In this hilarious, critically acclaimed arcade showdown, a humble novice goes head-to-head against the reigning Donkey Kong champ in a confrontation that rocks the gaming world to its processors! For over 20 years, Billy M... more »itchell has owned the throne of the Donkey Kong world. No one could beat his top score until now. Newcomer Steve Wiebe claims to have beaten the unbeatable, but Mitchell isn't ready to renquish his crown without a fight. Go behind the barrels as the two battle it out in a vicious war to earn the title of the true King of Kong.« less
A great competition story documentary on par with Spellbound, Word Wars, or Pucker Up, better than Wordplay, Kasparov vs. The Machine, Scrabylon, or Air Guitar Nation. Competition brings out the best and worst – and watching these stories really shows the breadth of what it is to be human for different folk. King of Kong may be of particular interest to video gamers because of the subject matter. Vastly different personalities vie for the title of Donkey Kong champion in this film. The back and forth keeps this entertaining until the very end (and after!).
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Fun for gamers And Non-Gamers Alike
J. Fuchs | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I stuck this movie into the DVD player thinking I'd watch 15 minutes or so and then go make dinner. Before I knew it, the end titles were coming up. This movie starts out slowly and you think it's going to be for hard-core gamers only and then it just sucks you in.
The first time you see Billy Mitchell on screen, standing in front of a copy machine wearing a button up shirt and tie, hair unfashionably long and blunt cut, with facial hair right out of the 70s, your first thought is "loser." Some of this comes from the popular image of people who are hard-core game players as not having real lives. It comes a surprise, therefore, to find out that not only is Mitchell a world champion video gamer, he is an exceptionally successful business person who is married and has children. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop him from coming across as a world-class jerk. While this is no doubt due somewhat to editing, no one put words into Mitchell's mouth and after a while you'll want to roll your eyes at his pompous pontificating. Still, he's the rock star of video gamers and the world-record holder in Donkey Kong, and even if you think that people who spend that much time going after such a seemingly useless world record need to get a life, you can't argue with the fact that Billy Mitchell certainly seems to have one, even if you'd never want to be part of it.
Steve Wiebe, on the other hand, is one of those guys you'd love to have as your best friend. Just as no amount of editing could make Billy Mitchell into the jerk he obviously is, no amount of editing in a picture this long could make Steve Wiebe out to be such a good guy if he weren't genuinely good natured. Even when the video gaming world seems to be conspiring against him to make sure that Billy Mitchell stays on top, Wiebe has a smile on his face. He's smart, good-looking, talented, and also married and a father. And such a sap that times, you just want to slap him for putting up with everything with such good grace.
The movie is about Wiebe's attempt to break Mitchell's long-standing world record for the highest ever Donkey Kong score. Those of us old enough to have played the game back in its heyday will remember how fun it was as well as its sheer impossibility. But even if you never played, or if that funny looking little guy dodging fireballs and falling barrels while trying hopelessly to rescue the girl never appealed to you, chances are you'll find this movie delightful. Because this movie is not about a video game, it's about what drives us to keep going in the face of the odds. The filmmakers do a great job of eliciting from the participants, particularly Wiebe, the reasons for their attraction to the game and the pursuit of the all time high score. Actual gameplay is kept to a minimum, which is frustrating for those of us who really liked the game, but what keeps it interesting even for people who've never held a joystick. Even if you think such a pursuit is really stupid, you'll probably find yourself torn when Steve Wiebe has to choose between breaking the world record and wiping his young son's bottom. You really end up rooting for him.
The supporting players are almost as entertaining as Wiebe and Mitchell, especially Walter Day, the folksinging, meditating, self-appointed guru of the gaming world, who seems to be going out of his way to keep Billy Mitchell on top. Seriously, you couldn't invent this guy.
Seth Gordon, the director of this film, worked on the movie New York Doll, and he seems to have picked up some of that film's ability to transcend the subject matter and keep us interested in people who might not otherwise seem like anyone we'd want to watch for a couple of hours. That Gordon can make Donkey Kong into a metaphor for life, and an entertaining one at that, is no mean accomplishment. I loved this movie.
Video Game Rivalry as Both Character Drama and Quirky Amusem
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 02/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The King of Kong" follows the 2004-2006 rivalry and resulting controversy for the title of Donkey Kong Champion between longtime record holder and Gamer of the Century Billy Mitchell and challenger Steve Wiebe. Wiebe is cast in the role of heroic underdog, a junior high school science teacher from Washington state who has chosen Donkey Kong as the vehicle of his success after a series of disappointments in other fields. When Wiebe's videotaped record-breaking game is rejected by Twin Galaxies, the regulatory organization for classic arcade records, Steve is forced to try to break the record live, with referee Walter Day as a witness. Meanwhile, defending champion Billy Mitchell, a hot sauce mogul from Florida, avoids the challenge of his rival for fear of losing his title.
I didn't realize that the interest in retro arcade games is still so intense, as I haven't seen hide nor hair of one of these machines since the 1980s. Director Seth Gordon has fashioned a story from a competition that takes place in front of video game screens by focusing on the characters and the controversy. He digs into Steve Wiebe's past to find motivation, accurate or not, for his obsessive pursuit of the Donkey Kong title. Billy Mitchell is portrayed as a egomaniac who tries to manipulate Twin Galaxies' acceptance of challengers' scores. His fear of defeat after 20 years on top is understandable, even if his actions are not admirable. I have no interest in video games, but "The King of Kong" is a character drama that is at once compelling and curious.
