Watched November 17, 2015
Starring: Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio
This was on a couple lists of movies about the internet or visualization of virtual reality technology so when I found a copy at a thrift store I figured it was time to check it out. The cover really looks they were trying to capitalize on the success of The Matrix, even though I think this movie was released first, but with the VHS release they added the green scrolling numbers to hint at a similar story. There are some slight similarities in creating a virtual world, but The Thirteenth Floor is by no means The Matrix.
Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) works in tech with Jason (Vincent D'Onofrio) and they are making some sort of virtual reality world game. Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller Stahl) who had also been working on the game is found murdered and it seems like Douglas is a main suspect. Hannon has been going into the virtual world, even though it wasn't ready to be tested. The game takes them to a very realistic virtual world of 1937. Before Hannon was murdered he left clues for Douglas to find in the virtual world. A mysterious lady, Jane (Gretchen Mol) who claims to be Hannon's daughter, shows up and wants to shut down the company, as per her father's last wishes. Douglas is being pursued by the cops so he goes into the virtual world game to try to figure out what really happened to Hannon so he can clear his name. To enter the virtual world you end up taking over the body of an existing character, which makes the transition very difficult as you character has a life and story before you start the game and you have to pick up the pieces.
Douglas begins to get some clues about the virtual world they have built that lead him back to questions what is going on his world. He finds another version of Jane in his reality that makes him questions what is connecting the virtual world to the world he believes to be real. Jane ends up explaining that Douglas's world is also virtual, it is one of many virtual worlds built by her husband David, who happens to be the model for Douglas.
David comes to kill Jane for falling in love with Douglas who is only a simulation. Through multiple virtual worlds this is stopped. David is killed and Jane brings Douglas back to her world, the world that built all the virtual reality worlds. It's super confusing.
It's weird that Hannon, Douglas and Jason who created the 1937 virtual world can't manipulate it, but I guess in hindsight that may have something to do with it being a virtual world within a virtual world. I bet the short story that is based on is really great, but as a movie it's mostly confusing and kind of dull. The best part is when Douglas tries to drive to the limit of the world, which happened to be the desert of Arizona. When he gets there it's just wireframes, which looks pretty neat. I wish more of the movie looked like that.