Monday, May 22, 2017

The King of Kong: The Musical!

You did not read that headline incorrectly. Someone is taking the documentary 'The King of Kong' and adapting it into a musical.

Let that sink in for a moment. Revel in the strangeness of that feeling.

Objectively speaking, on paper this doesn't seem like a bad idea. 'The King of Kong' is about arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell and upstart Steve Wiebe. Mitchell has held the record for highest score on the Donkey Kong arcade game for decades. Wiebe wanted to beat it. The documentary is an insightful look at the art of competition, what it takes to win, and the lengths people will go to so as not to accept defeat. The film began with the intent of looking at game contests in general, before it focused in on Mitchell and Wiebe. If you're ever curious about the world of competitive arcade games, watching 'King of Kong' is a good place to start.

The documentary features everything you want out of a great story. The action of the gameplay and the gamers working up a sweat as they focus on their end goal. The drama of watching Donkey Kong score a hit on the player. The suspense of Wiebe beating the record, only to be trounced days later by Mitchell in a taped recording of himself besting the new score (which was very controversial at the time). You don't get this much content in a 'Transformers' film! Adapting the story into a musical isn't terrible - in theory. It has the makings of something engaging.

Seth Gordon, the director for the original film and the 'Baywatch' reboot, addressed questions at a press junket about the potential project. Scripts are in the works, as well as a line-up of songs to be included. The project is well under-way by all accounts. But, is this the right thing to do for 'The King of Kong'?

Something in my gut is saying this feels weird. The documentary is great. There's nothing that needs to be improved upon. Transforming it into a different medium detracts from the original content and could potentially dull the original message of the film. If the documentary didn't exist, and this musical was the first appearance of 'The King of Kong', I think there would be more critics willing to accept the premise. But when you have something so good already in place, why change it up?


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