Friday, May 01, 2009

King of Kong

I recently ran across this post at the Burnside Writer's Blog about the documentary The King of Kong. The post reminded me that I finally needed to set aside some time to watch this wildly popular film about the trials and tribulations of a man called Steve Wiebe and his arch-nemesis, Billy Mitchell, as they duke it out for the world record in the arcade version of Donkey Kong. 

Tonight, I finally watched the doc and was introduced to Billy Mitchell, or at least the objective look at Billy Mitchell through the eyes of the director of the film. Thusly, I was introduced to the most bombastic ass I have ever seen in film. The directors swear to the honest representation of Billy Mitchell in the movie. However, Mitchell disagrees and says one scene, in which Mitchell appears to snub Wiebe, has been edited in a way that paints Mitchell in a negative light. You can read about the disputed scene in the AV Club's interview with him that I linked to in the first sentence of this paragraph. 

Billy Mitchell aside, The King of Kong is a highly entertaining documentary that is as much about a man finally achieving a goal as it is about a classic arcade game. Wiebe is the guy who has always been good at a lot of different things, but being the best in the world at any one of those things has always evaded him. Wiebe looks to be on the rise in the film and over the 80 minutes of Kong, the director Seth Gordon, intricately weaves a story of the fiercely competitive classic arcade gaming world with dozens of interviews, drama, and history. 

Take any skill, no matter how extraneous it might seem, and there will be a group of people that have become so good at that one skill (in the case of this film, playing Donkey Kong), that their story will cross boundaries. Their story will encompass so much of the human struggle to overcome anything and anyone in their path that it will speak to those who aren't obsessed with the same skill. Great documentaries usually achieve this effect. King of Kong does.

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