Monday, September 24, 2007

The King of Kong

The verdict: A surprisingly genuine and inspirational story of a man's struggle to be his own man, and be the best in the world... at Donkey Kong.

The rating: 8/10

This is a movie about video games, but I'm not talking about MMORPG's, Nintendo Wiis, Playstations, or even Sega Megadrives. The games featured in this movie pre-date Commodore 64's and possibly even the 2600 from Atari. We're talking arcade games here, and the originals, such as Donkey Kong, Pacman, Q-Bert and Frogger. 'The King of Kong' tracks the origins and development of the people who hold the world records at these classic video games, and how since 1982, the competition to hold one of these records has been as fierce as in any competitive sport - I kid you not.

Since 1982, Billy Mitchell has held the record at Donkey Kong, but this is really someone else's story. I was surprised how involved I got in this tale of Steve Wiebe, (pronounced wee-bee) a normal, honest, hard-working guy who loved his wife and kids, but somehow never lived up to his potential. His father pushed him to be the pitcher for the school baseball team, and expected him to follow in his footsteps, becoming an engineer at Boeing, and work there for the rest of his life. Steve didn't really live up to his old man's expectations however, leaving baseball behind to play the drums with his garage band, and getting laid off from Boeing the day he signed mortgage papers with his wife.

As his wife says in the movie, Steve was 'searching for something', and one day heard of the organisation known as 'Twin Galaxies', established by Walter Day - the self-appointed regulator of all video game world record attempts - back in 1982. Wiebe took it upon himself to go for the top score, and set about trying to beak Billy Mitchell's world record.

Now, I don't want to tell you more about this movie, because it really caught me off-guard. At first, I found myself amused by the nerdy characters involved in the 'Twin Galaxies' crew, but gradually, I was taken in. The story becomes something that Will Ferrell could option for himself, with Billy Mitchell every inch the real life 'Ben Stiller from Dodgeball' of video gaming. Meanwhile, Wiebe is the honest guy just trying to make a mark for himself.

I don't want to spoil it for you, but I heartily recommend this movie. The filmmaker Seth Gordon understands that the people involved can tell the story better than anyone, and wisely stays behind the camera, letting the protagonists play out the drama for us, building slowly towards a guinness world record attempt, and a live showdown between Billy Mitchell (boo!) and Steve Wiebe (hooray!).

The story is strong enough to transcend video games, and could be transposed to any sporting scenario, or situation involving a struggle for glory. All the central characters have given part of their lives to this story, and it is worth hearing as a result. Seek this out, and you won't be disappointed.

No news yet of an Irish release date, but click here for the (rather noisy) official site.

1 comment:

Vipin said...

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