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This movie was both critically and financially panned. Why?
Two words. The Matrix.
The Thirteenth Floor is a good movie. No, it's not "The Matrix" all over again, but it wasn't trying to be. Comparing these two movies is like comparing Star Trek with Star Wars. Similar in aspects, but very different in others.
This is what happens when two movies of similar type are released in close proximity. The first one always has a jump-start on the second by means of box office success and pleasant reviews. That's why I think "The Thirteenth Floor" was branded as a bad movie. People had already seen "The Matrix" with it's knock-out special effects, cast and weren't open-minded for a movie on the same genre branch. So The 13th Floor was said to be 'a bland, pale imitation of the Matrix'.
Maybe "The Thirteenth Floor" doesn't have a star-studded cast - yes, it's cast is mostly regular supporting players, but they work well with the material. So there's no kung-fu ass kicking scenes, so what!
There's great atmosphere, a intriguing story and a real nice plot twist. To me that makes up a very fine movie. So I ask what was so very wrong with "The Thirteenth Floor" that made critics turn away and made it tank at the box office? Really it's people's unwillingness to give a similar movie a chance and instead opting to take the easy route and branding it as a "rip-off". Which is their loss unfortunately.
The Thirteenth Floor,in my opinion,is an underrated SCI FI classic. It ranks with Blade Runner, The Matrix & Dark City as Science Fiction with a brain. Not only does it raise philosophical questions around technology , reality and existence it is also an entertaining noir-thriller with a few twists. Visually it is similar to the films mentioned above (dark neon-soaked landscapes) however the contrast between the modern and the 1930's adds another level to the films beauty. The film is well cast (Gretchen Mol looks stunning)and Craig Bierko carries the film well. It's one of those rare films that crosses quite a few genres - intelligent sci fi - murder mystery - film noir - thriller - love story.If you enjoyed Blade Runner and The Matrix you will certainly like this film.
For some time I have been hearing people refer to to The 13th Floor, mostly
when comparing to other movies of the genre like The Matrix. I finally got
around to view it myself, and I was positively surprised. After seeing
Matrix I and II, its hard to imagine a film that can be on par. The 13th
Floor is it. Not in action, stunts or CG, but by presenting an old, yet
interesting idea in wonderful pictures and a genre between sci-fi and
mystery. The main protagonists "calmness and integrity" contrasts with the
absurd situation the characters are in. Camera, lighting and the "textures"
are excellent and the sound track perfectly completes the unique
As the last millennium comes to a close and a new one opens, the science
fiction genre seems to have latched onto a brand new narrative format -
cyber/techno thriller, wherein characters are free to wander in and out of
virtual reality worlds and are even forced to call into question the
validity of the world we have hitherto smugly referred to as
In 1999 alone, this theme has been explored in "The Matrix", "eXistenZ" and "The Thirteenth Floor." Actually, of the three, this is probably the most intriguing, intelligent and involving, successfully combining the elements of a whodunit with a clever sci-fi tale of a group of characters who drift in and out of a simulated version of Los Angeles in 1937. The plot, though complex, is spun out with coherence and ever-increasing clarity as the layers of information are slowly peeled back to reveal the larger picture. The filmmakers manage to create a sense of unbalance in the audience as we and the characters become more and more unclear as to what is reality and what is a simulation. Because the writers never lose their way, the result is a work of considerable mystery and intrigue.
In terms of art direction and cinematography, the film is a total triumph. The Los Angeles of 1937 the moviemakers have visualized on screen actually has a slight studio backlot, artificial feel to it - perfectly befitting just the kind of world a simulator would create. The photography in these sections also utilizes a slightly off color cast, nicely reflecting the tone found in color pictures of that era.
"The Thirteenth Floor" may not be a very "deep" movie, but it is an honorable addition to a newly formed genre that has not yet had time to ossify in its own conventions. Time alone will tell if filmmakers will be able to expand on this theme or whether, as with most genres, it will fall victim to its own inevitable cliches.
