The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on May 28, 1999*.
Here are some updated thoughts: It’s a bit mind boggling that this movie was nominated for a Saturn Award. It eventually, and justly, lost to The Matrix. I have to be completely honest, I’ve not watched The Thirteenth Floor since Amy and I viewed it in the theater in 1999. Watching the trailer below I don’t think it’s aged well. It looks more like a made for television movie than a feature film. If I have the chance to catch it on TV, I’ll try to watch it again. But I don’t recall ever seeing it broadcast on any non-movie channels.
On Amy’s side she made an interesting point about games and virtual environments taking over human “users.” One only has to look as far as online gaming addiction in games such as World of Warcraft and countries like South Korea to see there’s some truth in her statement. And I believe the lame alligator movie trailer she’s referring to was Lake Placid, that we mockingly called “Lake Flacid.”
Boy, after the great “question reality” movies like Dark City and The Matrix came out, the bar was raised a little higher for this genre . . . and I heard you yawning all the way through this one Amy! Unfortunately The Thirteenth Floor falls way short of ever reaching the bar, let alone going over it. The concept of virtual worlds, within virtual worlds didn’t quite work in this version because you never find out why they exist. In The Matrix we at least find out that the virtual world therein was created to make humans sedate as they were used as organic power supplies by the AI.
The Thirteenth Floor was a pretty hum-drum affair. Every time they used the word “user” I kept thinking of the classic Tron, a different, yet far better virtual world movie. The ending was pretty pointless. It really answered no questions, and (heaven forbid!) left the way open for a possible sequel. And another thing, the title had nothing to do with the movie other than the lab resided on the 13th floor, and every once in awhile you would see a finger push the elevator button to reach said floor. The scene where Douglas Halldrove travelled to “the end of the world” was rather disappointing. As he stood there talking on his cellphone he stared at an untextured wireframe of his existence. Cheap and hokey. I didn’t hate this movie because the concept of virtual worlds is rather intriguing . . . they just managed to make it boring! So that still only leaves two “cyberpunk” movies ever released that are really worth seeing: Strange Days and, of course, The Matrix.
I can’t tell if my distaste for this movie was because I was tired after a long week at work, because I’m not interested in seeing people shooting each other right now, or because the predictable ending was totally cheesy . . . I imagine that the answer is all of the above! The point of the film you ask? Besides boring me to tears, the point of the film is to show how video games of the future will take on a life of their own and possibly surpass their creators by literally taking over their human “user.” Interesting that the movie began with a Nintendo commercial (and I paid $7.50 for this crap!). Well, this was no Dark City, but it did have a couple of decent performances.
Armin Mueller-Stahl‘s Hannon Fuller character was probably the most intriguing in the entire film. I was more interested in his three characters than I was in anything that Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) had to say or do! In fact, if I had to listen to him say “The difference is this isn’t real. I’m not real” one more time, I think I might have screamed! Gretchen Mol turned in a good performance as Jane Fuller and her gum-chewing counterpart. Other than those two performances, the movie was entirely predictable and visual uninspiring with some lame dialogue thrown in to make me groan. My advice to you all is to wait for it to come out on video. If you feel the need to “question reality,” go see The Matrix or rent Dark City or even The Truman Show! And talk about hokey, Neal, what was up with the lame alligator movie trailer?! Has Hollywood regressed to remaking dismal failures of the 80s?
*Note: I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant. These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.
He Said, She Said was a movie blog (before blogs were a thing) where Amy and I would go to movies and write short and easily accessible compare & contrast reviews. Sometimes we agreed . . . and sometimes not. Above all we never took the movies, or ourselves, too seriously.