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Posted on Mar 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, The Thirteenth Floor, movies, video game movies, scifi, discussion

This month I wanted to take a look at one of the movies that got a lot of positive response the first time I bought it up. The Thirteenth Floor was pretty overshadowed when it first came out, seeing as it was released the same year as The Matrix. And it's a shame too, because while the latter movie became a huge scifi jauggernaut for its philosophizing about people living in a simulation (and rightly so), the former takes this concept to an arguably more realistic and grounded level. Looking at it now, in a post-Oculus and Amazon Alexa world, and without the threat of humanity being wiped out, it's much more of a detective story with a scifi twist.

The movie opens in a really neat way, with a scene of a fancy party in a 1930s hotel ballroom. We meet Hannon Fuller, an older gentleman who's been having fun with the ladies and then going back home to his wife. We don't really know what's happening, but the next scene takes us back to reality. Before long, we find out that Fuller is the head of a project to recreate a simulated world in a computer. It's so realistic, in fact, that for the past several weeks Fuller has been downloading himself into one of the simulated people and using it to live a double life, partying in the time of his youth.

Except someone's killed him, and thus starts the mystery. One of Fuller's lead project heads, Douglas Hall, has no idea why Fuller would have been killed, and must work with the local detective to figure it out. Before he was killed, Fuller left Hall a message telling him there was a letter waiting for him in the simulation, so he jacks in himself to get it.

The imagery of 1930s Los Angeles is really well done, at least from my perspective as someone who didn't live in that time. The surprise Hall has as he walks around his simulation echoes the viewer's. There's a real fish out of water thing happening as Hall attempts to track down the man Fuller has been downloading himself into. He doesn't find the note, but visits the hotel ballroom. He ultimately leaves the simulation without much information that would help in solving the mystery. From there things get weird. Fuller's daughter shows up to inherit the company even though none of the people Fuller worked with ever knew he even had a daughter, and as more evidence is discovered about Fuller's demise, it starts to paint Hall as the suspect.

Throughout the first half of The Thirteenth Floor, there's not a whole lot that makes the film stand out among other detective movies other than the simulation aspect. It is a neat premise though, and keeps the film interesting. The only thing I didn't care for was when Hall and Fuller's daughter start falling for each other. It happens pretty quickly, and while her attraction to him makes sense once you get to the end of the film, I didn't really buy his attraction to her. The whole movie only takes place over a few days, so the relationship feels unearned.

Eventually, Hall goes into the simulation again. By then enough evidence has stacked up against him for Fuller's murder that he's desperate for answers. This is the point when The Thirteenth Floor starts getting really cool. He has a detailed conversation with Fuller's digital doppelganger and confronts Ashton, the bartender at the hotel where Fuller had been going. He finds out that Ashton read the note Fuller gave him and learned that his world is nothing more than a simulation. He watched Hall and his 1930s counterpart switch personalities and put things together. He doesn't take the news well - I mean, that'd be a tough thing for anyone to deal with, right?

It turns out Ashton has a dark side. He isn't just the one who's been setting up Fuller's private parties with the dancing girls at the hotel, he attacks Hall and demands to see the real world "above" his own. For me, this was where the real meat of this film lies, and brings back memories of all the discussions that came about after people saw The Matrix. How do we know if we're living in a simulation? Could we ever find out? Do we have any free will at all or are we just digital puppets for the world above us to play with?

I don't want to say too much about where the movie goes from there, but by the end of the movie everything comes together pretty well. The story doesn't get nearly as deep with its philosophy as that other computer simulation movie, instead using the concept to tell a fun story, and aside from the relationship between Fuller's daughter and Hall that I didn't care for, the rest of it is well constructed and makes sense. It's not an especially new concept, but since the popularization of evolving, ongoing digital worlds like Second Life, World of Warcraft, PlayStation Home, and now VR, it's an interesting thought experiment as we get closer and closer to being able to experience a lifelike world that exists purely on a server. Community participation this month was a lot less than I expected, and I don't actually have any comments from the message board to share, but I'm curious to know if anyone has seen The Thirteenth Floor and what they thought of it. Let me know in the comments below, or the forum thread.

The last couple of movies have been fairly serious, so for April I'd like to take things back to a movie that is more fun and more than a little absurd. Plus, I thought it'd be nice to get some anime into the mix, since we haven't had any of that yet in this feature.

You all remember Final Fantasy VII, right? Of course you do. Did you ever want more from those characters or to find out what happened after Jenova and Sephiroth caused all that havoc? Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is your answer. The first FF movie, The Spirits Within, was an unmitigated disaster that ultimately cost Squaresoft its independence (maybe RF Cinema will have to dissect that one eventually). But Advent Children was a much safer gamble. Taking place some years after the events of the game everybody and their mother seems to think is the greatest JRPG of all time, it continues the story of that game while throwing in all the familiar characters and LOTS of fast, gravity-defying anime action scenes. This one's pretty readily available on DVD, Bluray, Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, and of course, PSN. So join us in the discussion thread here, and tell us how much you love or hate Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005) on IMDB

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After previously thinking I had seen this flick, I have to make a retraction:  I haven't looked at more than a trailer, though I do remember when it came out (and watching The Matrix stomp it into the ground).  Overall an interesting and enjoyable movie, and really reminiscent of something Phillip K Dick would write (I think).
I def got some Philip K. Dick vibes from it as well, especially in the wake of seeing movies like Blade Runner 2049, with all of its exploration of intelligent AIs.
You guys are speaking my language now.

Though I am a fan of the Matrix as well.
Great movie.  Stumbled upon it when it came out and bought it.  The wife and I have smashed it over the years ... however forgotten about it.  Probably been a good 5+ years at least.  Thanks for the reminder of a great flick.  Because I watched this b4 'Matrix', I always thought of the Matrix as 'The 13th Floors' dirty little girlfriend.  Dusting off the DVD now Smiley

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