When I was a kid, the first game I bought for my Nintendo Entertainment System was Donkey Kong. It’s the classic arcade game that put Nintendo on the map and it’s the driving force behind the recent documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
The story revolves around two people: Billy Mitchell, the Donkey Kong world record-holder and Steve Wiebe, the challenger. As the story begins, Billy’s record in Donkey Kong (which is considered the toughest of the classic games) has gone unbeaten for over 20 years. He’s a record-holder in several other classic arcade games and comes across as cunning, devious, and obsessed with winning. Steve is a middle school science teacher who always seems to get the short end of the stick. He discovers a natural ability for Donkey Kong and decides to take a run at the record.
What follows is an engaging, entertaining, funny film that really finds its heart in the strange and endearing cast of characters. And the characters are really what carries this film beyond its premise (I mean let’s face it, a documentary about people playing video games can really only go so far if the people doing the playing are dull). Steve becomes the kind of underdog challenger that you can’t help but root for; especially as Billy pulls out the stops to keep his place on top. The other characters that populate the film’s world of competitive classic gaming are also wonderfully interesting and fascinating to watch.
As I spend this month working on a underdog, against-all-odds sports film, this unlikely story put me in the right mindset as I’m framing the script. The film even has a sequence set to the song, “You’re the Best” from The Karate Kid soundtrack. How can you go wrong with that?
I definitely recommend checking it out. In case you’re interested, here’s the trailer: