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The King Of Kong is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. I
might be a bit biased since I'm a long time video gamer but even a non-
video gamer would find this one to be utterly interesting.
Steve Wiebe, a then unemployed schoolteacher, decides to try and break arcade ace Billy Mitchell's long-standing score at Donkey Kong. He does so and that begins his rocky road to getting a bunch of gaming nerds to recognize him for his efforts.
It's amazing to see Billy Mitchell (who comes off as the Brad Pitt of video gaming) using his smarmy charm and stroke to control the nerds who kowtow him when it comes to his beloved Donkey Kong record. All Steve Wiebe wants is recognition for his prowess at Donkey Kong; he doesn't really want to join Walter Day and his merry nerds. However, we see Billy Mitchell (who doesn't play a single game in the film) continually belittle Wiebe, talk about how great he is and use BS tactics to keep Wiebe away from his record. The Twin Galaxy nerds want to accept Steve but they are so under Billy the Egotist's thumb that they can't lest they lose their biggest "star". It's sad to see people simply let one guy walk all over them and think they deserve to be respected.
We see a group of people fighting over something so trivial as a video game score record and it's a shock. That something so insignificant is taken so seriously will surprise many people.
This is one documentary worth seeing just to see some real hardcore video gamers trading barbs and talking big. These guys didn't stop after the filming. Billy, Steve and a few others are still trying to be The King Of Kong as we speak.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Steve Wiebe retook the top score in Donkey Kong on September 20, 2010
with a score of 1,064,500."
Before we talk about Steve Wiebe holding the current title, let's talk about something almost as important: the fact that in the documentary 'King Of Kong' the relationship between Billy Mitchell and Brian Kuh is perhaps ONE INCH shy of being the non-parody-real-life version of 'East Bound And Down's Kenny Powers / Stevie Janowski. Overt mullet: check. American flag tie: check. Florida: check. Dweeb sidekick who'd apparently take a bullet for his dubiously-moral idol: check.
It's been said that the film was constructed to portray the "beef" between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell as more tense that it really was However: unless Billy Mitchell was specifically instructed to act vain, slippery, and uptight throughout the filming (HIGHLY unlikely / impossible) then we did get at least a snapshot of his Actual Persona - and likewise Steve Wiebe: bets are that warmth of his nature can't be faked.
Of course none of that really matters - or does it? (it does and here's why) If I followed this documentary clearly: Steve Wiebe's videotaped high score was rejected (and his garage / game machine invaded by Billy Mitchell's crew) yet Billy Mitchell continued (continues?) to submit videos documenting his top scores.. This has been brought up more than once here but: HOW IS THIS NOT ADDRESSED by the Twin Galaxies people? The "authority" Walter Day seems to take such pride in seems completely biased which in itself is unsettling but given the fact that he also represents (or represented) the Guinness Book Of World Records.. seems like downright Dirty Politics in action.
Near the end of the documentary said Twin Galaxies offers Steve Wiebe an apology letter of sorts though it's as non-self-incriminating as it is specific in terms of what they (or he: Walter Day) is apologizing For. Correct me if I'm mistaken but this is an admission of favoritism / bias towards Billy Mitchell which would be absolutely fine UNLESS this is the recognized Official Score Keepers for video games.. (sigh)
Steve Wiebe owning the current title feels like very good news and it's hard not to get a warm "the nice guy wins" feeling because of it. Of course I expect the Donkey Kong title will trade hands back and forth and side to side but one thing is more Permanent than any Kong Title (in my opinion) and that is: no matter how many achievements one makes it does not justify dead-eyed-greed or American flag ties worn in non-irony.
King of Kong is a documentary about setting the world record for the
classic Donkey Kong game from the 1980s. It begins with the story of
Billy Mitchell, who set the world record for Donkey Kong back in 1982.
It explains where he went from there, which included starting his own
restaurant chain, and how he felt about owning the title of Donkey Kong
champion. Basically he is a guy who is very well off and respects his
title and admittedly flaunts it. Then we introduce the no-name suburban
dad, Steve Wiebe, who in 2003 beats Billy Mitchell's score and sends it
to Twin Galaxies arcade, the cream of the crop arcade for all avid
retro gamers. From here a duel ensues against Billy and Steve that is
captivating and very exciting to watch unfold. The documentary is
filmed as it happens, as opposed to a record of the events after they
occur. This makes for an extremely fun story that will always keep you
wanting more. An array of players are introduced into this serious
world of gaming that are each interesting in their own way.
