The Core

on March 28, 2003 by Michael Tunison
“The Core's” depiction of intrepid “terranauts” boring their way deep into the Earth isn't the most convincing sci-fi mission ever captured on celluloid--okay, it's totally ludicrous--so it's a fortunate thing the filmmakers have assembled such a strong team of actors to take the plunge. When you're making a movie in which merely keeping a straight face requires substantial dramatic chops, it helps to have folks as dependable as Aaron Eckhart (“Possession”), Hilary Swank (“Insomnia”), Stanley Tucci (“Big Night”) and Delroy Lindo (“The Cider House Rules”) aboard.

Reworking the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” genre in the form of an “Armageddon”-style disaster actioner, this almost-serious lark from director Jon Amiel (“Entrapment”) begins with the suspicions of a geophysicist (Eckhart) that various bizarre natural phenomena are the result of something very wrong below ground. Sure enough, it turns out the darn planetary core has stopped spinning, a situation that threatens global destruction by powering down Earth's magnetic field. Unless, that is, our hero and a group of mismatched scientists and astronauts can use an experimental subterranean vehicle (all ready to be built, handily enough) to set off a nuclear explosion near the core and hopefully make everything right again.

From speculative elements such as the laser-and-ultrasonic-beam-digging vehicle to a subplot in which a young hacker (D.J. Qualls from “The New Guy”) single-handedly controls the flow of information about the crisis over the entire Internet, “The Core” is only marginally easier to believe than '50s/'60s sci-fi opuses like the James Mason-starring version of “Journey”--any more ridiculous and it could play as a straight comedy. However, thanks to the occasional bit of disarming humor (often when “There's Something About Mary's” Richard Jenkins is around as the requisite hard-bitten general) and the enjoyment veteran scene-stealers like Tucci seem to get from their parts, surprisingly large chunks of it go down as good, silly fun. Starring Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, D J Qualls, Richard Jenkins, Tchéky Karyo, Bruce Greenwood and Alfre Woodard. Directed by Jon Amiel. Written by Cooper Layne and John Rogers. Produced by David Foster, Cooper Layne and Sean Bailey. A Paramount release. Science fiction. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi life/death situations and brief strong language. Running time: 135 min

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