The Core

The Core

2003, PG-13, 135 min. Directed by Jon Amiel. Starring Hillary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, DJ Qualls, Stanley Tucci, Alfre Woodard, Bruce Greenwood, Terry O’Quinn.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 28, 2003

How much you enjoy The Core is going to be based on how much you enjoy reading either Popular Science or Weird Tales. Amiel’s film fuses the two magazines’ demographics and comes up with something very close to one of William M. Gaines’ old Weird Science comics from the Fifties. In the story by Cooper Layne and John Rogers, the Earth stops spinning on its axis when a supersecret military project goes awry, which in turn results in various and sundry unnatural disasters (superstorms, big lightning, oddly focused beams of microwave energy, and, niftiest of all, a global aurora borealis). Heroes are needed posthaste, and since Bruce Willis and the gang from Armageddon have already fulfilled their planet-saving obligations, in steps physics professor Josh Keyes (Eckhart), vainglorious science whiz Dr. Conrad Simsky (Tucci), mad genius Dr. Edward Brazleton (Lindo), and USAF Major Rebecca Childs (Swank), who’s brought onboard after she safely lands a faltering space shuttle during one of the film’s slam-bang opening sequences (the other big splash, I guess, was a flock of pigeons smashing into windows in Trafalgar Square, a scene that might have been meant as an homage to Hitchcock, but instead plays flat and silly). With the bulging pocketbook of the mighty U.S. government at the ready, Brazleton, who’s luckily spent the last two decades decamped in the California desert designing a burrowing machine just in case somebody might need to go to the center of the Earth in a hurry, finesses his craft into being, and the group heads way, way south to jump-start the planet via nuclear weapons. In one of the film’s more willfully goofball moments (and there are many), the federal government brings in a teenage hacker (Qualls of The New Guy) to "hack the planet" and make sure that nobody in the world knows the severity of what’s happening. If only. At its heart The Core recalls the glory years of Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake), especially his television work on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – Eckhart is no Richard Basehart, of course, but so much of this film is pure hooey, and so great is its need to impress, that you often get the feeling you’re watching some Saturday morning rerun on Sci-Fi Matinee. Much of this is due to the boundless leaps of illogic that flow throughout the film like the rivers of molten rock at the center of the planet, but The Core’s effects work, too, is on a par with Irwin Allen’s – the destruction of San Francisco looked better in San Francisco in 1936, frankly. It’s just not quite bad enough to be considered good, although Stanley Tucci’s hairpiece comes awfully close.

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