Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The King of Kong

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (Seth Gordon, 2007) [8]
I would have never expected an entertaining interesting film about adults playing Donkey Kong of all things. The King of Kong centers on the rivalry of two men vying for the world record of Donkey Kong. Billy Mitchell has had the high score since the mid 80s, and apparanetly hasn't changed his hair and fashion sense since then either. Bragging of his "accomplishments", he comes of as the most self-important asshole on the planet who has no idea he's practically nobody. Steve Wiebe is a mild-mannered father of two who breaks Billy's record in his garage. You couldn't ask for two more divergent yet cinematically rich personalities than these two, as the film charts their rivalry, as Steve and Billy go back and forth with the record. Gordon portrays Steve as the nice guy playing by all the rules sent down in front of him while Billy is engaged in mind games, manipulation with the head gamers, and a constant battle of oneupsmanship. It's clear that Gordon is intentionally structuring the film to make Steve the downtrodden family man and Billy the unlikable alpha male. Still, it makes highly entertaining cinema. The film also succeeds when it goes a little deeper, beyond the simple rivalry and into the world of competetive gaming. The film gives us profiles of the other people in the gaming universe, arrested man-children, frankly nerds. What the film uncovers is the insular world these people operate in, as all of them of highly skeptical of Steve, mostly because he is not really one of them. These people clearly hold Billy in awe but I feel that Billy's aggressive personality is exactly the type that would intimidate people like this. The film's strongest moments are the tracking of their slow acceptance of Steve as a worthy player and apologizing for the inconsiderate treatment they gave him. It also shows the true love that these people have for video games and the impact Donkey Kong and other games have had on Steve, Billy, and the others life. Gordon is never condescending about this, he treats everything her with consideration and gets a fascinating story as the result.

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