Directed by: Jon Amiel Writing
credits: Cooper Layne,
John Rogers (X)
I knew it was dangerous going in. The signs weren't promising and the science looked really bad. But I was going through SF-Film withdrawal and none of that mattered. I had to see a bunch of bright, heroic types save the world using nothing but an atomic flashlight and a sonic-Swiss-army knife. Again.
I got that, and had a good time doing it. Not only is The Core a classic B Sci-Fi movie, it's got an undercurrents of humor and character development enough to make it fun and interesting. True, the humor is handled more deftly than the personality conflicts...but together they move things along.
The producer's apply a classic formula, if not a scientifically accurate one, in which Government Scientists open Pandora's Box and a younger, more charismatic scientist has to put the lid back on...before life on earth is wiped out.
Here the bad idea is a gravity wave weapon that causes targeted earthquakes, and it winds up stopping the rotation of the Earth's core which strips the planet of its protective magnetic shield. See the sidebar (The Core Facts) and stop bothering me. Soon, electrical superstorms are raging the planet and special effects are threatening everyone with a pacemaker. How can we restart the core? In a classic science fiction movie, we'd expect nuclear devices, and we wouldn't be disappointed. Delivering them to the core is the heart of the movie, and our intrepid team of "terranauts" suit up in black suits that look much cooler than those Pillsbury Doughboy NASA outfits to fly an untested ship to the center of the Earth. But it's not about Earth Science, it's not about Rocket Science, and it's certainly not about Thermodynamics...it's about Chemistry. Between the characters, that is.
Hilary Swank is the hyper-competent Maj. Childs. She's never failed at anything she's tried, from emergency shuttle landing to tying a Windsor knot in the hunky-scientist-lead's tie. Will the core prove her Kobiashi Maru? Opposite her is Aaron Eckhart as the really smart young scientist. Not only does he have a bunch of liberal hang-ups about killing off crew members to get the mission done to get over...he's got a classic scientist body...totally buff. Though the chemistry between Swank and Eckhart bubbles along, they could use a good catalyst to really get things hot, and wouldn't you think being trapped at the Earth's Core would do the job? Stanley Tucci is the pompous popular scientist. He's got Carl Sagan's ego on steroids, but still has sense of humor and some actual smarts. Then there's Delroy Lindo as the humble, brilliant and bypassed older scientist, the one Tucci's character shafted all those years ago, and now needed for the greater good. And lastly there's Rat, played by DJ Qualls. Nerd-boy. Hacker Savant. Runs on Zena tapes and Hot-Pockets. For a while I worried that they had just thrown him in to pull in the 14yr old nerd demographic, as he seems pretty peripheral to the plot...but they use him pretty well in the end. In fact, they use everyone pretty well, though they use everyone pretty much up, too.
Though I keep urging viewers not to worry about the bad science, the most exciting sequence in the film is the emergency shuttle landing. It's full of its own share of head-shaking-wishful-thinking-psuedo-science, but it does have some great shots of a de-orbiting shuttle. For all its faults, seeing the shuttle poised against the backdrop of space is heart stopping stuff. Science that no fiction can equal. To get that feeling, you might check out The Space Shuttle: A Photographic History by Phil Harrington (HCVR $19.95 Amazon) , with 100 photographs by Roger Ressmeyer (et al) and text by popular astronomy writer Phil Harrington (currently Programs Director at Brookhaven National Laboratory).
I had fun at the earth's core, good clean fun, and you can too...if you just enjoy all the flashing lights and cool stuff and make bets on who's going to die next with your friends. Take your kids and quiz them on the science afterwards. Fun for the whole family.