The Core (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/03/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 135 mins

Thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi disaster movie in the best ‘B’ movie tradition – the effects and dialogue have their ropey moments, but this is great fun. Much better than Armageddon.

It has to be said – the signs weren’t good for The Core. The poster is awful (it’s a shame they didn’t add “From the director of TV’s The Singing Detective!”), the tag-line is atrocious (“The only way out is in”), the trailer makes it look terrible (crap effects, Hilary Swank yelling “Breach!”), and on top of that it was almost pulled in the States and was hardly shown to any journalists before its release. And yet, against the odds, The Core is enormous fun, despite its dodgy effects and occasionally clunky dialogue.

The plot is classic sci-fi disaster material. The earth’s core mysteriously slows to a halt (it’s like an engine, apparently), resulting in ecological disasters and people with pacemakers dropping dead on the spot. There’s also a very neat mini-tribute to The Birds, using the pigeons in “London’s historic Trafalgar Square”, as the reporter on ‘GBTB’ helpfully describes it.

And The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth

Lowly college professor Aaron Eckhart and his wacky French friend, weapons expert Tcheky Karyo quickly figure it all out and, with secret government backing, team up with Egomaniacal Scientist Stanley Tucci and Crazy Desert-living Inventor Delroy Lindo to build a machine that can take them to the earth’s core. They also enlist a computer geek (DJ Qualls – the nerd from Road Trip) to “stop the internet” while they go about it.

Also along for the ride are NASA pilots Hilary Swank and Bruce Greenwood. We know they’re the ones for the job because earlier, they managed to crash-land a space shuttle safely in the concrete “river” area of Los Angeles. (A brilliant scene and the reason the film was delayed in the States).

The plan, naturally, is to reach the earth’s core, then detonate several nuclear weapons, thereby restarting it before high-tailing it back to the surface. Sounds easy, right? But is there something that Sneaky Stanley hasn’t told them? And just what is DESTINI?

The Core has a 1950s ‘B’ movie grasp of both special effects and the laws of physics, but this is by no means a bad thing. It’s true that some of the lines are laughable (“What if the core is made of cheese?”) and some of the plot points ridiculous (their communications systems work perfectly well, thousands of miles beneath the earth’s crust) but, admirably, it’s all played straight.

Peach Flambé?

What really helps is that both the characters and the actors playing them are extremely likeable. Eckhart (“Apocalypse Boy”) makes a good ‘B’ movie lead as the college professor just trying to save the earth and get back to his physics class. Swank makes a good female lead too (and their relationship is nicely understated), although there’s a scene where the only reaction she can muster to a crew-members’ death is an audible “tut”, which was perhaps ill-advised.

Stanley Tucci is, as always, excellent and steals almost every scene – he also has a truly impressive hair-piece which may well be the film’s best special effect. There’s also good support from the rest of the crew, as well as Richard Jenkins and Alfre Woodard.

To be fair, some of the effects sequences are excellent – for example, the ‘birds’ set piece in London, the Crystal Grand Canyon and the burning of the Golden Gate Bridge. However, others, such as the destruction of Rome, are less impressive. Also, the ship itself resembles nothing so much as a giant vibrator, so expect a rash of ‘Dildo To The Centre of the Earth’-type jokes in reviews everywhere.

There are some great scenes – a particular highlight involves Eckhart and Tucci demonstrating the probable fate of the Earth to the Pentagon, with the aid of a peach, a fork, a lighter and an aerosol can. (Peach flambé, anyone?). There are also some unintentionally hilarious moments – look out for a comedy caption towards the end.

In short, The Core is a highly entertaining disaster flick in the best ‘B’ movie tradition. It has likeable characters, a decent –if wobbly- script and some great set-pieces. Frankly, it’s a damn sight more enjoyable than either Armageddon or Deep Impact managed to be. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

The Core (12A)
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Content updated: 18/12/2017 18:28

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