Written by Cassie Jo Ochoa
Documentaries, generally, are designed for accessibility. In order to get what the filmmaker is going for simplifications are made so an audience can grip the story to come. Yet there’s something almost too good to be true about Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest. There’s the protagonist of Kim ‘Kanonarm’ Köbke, a man who has decided to make one last go of a world record in honor of the death of his longtime friend. There are Kim’s friends, a group of people who love arcades as much as they treasure their friendships. There’s the insanity of the record – a hundred-hour marathon of Gyruss on original arcade equipment inside Köbke’s beloved Bip Bip Bar. At the same time, this is the film that proves that cliches are sometimes more real than you’d expect, as director Mads Hedegaard handles real life with an ease that’s rare in documentaries. It’s a standout film on Nightstream Film Festival’s lineup, and one of the best documentaries of the year.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is technically about the record-breaking attempt, but in order to set the stakes properly, it has to expand its scope. It covers not only Köbke becoming the ‘Cannon Arm’ but his friends, what’s on the line in terms of trying to achieve the record, and how the arcade’s flash-in-the-pan popularity in America ended up creating a sensation in Denmark. For fans of The King of Kong there’s even a discussion about controversial gaming icon Billy Mitchell. Yet Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest cares more about the humanity behind the record, even dedicating significant time to one of Köbke’s friends’ passions of music theory and slam poetry. All the tangents lead to a more fleshing out of what others would see as two-dimensional characters. Time is spent just enough on everyone to know you’ll remember who they are when the record-breaking attempt begins, and how important they are on and off the arcade floor. Even the Bip Bip Bar is its own character, as the machines seem to him wot
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a world record attempt, and Canon Arm and the Arcade Quest brings its underdog narrative to a satisfactory conclusion without leaning heavily on the task at hand. It’s a record-setting attempt, sure, but more importantly it’s an attempt to do something bigger than that. The entire film has the energy that screams of telling a stranger about the coolest thing your friend ever did as tears fills your eyes. That energy infects every frame and soon you’re so wrapped up in the details that the story will live on long past the credits.