Core, The

Stars: Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, Tcheky Karyo, Richard Jenkins
Director: Jon Amiel
Screenwriters: Cooper Layne, John Rogers

They could have called this one Journey to the Center of the Earth but the name was already taken by a wonderful 1959 version of Jules Verne’s classic adventure starring James Mason, Pat Boone and a bunch of dinosaurs. Instead, this journey to the center of the earth is made by modern “terranauts” traveling to the earth’s core in a fantastic experimental deep-Earth ship in order to save the planet from certain doom. Which is great since we really need a disaster film at this time to take our minds off the real possibility of Iraq’s certain doom.

The premise is that the Earth’s core has inexplicably stopped spinning which causes disruptions in the electromagnetic field leading to electronic and lightning-storm disasters. The only solution is to drill down to the earth’s core – only about 2,000 miles – and set off a massive nuclear explosion to nudge the core back into spinning mode. As preposterous as this premise is, The Core is still a relatively fun doomsday thriller as long as you completely discount logic and credibility.

Geophysics professor Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart), is the guy who figures out why people are dropping dead midsentence, why pigeons are flying blindly into buildings and whacking people in the head and why (gasp) the space shuttle had to make an emergency landing in the Los Angeles riverbed. He takes his theories to Conrad Zimsky (Tucci), a pompous but published scientist and soon the pentagon is demanding an audience with both of them and options for a quick fix. The fix comes with the help of Ed “Braz” Brazzleton (Lindo), a genius who just so happens to be working on a laser-beam craft that looks like a giant stone earthworm which can drill straight through to the core (if they’re lucky), French atomic scientist Sergei Leveque (Tcheky Karyo) – a pal of keyes who doesn’t really seem to do much of anything, Space shuttle heroes Major Rebecca “Beck” Childs (Hilary Swank), and her flight commander, Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) who’ll pilot the craft, and finally, super hacker Rat (D.J. Qualls) who has the cyber skills to hack the “whole planet”, a.k.a. the Internet, thus keeping the public ignorant and panic-free when they realize certain doom is barreling down on them.

Lotta says:
Unbelievable is the ship: first that anyone was working on such a device and why, secondly, that it could be readied in 3 months – that’s the timeframe for certain doom – no matter how many people, how much money or how many experts chip in. Unbelievable is that anyone could go outside the ship in pressure suits many miles beneath the earth’s surface and survive. Unbelievable is that the stupid thing could actually work. But it does and certain doom is averted one more time. But I rather enjoyed this lame tale, nonetheless! There are some expected heroic deaths along the way but thankfully the filmmakers avoided a bigger disaster that would have been created had they shoved a romance between Swanks’ and Eckhart’s characters at us. Surface disasters like the lightning storms and buildings being blasted apart are fairly generic. But the special effects to depict middle earth are, actually, quite effective. And it’s there that the majority of the story takes place.

It’s rated PG-13 for sci-fi life/death situations and brief strong language. Also stars: Richard Jenkins as Gen. Thomas Purcell, the man in charge of the mission and Alfre Woodard as Stick, a NASA controller.

Reviewed 3/28/03