Review of The King of Kong

Review of King of Kong by Seth Gordon
Rating ***

I am a fan of old arcade video games. My favorite was Asteroids. Donkey Kong was a fun game, but I never mastered it like I did Asteroids. This film is about the two top Donkey Kong players in the world. That description, however, doesn’t accurately portray what this film is really about. What it’s really about are two men vying to be number one, with one willing to take whatever steps necessary to validate his claim, and the other unwilling to face his competition one on one for fear of defeat.

The filmmakers began the project following several different story lines. They didn’t know where the story was going to take them until well into filming. It only became apparent to them when they realized that the reigning high scorer, Billy Mitchell, had no intention of defending his score in a public venue. He instead tries to usurp his competition, Steve Wiebe, by sending in a tape of himself achieving a supposedly higher score than what Wiebe achieved in an official competition. What makes the story compelling is the fact that Wiebe had also sent in a tape, which later came under scrutiny and was ultimately discarded.

One of the strongest segments in the film are of Billy Mitchell explaining how no high score is valid unless it occurs under the spotlight of head to head competition. In the very next scene his wife is asked if Billy had ever participated in a head to head competition, and her answer was no. Not only does he avoid any kind of direct competition, but when he finally does find himself in the same room as Steve Wiebe, he acts disinterested and disrespectful.

There’s no question that Billy Mitchell is a world class video arcade gamer, but he completely lost all credibility by refusing to face any competition. He spends a lot of time making sports analogies, but would Tiger Woods get any satisfaction by turning in a video of his low round, where he was the only competitor? I don’t think so.

The DVD has a few extras including a very good audio commentary.

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  1. […] around one main event, a ridiculous hair styling competition. The same structure was used in King of Kong. It works because it gives the film a solid beginning, middle, and […]

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