- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

In "The Core," life on Earth is in the balance. Apocalypse surely awaits every creature on the third rock from the sun unless a hastily assembled team of swashbuckling heroes pulls off the impossible.
A giant asteroid wait a minute. Wrong movie. That was "Armageddon," the Jerry Bruckheimer-led mission to an Earth-bound chunk of rock hurtling through space.
In "The Core," directed by Brit Jon Amiel ("Entrapment"), the planetary calamity threatens from within. It has something to do with the mysterious, rotating stuff at the center of the Earth that's responsible for a protective electromagnetic shell in the outer atmosphere, without which all living things would be cooked to a crisp.
I'm no expert in matters of geomagnetism I never made it past pre-calculus but it sounds like bunk to me.
That doesn't necessarily disqualify a science-fiction movie (it is fiction, after all), but "The Core" has more severe defects: predictability, schlocky special effects that look like Sony PlayStation graphics, flimsy character development and the inevitable romantic subplot. (What would you expect when Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart are wedged into close quarters for an extended period of time?
What's really galling is that "The Core" tracks the plot of "Armageddon" an appallingly dumb movie in almost every respect save for its choice of natural phenomenon.
The story arc is identical. First, the discovery, then the realization that global panic could ensue. Mr. Eckhart, playing a flinty University of Chicago geophysicist, does all the necessary math and corroborates his findings with a smarmy scientist (Stanley Tucci what he's doing on this cattle drive is beyond me) who walked straight out of an Isaac Asimov novel.
Next come the minidisasters, the warning shots. In "Armageddon," pieces of the asteroid splinter off and strike faraway cities.
Ditto "The Core": The deteriorating shell around the Earth lets slip violent electrical storms that blow up the Colosseum in Rome; they bedevil a huge flock of pigeons, unleashing a Hitchcockian "Birds" attack on London's Trafalgar Square.
And, in an eerie coincidence with reality, the electromagnetic fluctuations bungle the space shuttle's navigation system, forcing its crew, including a very I-am-woman-hear-me-roar Miss Swank, to land in the Los Angeles River.
The solution, as in "Armageddon," is to detonate a nuclear bomb, which, we're told, will nudge the core back into its customary spin cycle.
Instead of sending Bruce Willis and his crack team of oil drillers into space, "The Core" sends an equally crack team to the center of the Earth in a vehicle that looks like a giant cruller. As "Austin Powers'" Dr. Evil would say, it has freakin' laser beams. It can slice through any substance, including gigantic diamonds, and still keep digging.
Aboard this subterranean craft are Miss Swank's Rebecca Childs, another NASA pilot (Bruce Greenwood), our trusty scientists and get this a French atomic weapons expert (Tcheky Karyo). Now, I don't know about you, but if I'm writing a screenplay that calls for an atomic weapons expert, I do not make him French.
This would all be a semiamusing ride provided you turned off the parts of your brain that control logic, rationality and common sense if real calamities weren't occurring on the surface of the globe.
I don't know what's going on at the center of the Earth, but we've got enough trouble right here on the ground.

*1/2
TITLE: "The Core"
RATING: PG-13 (Morbid subject matter; intense sci-fi imagery; brief profanity)
CREDITS: Directed by Jon Amiel. Produced by David Foster, Cooper Layne and Sean Bailey. Written by Mr. Layne and John Rogers. Music by Christopher Young.
RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

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