The King of Kong: A fistful of quarters movie review
There is something wrong with me! Why do I get the utmost pleasure out of watching awful films? Also, why does my writing become so dull when I like something? (Case and point: Monster Camp. I thought it was a great documentary, but to read it you wouldn’t think so).
Nevertheless, I strive ever forward in an attempt to describe (in a light-hearted way) why I thought “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” was a truly inspired film.
Okay, so for you incapable of doing anything other than speed reading, I am not reviewing KING KONG, but a documentary on the Donkey Kong game, world championships. Yes, there is such a thing! It has been described by Empire Magazine as Rocky with Donkey Kong gamers, but I challenge them that in fact this film is more like “Any Which Way you Can” (starring Clint Eastwood) but better!
You have your good guy and your bad guy. You have a bad guy that disguises himself as a good guy. There is the snitch who tells on the good guy (to the bad guy) and the seemingly biased rulings. There is a battle to be won while everyone seems riled up and yet the “fighters” (or at least one of them) only want a good fight to be had (nice and friendly like). There is deviousness and underhandedness. There are questionable recordings and unlawful break-ins. On top of this quite excellent mix, we have the mortal enemies behind the reluctant challenger and the master. These higher enemies, you feel have an extreme prejudice, for each of the players they support.
I’m starting a little back to front here. If you are not sure what I am on about then read the second paragraph again! Yes. I did say this film was about a game of Donkey Kong. In fact with the references to “Any Which Way You Can” comes the necessary seventies haircut which the Master of Donkey Kong seems to still sport. It is as if he thought his Donkey Kong winning ‘powers’ resided in his mullet haircut. A little like Samson and seemingly more like Delilah, Billy Mitchell is (in his own words) “a winner”. Yes that’s right: this mild mannered mullet-man is a winner. HE claims to be a winner, his parents say he’s a winner, his self-proclaimed protégé states that he’s a winner; the assumedly unbiased referee even tells us this. WOW! What a guy! I felt like I was unworthy of watching this awesome man. He even sells Hot-sauce for a living! What a career! I mean, I would have thought he would have progressed to being a full-time gamer and yet he has time to make hot-sauce in the last 26 years. I am shivering at the excitement of hearing this man talk. This Adonis of a man is responsible for having the highest score in Donkey Kong (since 1982) - and the only recorded “perfect game” of Pacman. Does this sound like unhealthy obsession by any chance? If there is a possibility that all of us can get this obsessed about GTA IV then I had better burn my console now!
All is not as it seems though as a challenger is introduced. This man, Steve Wiebe is shown to be a family man (albeit a little neglectful to his wife and kids whilst he is spending hours on the game). You could call him the anti-hero I suppose, but it is clear that he is the diamond in the rough.
This is where I’m going to stop, for fear of spoiling the film for you. Let’s look at that again. This film paints one man as an evil manipulative individual who will stop at nothing to retain his score and it paints the challenger as a reluctant hero who has failed at everything (according to him) and just wants to achieve the world record of Donkey Kong. Anyone who has ever lived 3 minutes of real life (that’s life outside of video games people) will know that nothing is ever black and white. It is just collection of shades of grey (gray)! Unfortunately, this is where the film falls down. It seems to be EXTREMELY biased against the Mullet Man genius of Donkey Kong and yet EXTREMELY supportive of the dude ignoring his kids whilst trying to beat a high score. Documentaries are meant to be objective. The fact is this film is simply not. In truth, this is its only failing as it is a very entertaining watch; making the viewer quite literally cheering for the “good guy”. In fact, as a piece of fiction this film is a must-see. As a documentary of fact however, the story falls apart. In truth, if I were to believe all that was told in the film, some important questions would need to be raised (no..I’m serious). For example, How accurate are the Guinness Book of Records when it comes to the gaming community? I’m not trying to be controversial here and I’ll let you decide for yourself, but for you to do that you’ll need to watch this film. Watch it! I know it sounds far too geeky a watch for a normal (once a week gamer) like you, but trust me. You will laugh yourself silly at the incomprehensibility of it all. These people are obsessed! I’ll admit that this week I have been privileged to appreciate two documentaries on two very different areas of the obsessed area of gaming. The King of Kong and Monster Camp are both films that you need to watch and appreciate, if only for you to despair at the insanity of it all.
As a documentary, this film is lacking, but as a film of fiction, however it is rated: 4.5 out of 5
The King of Kong: A fistful of quarters is released in the UK on 6th June 2008 (the US has already had a release, so look for it on DVD at your local Video store)