The Thirteenth Floor: A review
The Thirteenth Floor, a film directed by Josef Rusnek, and based on the 1964 Daniel F. Galouye novel, Simulacron 3 was released in 1999. Although hard to follow, with a less than compelling conflict and plot resolution, this film was met with enthusiasm by sci fi buffs and it was nominated for the Saturn Award as “Best Science Fiction Film” of 1999. Unfortunately for The Thirteenth Floor, The Matrix was also released in 1999. Rats. I know that The Matrix is beloved by many, but I found it every bit as flawed as The Thirteenth Floor and with its “mysticism,” incredibly pretentious and sophomoric.
Because the intricate plot and guessing what’s going on is the whole point, I’m not going to reveal plot points. The film has a good cast, including Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D’Onofrio and Dennis Haysbert.
The Thirteenth Floor is not a good film but not entirely bad either.
Like Inception, a film much closer in structure and concept, the premise is difficult to convey and so the solution is to blend in another, more easily understood genre. Inception gives us car chases and shoot-outs in our dreams within dreams. The idea, I suppose, is that those who lack the patience to follow the film’s complexity, will understand the language of violence.
In hopes of not losing its mainstream audience, The Thirteenth Floor blends in LA noir and a murder mystery.
The result, like Inception, is a feeling of disorientation. We don’t get to know any of the characters or care about the outcome; we’re too busy trying to crack the code–guessing what’s what. I like the idea of computer-generated, sentient beings who believe they’re human. Their limited existence reminds me of another hybrid movie–Dark City. Like The Matrix, Dark City has an element of mysticism but I didn’t think it nearly as pretentious. Very weird (in a good way for me) but lot’s more entertaining than The Matrix.
The concept of virtual reality is such a rich one that I hope someone will make a film that explores it on its own terms, trusting the audience and attempting to answer some of the questions it poses, such as what defines a human being. Along with the Star Trek holodek, television has done its own spin around VR territory, including 1995’s VE-5 and the Syfy’s current offering, EUREKA. Science fiction writers have long mined the territory of virtual reality, including my own second book, Babylon Dreams, where a whole industry competes for the consumer dollar by offering “after-death” destinations.
If you haven’t seen The Thirteenth Floor, I recommend it, especially if you like science fiction. It’s worth the elevator ride.