The Core (2003) — The most ridiculous movie premise ever?

“Hang on. This isn’t going to be subtle.”

Justin’s rating: Unobtanium… riiiiiiiiiiiight.

Justin’s review: Ever since Spielberg brought frisky dinosaurs to the screen and Zemeckis had Forrest Gump digitally inserted into history itself, filmmakers found a single solution for every script problem: computer graphics. John Wayne dead? That’s okay, we have computer graphics to bring him back! Want to re-create the Roman Empire in a week? Computer graphics! Hard to persuade George Bush to come to the studio and crush a model city under his feet as Bushzilla? Computer graphics to the rescue! Want to make Keanu Reaves act? Well, sorry, no help for you there.

Computer graphics are the emerging catch-all magic trick for many movies, including 99% of current summer blockbusters. In the hands of a skillful director, they can be used to enhance and awe an audience without dating the material in three years. In the hands of a desperate film jockey, CGI is the blatant slight-of-hand used to overwhelm the audience into thinking that they’re watching something good, pulling the attention away from the numerous plot holes. Now, I like good CGI sequences as much as the next red-blooded geek, but the sheer saturation of outrageous CGI scenes are making me desensitized to the millions of bucks being thrown at software programs. I mean, heck, in five years, they’re going to have to hire an actor in a dino suit at every theater to leap out of the shadows and steal away with your date just to get a reaction.

The Core falls somewhere between skillful and bumbling in this area. To say this movie lacks plot holes, even for a science fiction flick, is to be lying on a scale of tricking the Old Scratch himself with a forged contract. But where the smarter filmgoer might develop a headache trying to get past story problems the size of the San Andreas Fault, a more casual audience member will appreciate the pretty eye candy distracting their gaze away from the man behind the curtain.

The Core almost backs itself up into an illogical corner just trying to set up the main conflict. Through military stupidity, the earth’s core has stopped rotating, causing horrible weather problems on the surface that begin wreaking havoc. Borrowing equal halves of the scripts to Armageddon and Deep Impact, the government decides that the only way to fix this crisis is to send a ship directly down into the bowels of the earth and patch it up the American way: by lobbing some nukes at it. Unfortunately, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck were on assignment in outer space, so NASA had to drag the pond for some B-list actors to fill the part, including Delroy Lindo and DJ Qualls.

Actually, it’s really easy to be over-harsh on a film like this, because it’s a basic “shut off your brain and enjoy the rollercoaster” that masquerades as something intelligent. Despite a swollen bladder (curse you, my arch-nemesis Large Coke!), I had a pretty fun time and found myself surprised as The Core refused to take its subject matter and genre too seriously. For example, when the FBI comes to pick up hacker “The Rat” (Qualls) to help in the crisis, our introduction to the character is a frantic and laughable scramble to delete and destroy all of his computers and equipment in under a minute.

Unlike most disaster flicks, the characters in The Core are neither overly macho nor overly dramatic. There are no grandiose, ten-minute “We have to save the world” speeches, and we’re mostly spared from unreasonable heroics. Mostly. While they certainly don’t get the screen time they deserve (understandable for the plot pacing, tho), these are smart and often witty people just doing a job. I can appreciate that. In many ways, it’s McGuyver Down Under, as nerdery wins out over brawn time and again.

There’s no way you’re not going to mock or pick apart at least one thing from this film. For me, I wondered if I missed some sort of science-fu technological explanation that accounted for how a ship travelling through solid rock and liquid magma could possibly send a communication signal to the surface — up to and including when they’re at the earth’s core. When my cell phone disconnects if a leaf flutters between the cell tower and antenna, I have to wonder. Still, while we might nitpick, it’s a good sort of film to do that to since The Core doesn’t fall short on entertainment value.

Didja notice?

  • So whales have a purpose after all, other than to be harvested for their sweet, sweet eye juice?
  • A suit that’s rated for 4500 degrees can protect its user in an environment that’s 9000 degrees for a few minutes, cause, you know, it’s only twice the temperature
  • Unobtanium is a term used by science fiction fans (and some authors) for a substance with magical properties necessary for the plot to work.
  • While the crew is talking on the platform in the Pacific, the rain is falling all around them but not actually on them.
  • The magic suits also resist thousands and thousands of pounds of pressure without wrinkling at all.
  • Yay for lasers that can blast through mountains!
  • Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s another Elimination Movie… guess who’s the next to bite the big one!
  • Burning peaches will impress any military commander, since they’re unable to grasp non-fruit-based concepts
  • With all those electrical storms about, weren’t our heroes worried since they were planning a mission in a big METAL barn in the middle of the desert?

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