Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

*** Contains spoilers ***

The Thirteenth Floor seems to want to be a contender for the best of the virtual reality genre, but seems afraid that its audience might not be clever enough to understand it.

Which is a shame, because there is a very good story in here.

A man who has created a virtual reality simulation of Los Angeles in 1937 is murdered, and the explanation for why appears to lie somewhere within his creation.

As usual, no-one considers the inherent implications of this premise. There must surely be software for observing events in said world on a computer screen, or how on Earth can the technology have been developed? How can a pre-programmed simulation of a man have free will? The programme can only run for 365 days before it becomes a simulation of a divergent 1938.

The above issues are never really addressed, so we're left to assume that these programmers are just not very well organised.

I guess it's therefore bizarrely consistent that, throughout the film, the principle character (Douglas) fails to think the events of his life through either.

For example, aware that his body seems to be getting stolen to commit murders with, why on Earth would he go into VR knowing full well that this will enable it to happen again? Why doesn't he ask the checkout girl for information? After Whitney has died, apparently because he has no further function to perform in the story, Douglas seems to completely forget his existence, showing no concern whatsoever for retrieving his friend from VR.

Am I nitpicking? No. Almost all films open by going to a lot of effort to get the viewer to empathise with the main characters. Those films should then expect the viewer to do so!

Especially when the tag-line on the posters reads "Question reality."

Instead the characters go through the motions of standard Hollywood fare. As soon as Douglas discovers that the girl he fancies comes from the real world, where she is married to his evil double, the rest of the film is set in stone, and becomes a downhill case of waiting for it all to finally happen.

There's also no need for the F word. It just means that fewer people can go to see it.

Overall though, these are minor points. It's just such a shame because The Thirteenth Floor comes so close to being particularly good. It's enjoyable, has a good story with an astoundingly good mystery, and even has that element of escapism going for it too. Whatever the location, we'd all like to get lost in a convincing virtual reality world for an hour or so. That's why we watch movies in the first place.

Even here though, '1937' is portrayed as drab and uninviting. This looks like a late production decision, as the trailer features shots of it looking bright, colourful and fun. Wow, that's the world that I want to enter and marvel at, not the bleak looking one.

Sorry Thirteenth Floor, you had the makings of a classic, and I enjoyed watching you, but classics are usually different to the norm.

I guess I'm being so tough on you because you were only quite good.


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