Review: The Core

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

The worst part of a movie is when it doesn’t live up to your expectations. Even worse is when it lives up to your negative expectations. The Core features a ridiculous apoplectic disaster, even more far fetched than Armageddon or Volcano, tepid and uninteresting character caricatures, and mundane and uninteresting dialogue. While the chance for an intelligent movie went out the window the day the basic plot for the movie was unveiled, there was one aspect of the film which was yet to be seen; an aspect which could potentially turn the movie around: the special effects. While the special effects don’t turn the film around, they are breathtaking and some of the best of the year (yes, even rivaling the over hyped special effects of the Matrix Reloaded), and makes The Core worth the $2 I paid to see the movie in a second run house, but not much more.

I’ll never quite understand movie studios. Paramount Pictures, the financier behind The Core, spent around $80 million on the movie. And for the notoriously stingy Paramount, that is showing a lot of confidence in the box office potential of the movie; and there was potential. Yet the movie was released in...March?! The Core could have easily made $150 million had it been released in the summer. Nobody is up for a disaster-genre movie in MARCH! Deep Impact, Armageddon, and Independence Day were all successful, and were exactly the same as The Core. Why were they successful? Because they were released in the SUMMER!

In last summer’s Possession, Aaron Eckhart played a “J.Crew scruffy genius,” and here in The Core, he reprises that same role. Only now, he is a brilliant physicist named Dr. Joshua Keyes, instead of a literary scholar. After bird’s began dropping dead and crashing into windows in London’s Trafalgar Square, a Space Shuttle goes off course, and people with pacemakers drop dead at exactly the same time in exactly the same part of the world, the government calls in Keyes and another scientist, Dr. Serge Leveque. Keyes soon discovers that the Earth’s inner core has stopped spinning. Not believing his own eyes or his own calculations, Keyes takes his findings to famous mathematician Dr. Conrad Zimsky, and to the horror of them both, they find that the research is in fact correct.

Unless an idea can be generated that will restart the Earth‘s core, everyone on the face of the planet will die. So, of course, the obvious answer is to detonate tons of nuclear bombs in the Earth’s core. Ok, great. One problem, no one has ever been to the bottom of the Marianna's Trench, and that is thousands of miles higher than the Earth’s core. The “tiny” problem is side stepped when the scientists and government contact back-woods scientist and rival of Zimsky’s, named Dr. Ed Brazzelton. “Braz” as he is called, has invented a metal that can withstand unimaginable pressure and in fact, becomes a better source of energy under those not-so-ideal circumstances. So the three scientists get together with two astronauts and they must man a ship made out of this material to the center of the Earth, and detonate a bomb like the world has never seen.

The major problem with the script of The Core is the disaster itself. Like in Armageddon for example, most everyone in the world would have an idea of what would happen if the Earth collided with a giant asteroid. Thus, it had boundaries to work within. I am pretty sure that 99.999% of the people who went to see The Core had no idea of what would happen if the Earth’s core stopped spinning. More over, I am sure that 99.99% of the people who saw the core didn’t even know that the Earth’s core spun in the first place. I know I didn’t! This lack of beforehand knowledge meant that The Core had to make its own “cinematic scientific rules” as it went along. The problem that exists in this scenario is that the viewers had to just blindly accept everything that happened as a result of this “lack of spin.”

For a movie which features one Academy Award winning actor, one Academy Award nominated actor, two Independent Spirit Award winners and two Emmy winners, the performances in The Core are universally bad. Of course the characters were all universally written badly as well, so I guess it evens out. Yet its still disappointing to see the same group of cliched characters (token black guy, mutiny-boy, by-the-book woman, arrogant leader, and “aw-shucks” male romantic lead) here as they are in every other big budget production as well.

With a horrible script, and bad acting all ready in place, The Core was set for the title of “unmitigated-disaster,” and only needed one more piece to fall into place, the special effects. Yet it wasn’t to be. The eye-candy in The Core is...for lack of a better word, awesome. There wasn’t much buzz circling the special effects as there was in The Matrix sequel, but The Core’s achievement in that field was certainly deserving a big buzz. The images of the center of the Earth were very tacky, but everything was forgiven upon witnessing the destruction of “all the important buildings” in Rome, and even more (sorry if this sounds a tad morbid) spectacular was the crumbling of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Had The Core been released in May, June, July or August, I may have given The Core a slightly higher grade, as I would have been more receptive to its genre. However, those morons over at Paramount released it in MARCH! Yet no matter what month the film would have been released in, the truth is the same: everything except a few great moments of special effects wizardry is uniformly bad. If I had to match The Core with a CD of equal quality, it would probably go hand in hand with Taking Back Thursday (or is it Sunday? Oh, who the hell cares...). Not quite as bad as The Used, but certainly close. The Core has one good note, and the rest is just audible vomiting.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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