nixon blush. Bill Mitchell is one of the greatest characters I have ever seen on a documentary. He is pure gold as self conceited megalomaniacal man child who as devoted horde of fellow game nerds whom carry out his evil bidding at their masters whim.
This film is like a microcosm of how politics is evident in every section of society whether it's your work place or local gaming club. It shows how power corrupts and how fame can delude people into grandeur. It's packed with fascinating character and genuine touching moments. On face value this just seems like another quirky character study but it goes much further, highly recommended.
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