Movie Review – The King Of Kong

tkokaffoq.jpgInfendo Newsletter editor, Chris, reviews the recent documentary The King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I live in a fairly unknown town in the Midwest. When a movie, such as The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, gets such a limited release, it would probably not be showing anywhere near my town. So surprised I was to find that for one weekend only, a theater nearby would be showing this movie. I jumped at the chance to see it. I drove downtown to the oldest theater in my town (it only has one screen). At 1:45 pm, the red curtain was drawn and the movie started to an audience of only three people, myself included.

The movie starts out profiling the history of classing video games, the competition of high scores, and the champion of it all – Billy Mitchell. From a young age, Mitchell has set many classic gaming records, including the first ever perfect Pac-Man game. At the beginning of the movie, he held the record for the highest score in Donkey Kong. Mitchell, who owns his own brand of hot sauce, is considered the best gamer of our time.

Enter Steve Weibe, an average science teacher in Redmond, Virginia. After being laid off from a job, he sets off to beat the high score in Donkey Kong using his own machine in his garage. Even with his two kids and a somewhat unsupportive wife, he improves so much that he decides to go for the record.

With a video camera over his shoulder pointing at the screen, Steve begins the game. Around the 500,000 point mark, you can hear his young son yelling at him to stop playing Donkey Kong and to come wipe his bottom. Even with these distractions, he beats Mitchell’s score. He submits the tapes to Twin Galaxies, the official score keepers of classic gaming. They come to his house to investigate the Donkey Kong machine that the record game was played on. They conclude that the machine’s board had been altered and due to ties between Steve and an “enemy” of Twin Galaxies (the guy who donated the Donkey Kong machine to Steve), the score is not accepted. You can tell that Twin Galaxies doesn’t want to lose their poster boy Billy Mitchell.

Twin Galaxies invites Steve to redeem himself by coming to a classic gaming tournament to try and beat the score in public. He flies down and beats the record in front of an official Twin Galaxies referee. He also achieves the third ever recorded “kill screen” (the final level of Donkey Kong, where you can play for only five seconds and then Mario inexplicably dies).

After hearing of this, Mitchell submits a new tape the very next day which shows him beating Steve’s score, also becoming the first to break one million points in Donkey Kong. Mitchell comes across as a master manipulator, always having something up his sleeve. He offers the challenge that if anyone could beat his score by 4:00 that day, then he would give them $10,000. No one beats it.

Steve wants to go one-on-one with Billy to prove who is the best Donkey Kong player. Billy keeps snubbing Steve, which frustrates him. It is pretty evident that Billy is afraid of losing. Billy eventually does show up to a tournament as Steve is playing, but only stays for about 10 minutes before leaving, a rather disappointing encounter. At the end of the movie, Steve submits a video of him beating Billy’s score in his basement, giving him the highest score in both live and taped playings of Donkey Kong. But since the movie has come out, Billy has reclaimed his high score. Just don’t expect it to stay like that for too long.

This movie was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Although I consider myself a gamer, there were a lot of things that caught me by surprise, such as just how competitive classic gaming can be. Did you know that at some points, you can actually control how the barrels behave in Donkey Kong? I didn’t. And can you believe that someone actually has to sit and watch hours of gameplay on tape just to determine a high score? I guess someone has to do it.

I really enjoyed this movie. From the arrogant Billy Mitchell to the frustrated Steve Wiebe, the movie pulls you in and delivers with such a twisting and turning story. Why can’t more video game movies be this good? (I’m asking you, Ewe Boll.) I highly recommend that you go see this movie, if you can find it. Or at least watch the DVD when that comes out. Whatever you have to do, if you want to consider yourself a true gamer, then you have got to check this one out.

14 Responses to Movie Review – The King Of Kong

  1. Dan says:

    Great documentary!

  2. Gemini Ace says:

    Great review. I’m gonna see this one.

  3. DB says:

    Downloaded this movie last week because there are no screenings anywhere near me. I was blown away – gamers and non-gamers alike will dig this. Definitely buying copies for all my friends when it comes out on DVD.

  4. Nintendopython says:

    I’m going to see it in Cleveland Sunday! I’m excited!

  5. dlindema says:

    I saw this movie over the past weekend. At first I was just going to either download it, or drive to Chicago (Since I go to school in Grand Rapids, it is closer to me than Detroit, and will more likely have a showing) But then my girlfriend wanted to go to our hometown for the weekend it was showing. Coincidentally there was a showing in Royal Oak that same day we were coming home. I loved this movie, and will be buying it on DVD as soon as it comes out. I think the film eclipsed any of the summer blockbusters by a long shot.

  6. Probst says:

    It’s Uwe Boll, not Ewe:

    I’ve got to see this movie, but what other choice than downloading it do I have? Bet it won’t be released on DVD in Denmark.

  7. richufc says:

    I really wanted to see this and downloaded it last week as its never likely to come out in the UK cinemas. I’ll buy the US DVD when it comes out though so I guess that balances out the downloading naughtyness!

    Its a great film – Honestly one of the best I’ve seen in ages. Even if I weren’t into videogames the story and characters would have had me gripped.

    Its a story that is both very funny and very sad in places. The only downer is that Mitchell didn’t have the balls for a live showdown which would have made a fitting climax to the film.

    There are rumours of a full on Hollywood version with actors playing the main parts but whoever they got it would never match the real-life characters captured so brilliantly here.

    In summary – top stuff and make sure you see it any way you can! PS. Great soundtrack too.

  8. Fank says:

    All I can say is: “MITCHELL!!!”

  9. used cisco says:

    “I live in a fairly unknown town in the Midwest.”

    Hey, so do I! Where did you see this? Maybe I can get there and see it too!

  10. Albo says:

    It really is the best movie I’ve seen all year. I stumbled upon Funspot (the classic arcade in New Hampshire where a lot of the film takes place) and it was hands down the coolest video gaming experience I’ve ever had. They have tons of classic games (I honestly didn’t realize there were so many) and most impressively they were all in tip top shape. No loose joysticks, no sticky pinball paddles. You could almost small the oil, and everything was tight and smooth. Really a worthy detour if you’re ever anywhere near there.

  11. InvisibleMan says:

    The Uwe Boll version will include several actors in gorilla suits, I’ll bet…

  12. rainking187 says:

    Lucky you, I live in a fairly large city on the west coast and the only place playing this near me was a lot farther away then I was willing to go.

  13. Jeff says:

    The town where Wiebe is from is Redmond, WA, (Seattle) where Nintendo and Microsoft’s headquarters are.

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