The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
A documentary about epic triumphs and heartbreaking defeats
In 1981 Nintendo released an arcade game known as "Donkey Kong." The idea was simple; an Italian plumber with a bushy mustache and fashionable red overalls must maneuver over a series of platforms while dodging obstacles such as rolling barrels and fireballs to rescue a damsel in distress, who has been captured by a giant ape.
Okay, so maybe the idea isn't so simple - but "Donkey Kong," (affectionately titled for the game's villainous ape) was the first video game to tell a narrative story. That plumber went on to become Nintendo's flagship character, Mario, and his damsel became Princess Peach, the first lady of video games.
"King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" tells the story of two men whose entire lives have been shaped by this classic arcade game. In 1982 a kid named Billy Mitchell from Holyoke, Massachusetts, became the world champion of "Donkey Kong," accumulating a recording-breaking score of 849,000 that would go unchallenged for 20 years.
Mitchell was known as the single greatest video game player of all time, achieving multiple records on various games throughout the so-called "Golden Age" of video games.
On the other side of the spectrum is middle school math and science teacher Steve Wiebe of Redmond, Washington - the guy that always came up short in everything. Weibe is the average Joe who strives for greatness but always seems to come up short. After picking up "Donkey Kong" as a hobbie, he saw Mitchell's high score on a scoreboard website and thought, "Hey, I can beat that."
Needless to say, we take the epic journey with Steve - traveling 3,000 miles across the country to attempt to be number one. Simply put, this may be my favorite movie of the year. Yes, you read that right - movie - not just a documentary. Mitchell, Wiebe and the rest of Kong's cast are so full of personality, they literally fly right off the screen, drawn better and given more depth than even the phony characters of Hollywood's blockbusters this summer.
At times while watching the fierce competition - the sudden plot twists and the heartbreaking realizations, you feel as if it can't be real. How can this not be a scripted tale thought up by a child of the Atari generation?
Rest assured, the arrogant (villainous even) Mitchell is a real person and fulfills the film's need for a bad guy, which comments such as "Losing? I'll have to try that some time," not to mention his Chuck Norris mullet and sleazy fake charm.
You want to cheer on Wiebe as the underdog - facing the insurmountable odds of Mitchell and his joystick-slapping minions. What starts out as a documentary about a video game competition turns into the story of a man versus an empire.
"King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" is simply a wonderfully shot and directed documentary that is touching and engaging and unforgettable. I felt the highs and lows of the characters and became extremely moved by Wiebe's story - I even felt tears collecting in the corners of my eyes.
A true underdog story,I strongly recommend this film to anyone with a heartbeat (or an intense love of video games will suffice).