Mark Reviews Movies


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Jon Amiel

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, Tchéky Karyo, Richard Jenkins, Alfre Woodard, DJ Qualls, Bruce Greenwood

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi life/death situations and brief strong language)

Running Time: 2:13

Release Date: 3/28/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

"Hang on. This isn't going to be subtle."

That priceless piece of dialogue comes from the new summer action/disaster flick The Core. Wait a minute—it isn't the summer. Oh well, back to my original thought. While the line certainly fits the situation it's stated in (more on that later), it might as well be the movie's motto. The Core features scenes of mass destruction, cringe-worthy sentimentality, and dully simplified scientific explanation that leave little to the imagination. And yet for some reason, which I don't think I could ever rationally put into words, I admire the movie for those exact reasons. It's clear early on that the movie has only one purpose, and that is to provide old-fashioned science-fiction escapism that makes little to no sense unless you give into its weird logic. In fact, I'd be willing to recommend the movie if not for the moments in which the screenwriters try and add some kind of depth to the story through its characters—moments that are awkward even for this material.

The movie starts in Boston where people scattered around the city mysteriously and suddenly just drop dead. The military is worried that the deaths may be an act of war caused of a new kind of weapon. Geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) and atomic weapons expert Dr. Serge Leveque (Tchéky Karyo) are called in and determine that it is highly improbable that a weapon caused the deaths, but all of the victims had pacemakers. Soon after, a pair of other strange events occur. Birds in London go on a rampage, and a freak computer error causes a space shuttle to make an emergency landing in Los Angeles (that's where the aforementioned dialogue comes into play). Keyes is mystified by the phenomena and decides to research the possible causes. It all points to the Earth's electromagnetic field, which is collapsing, meaning that the inner core of the planet has stopped rotating (Wouldn't that mean the planet itself would also stop?). If it does not start up again, the planet will ultimately be cooked by radiation, which Keyes demonstrates by lighting a piece of fruit on fire with a lighter and a can of aerosol air-freshener. This, of course, means that someone must restart the core.

But how is that possible, you may ask? Well, have no fear, because coincidentally, Dr. Ed "Braz" Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo) has been working on a machine that can drill through solid rock (no wimpy drill, though—we've got lasers!) and a new kind of metal, dubbed "unobtainium," that actually—get this—gets stronger with heat and pressure. How convenient. Anyway, it's a nice sentiment, but wouldn't there still be a problem with pressure within in the vessel? Either their ears really hurt or something's missing. Then again, they are able to get out of the ship and remove a large chunk of crystal that has blocked the lasers, so maybe all that talk about pressure is rubbish. The good thing is that the crew's safety is covered. In case of a hull breach in any of the compartments (the ship is set up much like a train), that section will automatically eject. In what must have been a brain fart during the design process, the weapons section, arguably most important section of the ship (beyond the cockpit, of course), was placed in the rear, meaning that it is inevitably the first to go once the crew reaches its first obligatory obstacle.

Yet all of these blemishes—along with the many others I have either forgotten or chosen to leave out—are of the endearing sort. The script has errors, but at least it never stops dead because of them. More importantly, it establishes and follows its own, goofy rules. It makes for extremely simplified science and pretty silly science-fiction. And what sci-fi action movie would be complete without scenes of mass destruction? Here we have, beyond the ones already mentioned, static electricity storms devastating Rome, which includes a shot of the Coliseum blowing up (I guess the screenwriters have read Byron ("When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; / And when Rome falls—the World.")). Naturally, a piece of the monument flies directly at the camera, a gimmick that makes me wonder what these special effects artists think about the audience. There's also a scene in which the Golden Gate Bridge is sliced in half by those nasty radiation beams everyone was worried about. The special effects are bad, and I don't mean in the sense that you can see the seams. They're just plain cheap, but how perfectly they fit the silliness.

A great cast fills up space in The Core, and while I could go through each of their performances in the movie, I'd rather count them collectively, since they've all proven at one point or another that their above this kind of material. What turns out bringing the whole thing down, however, is the attempt at character development. The movie turns into a game of "who's going to die next, and how sentimental can we make their demise?" Otherwise, The Core is an entertaining and swift (despite its rather lengthy running time) romp that proves once again that when it comes to deciding between making a journey into the unknown for discovery or making a journey into the unknown because stuff will get blown up real good otherwise, the latter will more than likely win out.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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