Written and directed by Mads Hedegaard, Kim Cannon Arm – father, grandfather, laboratory technician, legend. With the help from his friends at Bip Bip Bar the documentary follows Cannon Arm’s attempts to be the first in the world to play an arcade machine from the early ’80s for 100 consecutive hours.
While Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is undoubtedly about old-school gamers, at its heart it’s also about friendship. Cut this film down to its basics and it’s one friend making an homage to another, and to their tight-knit group. A key element of this film is not exploring Cannon Arm’s gameplay but his support system, concerned with his health and the best strategy to achieve his goal. It’s a testament to what it means to have people around you who care, who are willing to invest in your goals alongside you. It also explores the different struggles that each of them face, and how this community often faces difficulties because of how they look or any other ways that they don’t fit the classic social norm. In that sense it holds a certain vein of sadness, something about the atmosphere feels slightly isolated, its subjects finding solace in this world of games with simple rules.
One of the biggest questions going into this film is probably, why would anyone want to play 100 consecutive hours of an arcade game? It’s a fair question and one that probably won’t have a reasonable answer for some. However, it’s clear that part of it originates with having an obsessive personality, denoted clearly by the amount of awards or goals that Kim has achieved across different passions, particularly his marathon running. There is additionally the fact that this particular goal is rather an unhealthy choice, what he’s putting his body through to achieve it, is a risky endeavour. However, in the end it simply comes down to passion, when you’re dedicated to a goal, you’ll do whatever it takes to reach it, and it’s hard not to have a respect for that, many wouldn’t find such unwavering motivation.
Considering the games this group enjoy playing are all decades old, Mads Hedegaard’s directorial style is extremely modern. The two work very well together, almost throwing back to the way that films like Tron are both futuristic and retro simultaneously. It moves with a good personality, integrating the games into its style and transitions but also retaining a down to earth and grounded feel. It can be a touch repetitive at times but it’s a minor flaw. Otherwise, especially towards its ending, it manages to build a genuine suspense and tension with the ebbs and flows of Kim’s challenge. It has a quirky charm which draws you in, then moves with a good pace to hold your attention.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is a tribute to a committed and passionate man, and the people who support him. It gives you an intimate view into this group of friends and the intense extent to which their love of arcade games goes. As well as dipping into how that plays into their lives, and the escapism it provides from a world that is unfortunately often unkind to anyone who doesn’t fit social norms. It may surround a very specific interest but Mads Hedegaard tells this story in a way that’s for everyone.