The film, without an A-list cast, pulls off the plot well. The characters, although not really deep, are well structured, and the plot constructed with subtle complexity. The 1930s scenes are dramatically created. I found myself trying to guess the plot twists, but with little success as they unfolded. It was a good film, and richer in substance than the Matrix, and left you with a thought provoking afterthought about our own existence. Going into a movie, I hope to have avoided any prior information about the plot, and this one was well worth the purchase of the video. This could have made a great 3 hour movie to really develop the characters and the philosophical issues, however, it was reduced down to the 100 minutes time-span. I'd give it 8 out of 10.
A small simulation set in 1937 has been created. Our main character
discovers that his recently murdered partner (the simulators creator)
has been using the simulation before its release for human trial. He
also discovers that a message has been left in the system for him to
find. A message that promises to ultimately change everything.
I recommend this film to all those who enjoyed eXistenZ etc. Fans of David Lynch will not be disappointed either. If you are a great fan of Lynch, then you will see this as an easy to follow film that has some nice turns and twists without forcing you to pause and rewind or watch again.
The film manages to persuade you of the complex simulated world without spending too much of its budget on special effects, unlike the matrix, which ultimately destroyed itself by its overdone sequels. Great set of actors here too. Ones that deserve the job title "actor" and have many creditations to their name.
I am surprised that this little effort hasn't been more popular since it manages to get a complex story line and make it very easy to follow without becoming bogged down with the characters explaining each scene (ergo the matrix).
Overall, definitely one to watch and one to own.
The Thirteenth Floor is a thoughtful and engaging film that asks its
audience to think about the difference between reality and virtual
The Matrix asks similar questions in an action format appealing to a wider
audience, but the Thirteenth Floor exceeds the Matrix in two respects.
First, it uses a thoughtful approach that establishes its characters as
than 2-D, comic-book type heroes and villains. Second, it builds longer
with more subtlety, so that the payoff comes much later.
And a delightful payoff it is. Imagine the Matrix with less action fluff, real human relationships, and a plot twist reminiscent of the Sixth Sense. Fans of thought-provoking science fiction in the vain of Gattaca will enjoy the Thirteenth Floor just as well.
Although the first half does not account for much, THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR is a
surprisingly half-decent movie. The story is well put, the acting seems to
fit. What seems to be another TWILIGHT ZONE knock-off is saved by an endless
supply (maybe too many) of twists and turns. THIRTEENTH FLOOR is
A famous computer scientist is murdered in his own virtual simulation and his friends investigate. Particularly Douglas Hall, who is suspect #1 of the murder.
What starts out as questioning the use of virtual reality (Do virtual people have a soul?) becomes much more than that. Science never ends. The 'poor man's MATRIX' as it was called in 1999 is a good, involving story that may be confronted in the future. Some boring moments aside, THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR is a welcome addition for science fiction.
I am a child of the 50's, and spent my preteen years feasting on all the classic sifi gems, such as " The day the earth stood still", "Forbidden Planet' etc. The 13th floor reminds me of those movies. This movie has been compared to the matrix, and that is unfair, Special effects are fine, but when they become the focal point of the movie, I think film suffers because of it. I liked the 13th floor because it didn't get caught up in all that technology and reallied on a great script, and a wonderful ensemble cast. I would highly recommend this movie to all, especially if you prefer the old "War of the Worlds" over the new one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Thirteenth Floor boasts an outstanding production design. Not the futuristic computer lab but the Los Angeles of the thirties. The art direction is remarkable. The Wilshire Grand Hotel is amazing to look at, both inside and out. The first time we see Los Angeles, we are amazed to see cable cars! Pretty much a rarity these days. The surrounding desert shows what LA used to look like, and it makes you wonder what life was like back in that era. As for the movie itself, it's not that bad. The film really moves when it centers in on the mystery of who killed who. Craig Bierko, sounding like Jeff Goldblum, delves into the LA of the past to find out what is going on. Of course, LA of the past only exists in a computer. The film zips along and carries us for the ride, only toward the end does it seem to drag down a little.
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