The DVD (New Line 2008): Bonus features include 10 bonus scenes, 11 extended interviews, a DVD-ROM (Windows only), a theatrical trailer (2 min), a Glossary of 12 arcade terms, 2 feature commentaries, and: "The Saga Continues" updates us on the rivalry for the Donkey Kong title since 2006. "A Really, Really Brief History of Donkey Kong" (1 min) is a fast-talking animated history of the game. "I am 8-bit" is a gallery of 18 frames of a group art project, with music, inspired by classic arcade games. Subtitles for the film are available in English and Spanish.
The first feature commentary is by the filmmakers. Director Seth Gordon, producer Ed Cunningham, and associate producer Clay Tweel tell us how they discovered the story, how different parts of the film were conceived, and provide additional history of the people and relationships in the film. The second feature commentary is by Chris Carlyle, entertainment editorial director for IGN, and Jon M. Gibson, founder of "i am 8-bit". This is a conversational, often joking commentary about the people in the film. I'd skip it."
EPIC BATTLE OF FACE VS. HEEL!
M. Grant | Detroit, Michigan | 12/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The King of Kong is possibly the best movie I saw during 2007 (and I saw alot of movies). What makes it outstanding is that it's a simple story of good against evil played out between normal guys (maybe even less than normal when you factor in the Geek Quotient) and it's 100% true!
I won't spoil things but any fan of wrestling, video games, or funny movies will appreciate the trials of Face-Hero cum everyman Steve Weibe as he tries to set the world record for Donkey Kong. In the process Weibe battles the very tight knit nerd "cult" of record holders who are not interested in seeing an outsider break through. And...I haven't even mentioned our Heel-Villain Billy Mitchell, possibly the cockiest man to ever smile on camera as he speaks about himself in the 3rd Person!
5 minutes into this movie you'll find yourself cheering for Weibe and hissing at Mitchell and you'll still have plenty of movie to entertain you. Overall this is an A+ movie and one of the funniest and most original documentaries I have seen since...well since Arcades were a favorite mall hang-out."
The Greatest Battle of All Time
GK128 | Providence, RI | 12/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okay, well maybe not the greatest battle of all time, but a damn entertaining one.
"The King of Kong" is an excellent documentary that looks at classic gaming. It features many of gamings greatest records holders such as Todd Rogers, Billy Mitchell, and controversial "Missile Command" record holder "Mr. Awesome" himself, Roy Shildt.
If you have an interest in classic gaming you should see this movie. Even if you don't have an interest in classic gaming you should still see this movie. It is entertaining and funny throughout."
Fascinating Look at Carnival Like World of Competitive Gamin
drebbles | Arlington, MA USA | 03/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The King of Kong" is a classic look at good vs. evil as Steve Wiebe challenges Billy Mitchell for the Donkey Kong title that Mitchell has held for years. Wiebe comes across as a lovable, devoted family man who starts playing Donkey Kong when he loses his job and who just wants to be a winner for once. Mitchell comes across as a bit arrogant, wanting to hold on to his title as champ, refusing to meet with Wiebe in a face to face challenge, even as he emphasizes the importance of "live" scores.
"The King of Kong" is a fascinating look into the world of classic game competition. You can't help but end up cheering for Wiebe and hating Mitchell as the movie goes along. This is partly due to the somewhat controversial editing that shows Wiebe at home, surrounded by family, trying and failing to meet with Mitchell, and willing to show up in public to challenge the title. On the other hand, you only catch brief glimpses inside Mitchell's home, an even briefer glimpse of his wife, and when he does meet up with Wiebe, he basically ignores him. His unwillingness (at least at that time of the documentary) to defend his record in public is perplexing, especially since he stresses throughout the documentary how important it is to do it "live". His sending a videotape of him setting a record in Donkey Kong to Funspot while Wiebe is competing live is one of the more infuriating things he does in the documentary as is Walter Day's decision to use the score on the tape even though he had questions about the tape (to be fair, "The King of Kong" neglects to mention that Mitchell's score was soon taken down).
What makes "The King of Kong" so interesting is how important the record in Donkey Kong is to both Wiebe and Mitchell. It's clear that Mitchell loves the "fame" that comes with the title of Donkey Kong champ. But Wiebe is no less determined to gain the title, sometimes almost neglecting his children (the scene with him first breaking the score is both funny and sad as his children struggle to gain his attention). His young daughter has perhaps the most telling line in the documentary: "I never knew that the Guinness World Record Book was so... I never knew it was so important... Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there." Also interesting are some of the other players who are also competing on various games (I would have loved to see more of the late Doris Self, the oldest video game competitor, who once set a world record in Q-Bert). The scene where Wiebe reaches a kill screen in Donkey Kong shows just how exciting competition can be not just to those playing the game, but those playing other games as well.
"The King of Kong" is a good, if not perfect documentary. The film plays with facts a little too much - the producers not only omit the bit about Mitchell's high score being quickly taken down, but the fact that Wiebe was not the first to seriously challenge Mitchell's records, there had been an earlier much disputed, record breaking score. The film also neglects to mention that even though Mitchell made it into the 2007 Guiness World Records for the highest score in Donkey Kong, Wiebe also is listed in Guinness for the highest score in Donkey Kong, Jr. There is also some dispute as to whether Wiebe and Mitchell did meet up, especially in a restaurant scene that is edited to look like Mitchell is avoiding Wiebe; and what exactly happened when people came to Wiebe's house to examine his Donkey Kong machine. Oddly enough, these omissions and disputed facts only serve to make the move even more interesting.