23 Apr Movie Review – The King of Kong
As I was polishing off my pre-movie curry, pretending to listen to my brother crap on about some movie called Hot Rod*, I realised there was a lot riding on this one…
Film: The King of Kong (Documentary, 79 mins, released February 28, 2008)
|Directed by||Seth Gordon|
|Produced by||Ed Cunningham|
|Starring||Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell|
As I was polishing off my pre-movie curry, pretending to listen to my brother crap on about some movie called Hot Rod*, I realised there was a lot riding on this one. I was extremely nervous about seeing The King of Kong – not because I thought it may be scary, but because it was the first time I was allowed to pick the movie since my disastrous pick, Boytown, ruined my reputation as resident good movie picker. Not even the fact that I’m doing a PhD in film seemed to overshadow what is now referred to as the “Boytown disaster”.
So, after a 2 year ban, I was finally given the opportunity by my Ratatouille–loving* brother David to restore my rep. And, with safe choices at my disposal like No Country for Old Men, and that doco about the moon landing (In the Shadow of the Moon?), I decided to double down on The King of Kong. I like to live on the edge.
And did I strike gold or what eh, boys? Aside from our fancy, scarf-wearing, Mauritian friends who just didn’t get it, The King of Kong was just what the movie doctor ordered.
Following the classic David vs. Goliath narrative structure, The King of Kong follows science teacher Steve Wiebe’s quest to achieve the highest ever score on the classic arcade game Donkey Kong. The Wikipedia page for the film boasts that the filmmakers shot over 300 hours of footage to make this documentary, which is relatively sweet f-all as far as documentaries go so I don’t know why they mention it. I shot about that for a 15-minute short doc that I didn’t even bother making a Wiki/IMDb page for (I don’t want to talk about it). Anyhoo… What the Kong crew did shoot makes for boss-level fun!
It is impossible to see this movie and not fall in love with Steve Wiebe. A guy who for most his life has felt like victory is just something you smell, but never quite get to taste. He loves his job, his family…
But Steve has a dream. A mission. To be the best. At Donkey Kong. He’s got the skills, he’s got the passion, he’s got the drive…
Just one thing stands in his way. This guy.
Billy Mitchell. THE Billy Mitchell. Well, perhaps I should have led with a more illustrative image. Let’s try again….
Here’s Billy with 9 identically dressed Namco promotional models (and the President of Namco) receiving a plaque celebrating him being the first man on Planet Earth to obtain a perfect game of PacMan (achieving 3,333,360 points). And here’s Billy below (second from left) at 17 in a commemorative t-shirt canonising his 25,000,000 point haul on Centipede.
Now does Billy have your attention???
According to Wikipedia, Billy Mitchell is best known for recording high scores in classics from the Golden Age of Arcade Games. He was described as the greatest arcade-video-game player of all time. He owns the popular Rickey’s World Famous Restaurant chain, based in Hollywood, Florida. He uses the same brand to sell a line of hot sauces, Rickey’s World Famous Sauces.
According to Vanessa, Billy Mitchell is a man from Florida who spends a lot of time playing video games and looking in the mirror. It really is little wonder some people refuse to believe this movie is a documentary….
Mitchell plays (sorry, is) the ultimate real-life Goliath who sets out to spoil every party Weibe gets invited to. Every time Wiebe beats his score – Mitchell reclaims his crown within a matter of days.
Every time Weibe makes a world record attempt, Mitchells dweeby cronies (as Mitchell refuses to be in the same room as Weibe) are there, peering over his shoulder – keeping Mitchell posted on Weibe’s progress) so he can rip away the glory as soon as he can.
Billy NEVER takes eyes off the prize (even if they aren’t always his eyes). And he keeps his distance, NEVER fraternising with the enemy.
The battle of Billy vs. Steve is HILARIOUSLY intense, and it continues to this day. If it weren’t so funny – it’d just be sad.
The King of Kong is a textbook character study, capturing an epic struggle between two men with too much time on their hands.
* Describing my brother as “Ratatouille-loving” is not meant as a ‘diss’. Merely an indicator of taste.
** I’ve since endured Hot Rod and will try to review it at some point.
Kong Off Update (all Wiki-rips, can’t be bothered paraphrasing high score results):
POTENTIALLY SPOILER-ESQUE (?) MATERIAL BELOW.
On August 7, 2010, Twin Galaxies once again certified Billy Mitchell as the record holder with 1,062,800 points. This coincided with the first induction ceremony for the International Video Game Hall of Fame. Mitchell set the new record playing at the Boomers-Grand Prix Arcade in Dania, Florida where he played for two hours and forty two minutes before quitting once he topped Chien’s score. When asked why he quit early, Mitchell said “Some say I’m being cocky. Some say I’m being lazy. I say, I’m being Billy Mitchell.” He also once again set the record in Donkey Kong, Jr.
WAIT FOR IT…….
Then Steve Wiebe once again regained the world record in September 2010, with a score of 1,064,500.
….The World Record has since been broken and regained by a different set of two men who I do not wish to discuss.