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IN SHORT: one dumb, date-able popcorn flick. [Rated PG-13 for sci-fi life/death situations and brief strong language. ]
"Something" has gone horribly wrong at the center of the earth. Earthquakes are wreaking havoc on our major cities. Animals have lost their minds and the weather has gone totally ballistic. Cities are being destroyed by Mother Nature and the effects of a crazy mama stretch up into near space, too. The most eminent of our scientists discover that the core of the planet has ceased its normal rotation hundreds of miles below us and that, unless things are set right, the planet will be dead in a year. They also agree that the only way to save the planet is to set off half a dozen, give or take, nukes at the earth's core. Yep, to save the earth we've got to blow it up.
This knowledge, of course, can't be told to the world because panic could do more damage in the near term than the planet tossing in the towel would in the long term. Why die now when there's a last ditch effort underway to save the day?
Don'tcha just love disaster movies? Don'tcha just wait for the special effects geniuses to go nuts and rock the world, so to speak. Don'tcha just wish there was something at the center of the earth other than a ball of magma like, maybe little green people and hidden civilization? Wish all you'd like. When the creators of The Core decided to keep their story and its visual effects (relatively) in line with what science knows about the construction of the earth, they didn't leave themselves a lot of room in which to play. That means the characters, and how they relate to each other, has got to be mesmerizing. There the ball came in a wee bit under inflated.
Here's a story which absolutely requires you check anything you might know about science and technology at the door. Drilling technology. Heat and pressure factors at the earth's core. If the fiction is good enough the science only has to be, as we are fond of saying, close enough. A couple of more passes through the word processor and The Core might have come close. But no.
Working under the assumption that a journey into inner space requires some of the same skills as a journey into outer space, two of our premier space shuttle pilots man the front seats of the brand spanking new drilling sub named Virgil. They are Commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and his shuttle co-pilot, the "youngest woman in space, astronaut" Major Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank). Army General Thomas Purcell (Richard Jenkins) has selected geologist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) to lead the mission. Aiding the team are famed scientist Dr. Conrad "arrogance is my middle name" Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) and the partner whose work he ripped off 20 years earlier, Dr. Ed Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo). Rounding off the staff and adding that international flair is French nuclear physicist Dr. Serge Leveque (Tcheky Karyo).
Back at Mission Control, alongside the General, is Mission Control Director Stickley (Alfre Woodard) and perhaps the most important member of the team, a computer whiz and internet hack who prefers the handle "Rat" (DJ Qualls) to his given name of Randall. Rat's job is to stifle the internet chatter about anything about what is going on with the earth's core, and prevent panic from spreading worldwide.
But back in Virgil, you've got two scientists who don't like each other ripping each other's throats out . . . no, not these guys. OK, how about one woman and a small room filled with testosterone! Any kind of sexual tension whatsoever, especially 'cuz said femme is the pilot whose hand is on the stick, so to speak. Uh, no, these are dedicated mission specialists all. All right, something's got to give to rev up the tension levels in this story, right? Well, that would be nice but it doesn't happen.
The Core delivers is a simple story that doesn't know how to get across the point that the end of the world is nigh. Its visual effects will not bring you to the edge of your seat and the interactions of the crew, and how they eventually play out, are remarkably unaffecting.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Core, he would have paid . . .
Listening to the crowd on the way out, perhaps the best way to categorize The Core is the way they did, with a simplistic "terrible." It's watchable, which, by the analysis of the demographic, means it "doesn't suck". You're best off popping a tape into a big screen and cranking the sound up loud.
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