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The King of Kong

Film Five Stars
The King of Kong sounds like a film that someone who isn't a videogames enthusiast wouldn't be interested in, however you would be very wrong and in serious danger of missing a superb documentary that has been fantastically edited.

The film does manages to take this geeky idea and make it a mainstream documentary that beats many others in its class, and it does easily. It expertly builds up the two main characters and creates a dramatic and tense filled relationship that rivals many of the leading good guy/bad guy relationships in blockbuster films.

Plot.pngThe idea of the film is simple. In the videogame world the highest score ever for Donkey Kong has been held by one man, Billy Mitchell, since 1982. Now there's a challenger on the scene, Steve Wiebe, and with a video submitted world record breaking score denounced as faked by the official body responsible for the score keeping, a body which includes Billy Mitchell, Steve Wiebe sets out to beat Mitchell's score officially, and in person.

What happens is one of the greatest battles on screen you'll see. Filled with tension, corruption, lies, sacrifice and one man's battle to prove himself good at something and see it through to the end, The King of Kong turns out to be a surprisingly great film.

TheFilm.pngAs the film opens you begin to think you are in for a film about eighties videogamers and the craze that only swept certain bedrooms throughout the male population of the U.S., to be honest it's not a strong opening and it doesn't really make you think you're in for half the film it turns out to be.

This is where I would add my government health warning. Stay tuned. Do not stop watching the film, because it gets better, so much better.

During these opening sequences we're introduced to the character of Billy Mitchell, the current world record holder, and we're drawn towards him. He's a great character, and before you know it, as he talks about the game and life, you find that you're connecting with him.

Then the film starts widening up and brings in the character of YY. At first you feel he's an outsider, almost an imposter, a feeling that the film has managed to create easily with you.

However it soon starts to turn this around, and using stories of his life which tell of his various attempts to do something with his obvious talents only to fall for some terrible quirk of fate - for example his pitching talent giving him a chance at a baseball career only to have it ruined by his father pushing him to over train - you begin to identify with him and see him as the heroic underdog.

It's very skilfully done, and there's a lot of credit to be given to the true life story itself and the fact that everything is real, as well as having access to the right footage at the right time, but there's also credit to be had by the excellent editing throughout.

Not only does it do a great job of manipulating and moving you using the actual footage and characters, but that stock footage comes in just at the right times to reveal the truth about characters and their intentions, and sometimes it's rather surprising.

Now that the characters are in place the film begins to focus on the challenge itself, and it becomes very tense and exciting, especially when the very obvious cheating comes into play and that's when you find, almost without you realising it, that you're wholly rooting for YY and you begin to urge him forward. Indeed I found myself shouting out loud and punching the air at one point, as well as stopping the DVD and walking through to harass my wife with the tale and complain about the injustice of it.

That's probably one of the areas that makes this film work so well, it's not really about the videogames, it's about injustice, a man struggling to achieve his dream against all the odds, and how even in the darkest hour, the humanity of people can always surprise you.

Genuinely, I am not joking, these are the main themes that come out of the latter half of the film, and it makes it entertaining and thoroughly engaging at the same time.

Overall.pngThe King of Kong is compelling and satisfying, it engages early on in the film and creates a superb gladiatorial battle between two figures who never really go head to head. It's funny, it's moving, and above all it'll get your heart racing and your blood boiling - I was shouting at the television at one point.

It's a film that is about much more than videogames, and it looks into how good and bad people can really be. A great film that you'll really enjoy, gamer or not.

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Great review Richard, just ordered this from lovefilm and really looking forward to it!

Thanks Michelle, glad to be of help and the fact that the review made you go and get it makes all this worthwhile!

Hope you like it too now, please let me know how you enjoy it.

I watched the film last night and I really enjoyed it.

I was really rooting for Steve by the end even when my flatmates were walking in the room and saying that it was only a computer game to which I started feeling slightly offended on their behalf. Billy Mitchell was painted very much as the shows villian. He didn't really help himself with some of the comments he came out with either. His answer to the question about the 3 letters he uses for his highscore was pretty funny.

I did some research after viewing it and found that Bill passed Steves score not long afterwards. Twin galaxies has also posted explanations of some of the films scenes in their forums trying to explain things. (and yep Steve is still trying to beat his score)

I really enjoyed it though and learnt some things in the process (hey guys did you know that the arcade machines have a kill screen?!) The dedication these people go through both validating and achieveing the scores is pretty incredible.

Thanks for the review again Richard.

Now that's interesting Michelle, I didn't realise that Billy had beaten his score again, and presumably legally too! Hopefully Steve will come back again.

No problem Michelle - feedback and comments make it all worthwhile.



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