There is a certain something that is captivating to me about documentaries. It is possibly because they are about real things and real people, allowing the viewer to connect to characters on a different level. King of Kong had me interested the entire time. The feud between Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe is very unconventional and will make you side with one way more than the other. As the story progresses we see the vast differences between these two people and how that plays in to their immersion in video games. I will say that some of the people interviewed in this film take immersion to the next level. There are some people in this intense world of gaming that are so unbelievable that you can't help but crack up at the things they say and the lengths they go to, for the integrity of the gaming competition. Every element of King of Kong is so wonderfully executed and it creates for such an entertaining ordeal in such a different kind of element.
Where this documentary truly amazes is towards the end, when it becomes not so much about the video games, but more about personal integrity, hypocrisy, and living up to your beliefs. I highly commend this movie for exploring truly emotional topics that caught me by surprise as to how deep and human they really were, even in such a different realm of human interaction. King of Kong is a fantastic documentary that will captivate and amuse all at the same time. It has its own quirky style that works so well and on so many levels. Definitely check this one out.
This is a weird, interesting film that I'm surprised was even made. It
seems like a simple process, get the world record, media hovers over it
for a while, then it passes. But this could almost be a full length
behind the scenes feature on a Guinness World Records DVD if one was to
be put out. But the film's main focus is on a little arcade time killer
called Donkey Kong, one of the most successful video games in the
1980's. The film is similar to a movie that came out around this
release called Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade. The only difference
is that one explores "The Golden Age of Gaming" more than a
The film follows video game world champion, Billy Mitchell who had world records on games Donkey Kong and Centipede. He even went to level 255 on Pac-Man with one life. The 256th level of Pac-Man has an infamous "kill screen" which is half scrambled text which is believed to be the game codes. So it declares Pac-Man unbeatable, there's no end.
Steve Wiebe seems like a regular guy, he's laid off and finds solace with an old arcade machine of the classic Donkey Kong. He researches high scores of the game and discovers Billy Mitchell's 874,300 record score. He figures he could beat the score, and embarks on a challenge that will change his life.
Some people will find this movie sad and question how much of no life's these guys are. I found these people cool and I find it extremely interesting. I love learning about old 80's arcade games and try to research and find as much as possible out about the games. I knew Billy Mitchell held the record for most #1 high scores, but I didn't know him and Wiebe were in steady competition. I must admit I was siding with Mitchell for most of the film, but went to Wiebe by mid-film because of his ambition and focus on the game, though Mitchell was a very clever man.
The current record holder for "highest score in Donkey Kong" is a plastic surgeon named Hank Chien who scored 1,061,700. He was inspired by this film and was crowned on February 26, 2010. No surprise some random unknown person decided to take the challenge of beating one of the all time greatest gamers. Surprisingly he seceded though. So for a movie that has a 97% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes I couldn't help but see the film for myself. Truly an inspiring and remarkable film about two men striving to be the best, to get beat by someone unknown.
Staring: Steve Wiebe, Walter Day, and Billy Mitchell. Directed by: Seth Gordon.
As entertainment, King of Kong is quite good, portraying a strange
insular world of video game fanatics and a good vs. evil story of a
scrappy newcomer fighting to win the record from its sleazy holder.
But as a documentary, it is quite possible that almost everything in it has been twisted in pretzels to fabricate a story.
After I saw the documentary I looked in up on wikipedia, where I saw some fairly shocking claims regarding what the movie altered and left out. I went to the Twin Galaxies website and read more.
Of course, since Twin Galaxies and Billy Mitchell (I found an interview with him in AV Club) are portrayed negatively in the movie there's a possibility that they aren't telling the truth, but since some of the most important claims would be common knowledge within the classic arcade gaming community, they would ruin their reputation by lying, and be instantly refuted, so I have to lean towards believing them.
This is quite frustrating. The movie is entertaining. And it is fascinating to see how seriously people take this tiny little world. But if what Twin Galaxies claims is true, then I was totally mislead on what was going on, and I basically can't trust a single thing in the movie.
Documentaries, in my opinion, should strive to tell the truth more than to tell a good story. King of Kong tells a good story, but its relationship to the truth is highly suspect.
I was taken in by the characters of this documentary. The filmmakers
did an outstanding job creating a true good v. evil type of plot.
You will be pulled in by the passion and necessity of Steve Wiebe striving for a goal and taking on an industry who is against him (at first).
Now, I'm an admitted gamer, but it wouldn't have mattered because the plot of this movie takes over and gaming isn't the key aspect. It plays a key role, but rooting for an underdog becomes the true protagonist.
The competitive world of gaming isn't for everyone, but this story is.
Rent it, buy it.
