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The Core: Mark's Thoughts

01/05/2003. Contributed by Mark R Leeper

Buy The Core in the USA - or Buy The Core in the UK

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A spectacular set of disasters and a heroic expedition to save mankind. Some real science and some nonsense mix. If the film does not quite click, it is probably because we have higher standards than we had for science fiction films in their heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.

THE CORE is a disaster film and an expedition film. For those who don't know, there really is a solid core rotating at the heart of our planet. That much of the premise of this film is true. In THE CORE something has robbed the center of its angular momentum.

For a while nobody has noticed anything different. That much is kind of hard to believe. Then some mysterious phenomena are being seen. It is hard to believe that there would not be a whole lot observed a lot sooner, but perhaps the core is slowing to a halt.

Dr. Josh Keyes (played by Aaron Eckhart) sees some strange behavior in nature and gets nervous. He guesses what is wrong and brings his ideas to Dr. Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci), a superstar scientist who has that rare ability to see any discoveries of another scientist and make them his own. Zimsky is convinced by Keyes's work that the Earth is doomed. But there is no way to do anything about the situation.

The Core Movie Review

Then Zimsky remembers that a man from whom he once stole some ideas, Dr. Edward Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo), may have the technology to build a mole machine. If it can be built the machine could be used to travel into the interior of the planet and set off some bombs to start the core spinning again. The mission is planned. To pilot the craft come two shuttle astronauts played by Bruce Greenwood and Hilary Swank.

This is a film that intermixes some good science with some real balderdash. The science, while applied with large liberties, is far better than that in its most similar predecessors - films like 1951's UNKNOWN WORLD, 1959's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, or 1965's CRACK IN THE WORLD.

A lesser effort would have not thought beyond using the premise to show just a lot of earthquake effects. Where this film has class is the focus on geo-electrical disasters, a possibility that most of the public has probably never really thought about. And it does create a set of bizarre and seemingly unrelated phenomena in the early parts of the film.

The frequently intentionally funny script written by Cooper Layne and John Rogers and directed by Jon Amiel is a nonstop ride from a man having an unexplained heart attack in a Boston boardroom (yes, that is directly caused by a geological event) to the explosive finale.

The film is 135 minutes long and unlike films like OUTBREAK and even TITANIC it has not padded the story with human villains. Virtually every scene in the film is about the geological crisis, which is threat enough.

There are no gunfights, chases, or martial arts; the film is all science fiction. There is one chaste screen kiss. On the other hand the film could have used some good advisors to tidy up even the non-science.

Every major disaster just coincidentally occurs in a major city. And I refuse to believe that even after the military knows how dangerous the situation is there is still only one general assigned to track a problem that has such global impact.

Visually the film is not all it could be. Many of the spectacular scenes of destruction have that indescribable flavor of computer graphics. Similarly when Virgil - the drill machine is named for the poet - is moving the "windshield" view is always a computer graphic.

The entire craft seems to be done only as a computer graphic. To hide the graphics somewhat we never really get a good look at Virgil. It is there on the screen but as a vehicle it is rather nondescript. Viewers like to savor the contours of crafts like the Nautilus and the Enterprise, but you never see Virgil well enough to do that.

Admittedly it is hard to imagine really exciting images of a machine boring through solid rock or magma. If it is completely enshrouded in opaque material as it would be, most of the time there is nothing to see.

THE CORE is not a film I have a lot of respect for or learned a lot from, but as an old CRACK IN THE WORLD fan I was looking forward to it and I did enjoy it, perhaps for many of the reasons I enjoyed EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS. I think Paramount expected more from the film than that it be just good "drive-in movie" fun. I have affection for the film but rate it 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. Of its kind it is quite good.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2003 Mark R. Leeper

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