Best Movies of All Time + Steve Wiebe


A Fistful of Quarters

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a 2007 documentary directed by Seth Gordon. It follows Steve Wiebe's attempts to break the long-standing high score on the old Donkey Kong video game. After being laid off, Wiebe started to pass the time by playing the game on a machine in his garage. He started to score higher and higher and took it upon himself to challenge the score set by Billy Mitchell, a famous figure in the retro gaming scene, back in 1982. When Wiebe beats the score, he submits his video to Twin Galaxies, the official record-keeper for video games. However, Mitchell questions whether the video is valid, and Wiebe's short-lived title is revoked (despite the fact that we all know his attempt was legitimate). In response, Wiebe challenges Mitchell to a live, head-to-head showdown, but Mitchell never shows to defend his title, leaving all the pressure on Steve himself.

Although The King of Kong is a documentary, it has the feel of a scripted drama. In the beginning, when we're getting the history of early video gaming, we're not really sure who to like. For all we know, Billy Mitchell could be the good guy in the story. However, once we're introduced to down-on-his-luck Steve Wiebe, it becomes very evident who the audience is going to stand behind. As all of the drama unfolds, the movie develops Mitchell as the true villain of the story, and what a villain he is. I was verbally expressing my distaste with the man purely as a human being. He's such a complete asshole that you almost have to like Wiebe by default.

At the same time, we see the inner workings of the higher-up gaming community that will do whatever it takes to protect their own. Billy Mitchell is gaming royalty, and everyone seemed to be doing whatever they could to protect his record. In a way, Steve Wiebe's journey was an entire uphill battle because of the apparent corruption at the top of this scoring organization. We get a very intense competition that borders on good versus evil. Well, evil is a strong word, but it's the first one that comes to mind.

One of the best parts of the movie, however, is the fact that it moves from a competition between two gamers to a competition between two completely different types of people. The reason we cheer for Steve Wiebe is because we can recognize that he's a much better person than Billy Mitchell who proves himself time and again to be not that great of a guy. This "douchiness," for lack of a better word, propels the audience away from Mitchell and onto Wiebe's side. I haven't rooted for a character this much in quite a while, and that's quite a testament considering we're talking about grown men playing Donkey Kong.

On the whole, The King of Kong is engrossing and wholly satisfying. It's even got a fantastic soundtrack that hearkens back to the '80s when many of these games made their debut. It's definitely worth a watch if you've got eighty minutes to kill.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #177
2 Thumbs Up
Addition to Awards

2007, Billy Mitchell, doc, King of Kong, movie review, Seth Gordon, and more:

Relevant to: THE KING OF KONG + Steve Wiebe