Been there, done that


Poor, Thirteenth Floor, poor, poor Thirteenth Floor.

It's been Dr. Strangelove'd.

Let me explain. Back in 1964, a very excellent movie with an important message about the nuclear arms race was released. It showcased one of best actors Hollywood had to offer and was based on an intelligent, exciting and provocative novel. It was a very good movie, starring Henry Fonda, and it was called Fail-Safe. That film had the grave misfortune of being released in the same year as another bomb scare movie - a movie featuring tirades about fluoride as a Communist plot, mine shaft gaps, and fighting in the war room. That movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, was perhaps one of the ten or twenty greatest of all time, and was called Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Needless to say, Fonda's bomb movie bombed.

Thirteenth Floor has been Dr. Strangelove'd.

Thirteenth Floor is a fairly good movie about virtual reality. It of course has the misfortune of being released within months of two great VR movies, The Matrix and eXistenZ. It also had the ill-timing to debut a week after Star Wars. It's only been out 12 days now and has already disappeared from the box office radar. It never had a chance. Too bad.


The Einstein of our generation - at play


The Thirteenth Floor begins intriguingly with brilliant old programmer Hammond Fuller, endearingly played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. Fuller, called by another character "the Einstein of our generation," is the CEO of and computer brains behind a corporation that has developed a new virtual reality system. After leaving an important note in the VR system for co-worker Douglass Hall, he's mysteriously murdered outside a bar. Hall (played by Craig Bierko) is implicated in the killing. He doesn't think he did it, as he loved the old geezer, but he has no memory of the night of the murder. Meanwhile, a mysterious but beautiful women (Gretchen Mol) enters, claiming to be Fuller's daughter and making eyes at Hall...


The beautiful but mysterious woman


If this sounds like a Bogart movie plot, you get the picture. The VR system, which recreates the circa 1937 Los Angeles of Fuller's youth, emphasizes the movie's film noir roots, as do the constant mist and drizzle. Like the best film noir, the plot is intricate and convoluted, filled with lies and deceit, with most of the actors playing multiple roles.

Yes, yes, so it's fine and good as a mystery, but where is the science fiction? Unfortunately, this is where the film falls flat. Yes, there's VR, but the philosophical implications of this new technology aren't pushed very far. VR characters ponder the substantiality of their own existence, but these questions aren't even as profound as those raised by Wilder and Pirandello decades ago.

The problem is that The Thirteenth Floor is a good movie, but not a particularly original one. The art direction is pretty and likeable (though the same Le Corbusier petit confort chairs oddly appear in scene after scene), the girl is pretty and likeable, the guy is pretty and likeable, but it lacks that spark of a unique vision. Put another way, there's no guns made out of chicken bones and no one runs up any walls.

If it had been released a year ago, Thirteenth Floor would have been a more important, memorable movie. As it is, there's no reason to see it when we have The Matrix and eXistenZ as alternatives.


Style: 6/10

Substance: 5.5/10

Overall Coolness: 6/10

Agree or disagree? Let me know.


From: Kevin Miller <kevinFM@webtv.net>

slow slow slow.  b-movie. i saw it on video oct. 5th and could have sworn i saw it on cable, already.


From: Mutterl@webtv.net 11/22/99
Subject: Movie Reviews

Have seen the The Thirteenth Floor 5 times, The Mummy 3 times, Sixth Sense 2 times, Matrix 1 time, and none of the others at all. Even though I am not a Tim Burton fan, I really like Sleepy Hollow.  I know what I like, I don't why I like it.  It is hard to grade movies, because everyone has their own opinion.

OTHER MOVIE REVIEWS: Austin Powers (References), Being John Malkovich, Blah Witch Project, Deep Blue Sea, Dogma, Dune, eXistenZ, Iron Giant, The Matrix, The Mummy, Princess Mononoke, The Sixth Sense, Sleepy Hollow, Smallville, Star Trek IX: Indigestion, Star Wars: The Turgid Menace, Thirteenth Floor, Toy Story 2, Trekkies, Vile Vile West, The World Is Not Enough

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