King of Kong – Review

Way back in 5th grade, I was Pente champion of Ranchwood Elementary School. In 6th, I came in 3rd after a brutal defeat to my brother. After my two years of near dominance, Pente is now just a topic of self-lifting conversation whenever I see people playing. Fortunately, those conversations end after I get beat in 5 rounds.

Now imagine if Pente had consumed my life from 5th Grade to Thirty-something (and beyond). And instead of Pente, it was Donkey Kong. You’d have a pretty good idea of what King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is about.

“But wait,” you say. “This is a movie about video games. By law, it must suck.” True, that is the law, but this documentary transcends Kong and offers a look into the lives of those consumed by some inner drive to win.

Back when I was winning at Pente, Billy Mitchell was winning at Donkey Kong. And he got famous for it, setting the world record high score. He was so good, no one touched his score for decades. Finally, some teacher named Steve Weibe decided he could beat that score. King of Kong follows Steve into the freaking bizarre world of classic arcade competitions in his attempts to beat Billy’s untouchable score.

As you might imagine, that world is a bit unusual. Cameras and natural light rarely make an appearance. And while it’s easy (almost too easy) to mock the denizens of this world, King of Kong looks deeper into their culture. I watched this like a Natural Geographic show on the pygmies, asking why these people continued to pour their lives into decades-old games the rest of the world had left behind.

And then it hit me. During a moment where the Guinness Book of World Records gets involved, Steve Weibe’s daughter asks a simple, innocent question that cuts to the heart of everything. This movie is not about Donkey Kong or classic arcade games. It’s about those meaningless things in our lives that consume us, for one reason or another. After that, the 8-bit shell encasing the movie crumbled to reveal a universal question about what we devote our lives to.

And it’s all brilliant. Steve’s determination and humility makes you root for him. Then, after the interviews with his wife, he gets your pity. Billy Mitchell is the definition of evil, complete with a cult of star-struck followers. He’ll make you swear at the TV, I promise.

This is a must see. You may even start to re-examine the priorities in your life. With a bit of wisdom, that’s a very good thing.

Grade: A

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s