Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day Ninety-seven - The Thirteenth Floor, "Do simulated people go to simulated college... or are they just simulated to have had an education?"

I hate to say it, but it's hard to take Craig Bierko seriously as a lead in a film, especially this one. He's had one or two decent supporting roles, but, sadly, hasn't had the greatest career.

The Thirteenth Floor came out right about the same time as David Cronenberg's eXistenZ (which I've always pronounced "X-is-TEN-zee") and follows a similar, well, "existential" premise. I mean, it literally leads off with a quote from Descartes, so, you can kind of feel the pretension from the get go.

It seems that a computer research firm in Los Angeles (that apparently only employs three people) has made a breakthrough in virtual reality. After six years of tireless effort (about the time it takes to produce a AAA video game title), they've managed to recreate 1937 Los Angeles and can dive into it for up to two hours of time.

Unfortunately, though, for Armin Mueller-Stahl, this breakthrough is worth murdering over. That's where Craig Bierko comes in. The protege of Armin's character, Craig--whose character is named Douglas Hall--has to find out why someone would want to kill his mentor... and he's the prime suspect.

In order to catch the killer, Douglas has to dive into the machine and interact with the simulated Los Angelenos, a few of whom are starting to suspect that all is not right with their world.

The Thirteenth Floor is an interesting premise and I think it would work great as a short story (apparently it was based on a novel)... but, as a film, it falls flat. The police investigation (run by Dennis Haysbert) comes off only as a vague threat and Douglas' romance with his dead mentor's daughter, Jane Fuller (played by Gretchen Mol), is utterly lacking in chemistry or believability.

It's a cute attempt, but the pieces fall into place far too easily and the ultimate climax fight and resolution is full of plot holes and convenient hand waving.

I especially hated Haysbert's Detective McBain and his inexplicable realization about what is going on. Even with the evidence he had concerning blackouts, it's hard to believe an off-screen conversation with Jane is enough to convince him.

Sadly, I cannot see Cronenberg's entry from that year, which starred Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh in a many layered VR murder mystery. I have somewhat fonder memories of it, but it's not on Netflix.

To be fair, The Thirteenth Floor is an okay film, but it doesn't rank all that high in the quality department and certainly doesn't live up to its pretensions. At the very least, the ending credits have one of my favorite Cardigans songs of all time, Erase/Rewind.

But, could someone PLEASE tell me, though, why these machines have to literally swap minds between the player and the simulation... you'd think there would be safeties in check that wouldn't allow simulations to jump up the ladder and take over someone's body if their player died in the game.


Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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