I loved this movie. I would never though the competitive world of Donkey Kong would have made anything worthy of watching, but I have to tell you, this movie is one of the most entertaining documentaries ever. The subject matter is simple and light but there is such tension in these scenes and the competitive nature of these players is definitely admirable. I have always been a fan of characters that you love to hate and Billy Mitchell (definitely a character, but not an actor) is quite memorable. I usually don't buy movies, but I went out and bought this DVD and watch it whenever I need a laugh. If you are thinking about watching this movie, PLEASE do. Everybody can relate to this movie, because its about being competitive about your passion--even if that passion is Donkey Kong. A
Fake hair color, augmented wife, lying long-time atty friend and even
if he publicly appeared recently I would not trust the electronics and
hence any scores. Camp BM even went to Steve's house to dissect his
machine and check the electronics - they obviously know that altering
the board is a possibility. There are enough nerds in camp BM to be
familiar with a logic programmer.
Random plays on the same hardware is the only fair way to verify these scores but even that can be hacked to an unfair advantage.
Also, the tape submitted by Steve was likely used by Camp BM as an instructional video. It was not fair that Steve's tape could be made accessible to BM.
I think the modern day BM is incredulous - although I believe his 198? achievements.
It was an interesting doc as far as two guys going against one another and the decent guy coming out on top but over donkey kong?? apart from the two men that are married i wonder if any of the other people have made contact with the opposite sex at all as they look like they're mums have dressed them and stay all day in a kids store playing old games,these are grown men that have not got over past childhood glory,time to move on guyss and live you life and not sit in front of a vintage game all day all night.everyone has the right to do something they love but there does come a point in a mans life that you do have to "hang it up" and live life and not live with your mum and take a video game so serious.
In life there are winners and there are losers. Whether it's in love,
war, politics, sports or a simple game of cards, some people either
play their strengths appropriately or come out on the lucky side of the
dice as history's leading figures. For Billy Mitchell, arcade
video-game extraordinaire for the better part of two decades, life thus
far has been a series of events only proving his excellence. Believing
himself to be as close to perfection as you can imagine, Billy holds
his world records with video games in particularly high esteemthe
crown jewel being a score on classic game Donkey Kong of which nobody
has even come close to beating out since he set it back in the early
eighties. After soul-crushing defeat after defeat however, the stage is
set for underdog Steve Wiebe to challenge the throne; to storm the
gates of the Mitchell and Twin Galaxy Empire; to dodge barrel after
barrel and overcome the odds in order to finally come out on top and
receive just one segment in a page of history for himself.
This is the story of The King of Kong. Presented as a documentary, director Seth Gordon sets out to document the rise of one legend as he attempts to crush that of another. It's the classic fable of a man coming from nowhere to challenge the powers that be even when darkness surrounds and hope is all but lost. Indeed, in this regard The King of Kong takes on a structure and narrative more akin to Star Wars than your typical documentary and with this territory comes positive and negative elements. On the one hand, Gordon achieves what so little works of this nature do in that it informs and documents a polarising, esoteric subject without ever burdening the viewer with tedious exposition. So take someone who has very little previous investment in the world of video games whatsoever and you can be sure they'll be engrossed by this tug of war that transpires here regardless. As Wiebe concedes late into the film, the events slowly become less and less about Donkey Kong or video games, and more about that climb to the topwhether it's a mountain or a body of water, or in this case, platforms, barrels and liftsand the struggle to get there.
However, despite the movie's uncanny ability to strike emotion through its story and get you on the edge of your seat (this might be a little too subjective, but it isn't hard to see others being in the same position), there is a definite lack of integrity to Gordon's feature here that seems dubious. For all intents and purposes, the entire proceedings of The King of Kong are more than likely extremely close to the actual events that took place back in 2005, but the way in which Gordon brings this across too often undermines this sense of realism. For every turn that The King of Kong takes towards delivering that final epic climax from Star Wars, more distance is gathered from leaving viewers with that sense of conviction and reality that is necessary to drawing the line between fiction and documentary.
Nevertheless, while this is certainly true, there is still no denying the entertainment value inherent to Gordon's feature here that is very hard to refute. As much as the numerous manipulations go against the better nature of The King of Kong's story of determination, truth and perseverance in the face of adversity, there's still a lot of fun to be had in cheering on for underdog Steve as he tries valiantly to overcome the utter douchebag that is arrogant and insufferably pompous Billy Mitchellor at least, that's how Gordon wants him and his gang of goons to be seen. All dubious assertions aside, The King of Kong is an engrossing look into the realm of competitive gaming and most importantly the heart and soul of one man that attempts to take the realm by storm. It's uplifting and does enough to keep itself from becoming a tired niche movie for niche crowdsthis is the cinematic documentary, lightsabers alluded to but not included.
- A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
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