Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Directed, shot, and edited by Seth Gordon, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a documentary film about Steve Wiebe’s attempt to become the record-holder for the highest score in the arcade video game Donkey Kong as he deals with its previous record-holder in gaming champion Billy Mitchell. The film is an exploration into the culture of video arcades and the people who became champions where an ordinary guy in Steve Wiebe becomes an unlikely celebrity as well as the underdog that people roots for. The result is a fun and very engaging documentary film from Seth Gordon.

The film is an exploration into the rise of an ordinary man named Steve Wiebe who is a science teacher from Redmond, Washington after being laid off by Boeing where he spends his spare time playing Donkey Kong in an old arcade machine in his garage. Through his mastery and knowledge of mathematics, Wiebe does the unthinkable as he breaks Billy Mitchell’s score 874,300 points, which had been unbroken for more than 20 years, with a score of 1,006,600 points as he sends the tape to Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day who keeps records of arcade game scores. Wiebe’s record reaches Mitchell who suspects that the record might be false causing some issues over the validity of Wiebe’s score where Mitchell himself would make claims that he broke Wiebe’s score on the day Wiebe was invited to the Funspot Arcade at Laconia, New Hampshire to showcase his skills.

It’s a film that plays into the craziness of video game scores where director Seth Gordon definitely creates something where audiences have heroes and villains to root for. In Steve Wiebe, here’s the underdog that always fall short in moments of glory as he’s a simple family man with a wife and two kids as his skills in Donkey Kong finally gives him the chance to be a winner. In Billy Mitchell, he is portrayed as a villain who thinks he is the best as he is arrogant, loves to promote himself, and calls himself the “sauce king” in Florida while considering his greatest achievements is his record-breaking scores in various arcade games like Donkey Kong and Centipede as well as play a rare perfect game in Pac-Man back in 1999.

Gordon also showcases the arcade game culture which was at its apex in the early 1980s where Billy Mitchell as well as such gaming legends like Roy Shildt, Steve Sanders, and Doris Self (whom the film is dedicated to) as they helped popularize the world of gaming. Even as Walter Day is a major figure since he founded Twin Galaxies that keeps track of every gaming record while being a neutral figure as he finds himself rooting for Wiebe. With the help of sound mixer Nathan Smith, Gordon shoots much of the project in a simple documentary style while doing all of the editing to showcases the disparate backgrounds of Wiebe and Mitchell where the film’s climax would have Wiebe travel to Hollywood, Florida to challenge Mitchell for the Donkey Kong record. With a low-key yet plaintive score from Craig Richey, the film also features music from Survivor and Joe Esposito to help add some humor and Wiebe’s determination.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is an incredible film from Seth Gordon. The film is a fascinating piece on the world of arcade gaming as well as an ordinary man’s chase to break a record and face off against more established champions. Especially as Gordon decides to inject some humor and such to play into the world of good vs. evil. In the end, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a remarkable film from Seth Gordon.

© thevoid99 2014


Dell said...

Remarkable is a great way to describe it. Great review.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I love this film. It goes to show how cool the world of gaming culture is.