Normally, as a rule, I try to not reveal anything about a movie beyond what’s explicitly shown in the trailer. The Core, however, is not a normal movie. Given that, I can’t in good conscience talk about this one without going a little…deeper.
Throughout it’s entire run, this film blends several disparate tropes that may have been popular in their time and may have even been clever (or at the very least, congruent) in another setting or with better direction. This film so blatantly cribs from its betters while entirely missing what made them work that I cannot in good faith hold back. I am not issuing a spoiler alert for this review though; more of a spoiler celebration, because the more I reveal about this film, the more you may in fact just want to see it for the gem it is.
When unexplained phenomenon causes all pacemakers within a wide radius to fail, the government consults geophysicist Dr. Josh Keys (Aaron Eckhart) and weapons specialist Serge Leveque (Tcheky Karyo) determine if it was caused by a weapon (and nothing else, because who cares, right?). Soon after this, a rash of syfy original movie disaster scenes start happening all over the globe. Keys soon figures out that all these disasters are stemming from a mass destabilization of the Earth’s magnetic field due to the the halted rotation of the planet’s molten core.
After the government’s scientist stooge (Stanley Tucci) corroborates this, they find another wacky wild-card scientist who conveniently is working on a vehicle that will suit their purposes. Throw in a couple of astronauts, let it stew for the duration of one construction and training montage, and everyone is set for a desperate mission to drill to the core and launch some nukes at it, because that solves everything. After averaging one catastrophe about every seven minutes and giving each of the characters a heroically merciful end to having to be in this film they get to the core and the movie finally decides to reveal what was the first thing they showed in the trailers as if it’s somehow is supposed to be this big surprise; that this whole mess was caused by a US Military weapons test on an earthquake machine. This might be meant to bring some heavy message about environmentalism and the dangers of hyper-militarization, but it doesn’t land considering they’re not talking about climate change and they’re going on a mission to save the day using nuclear weapons.
When it turns out the crew didn’t bring enough nuke to get the job done (damn liberals), the top brass decides that firing the “secret” weapon again will somehow fix everything because fuck it, right?
I need to back up a bit, but stay with me. There’s another sub…plot(?) involving a twentysomething hacker brought in to make sure no one finds out about the secret mission being launched to help stop the increasingly devastating natural disasters happening worldwide. This makes sense because of course there are no other geophysicists is able to in the span of three months of figure out what one dude working alone did. The entire scientific community just collectively decided to take a few months off.
Anyways, after “recruiting” the hacker Rat (DJ Qualls) with no coercion whatsoever (because hacker are always willing to buddy up to the feds), he, someone who professes to champion the free spread of information, decides he’ll play his part in keeping the biggest secret ever. Anyways, he manages to stall them firing the weapon giving our heroes enough time to not only figure out a plan that will actually work, but impliment it and escape with enough survivors to call it a win. The film ends with Rat going into an honest to god Cyber Cafe (the name of the place, mind you) and releasing all the information about the mission upon an unsuspecting public. This was either checking the last box on some sort of contrived hacker character checklist, or a metaphor for the director releasing this film against studio wishes.
Oh where to start with the characters? There’s just so much. Let’s start with the introduction to our intrepid hero Dr. Josh Keys. Since the government is sending a chopper to ask this dude a single question, he must be at the top of his field with overflowing classes and grants out the yin-yang. Nope. When we meet him, there’s maybe a dozen students listening to his lecture with all the enthusiasm of being on hold with an insurance company. If I hadn’t read the opening credits, I would have expected the real professor was waiting in the wings somewhere.
Next up, we’re introduced to our astronauts We have Commander Bob Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Major Rebecca Childs (Hillary Swank) re-entering earth from orbit. Since the Core has stopped core-ing though, their navigation has thrown them off course and straight into downtown Los Angeles. Leave it to “Becks” though. She busts out a protractor, paper and pen (this I did not imagine) and starts Good Will Hunting them a course correction to land on a freeway. Okay we get it. She’s smart and good under pressure.
I could go into everyone, but I watched this last week and honestly, not enough of it stuck with me to really go in-depth on them. There’s so many little nitpicks about this film that before you can muster the momentum to get angry about one, another has presented itself. For me, this made for an amusing journey to see just how ridiculous and inconsistent they can get. Over the course of this film, we see:
- After they name the ship Virgil, they in the next line awkwardly explain the reference, because of course no one who is watching has even heard of Dante’s Inferno and the film falls apart without this critical information.
- Becks tries to make a big deal out of making up the name Terranauts for their job and it is never once mentioned again.
- To prove how tech-savvy Rat is, he pickpockets Ken’s phone and after serenading it through a gum wrapper, proudly announces that it will give free long distance “for like, ever”.
- What sorcery makes it possible for the Virgil to sustain its hull in the insane subterranean conditions? A nebulous material that somehow gets stronger the more heat and pressure are applied to it called…wait for it…unobtainium.
- The word energy is flung around as liberally and vaguely as in a discount acupuncture class.
- The hacker asks to be paid in Hot Pockets.
- Over the course of this film, between astronauts, scientists, and soldiers, not one single metric unit of measure is used. It’s all miles, psi, and feet.
- At least they gave NYC a break from being leveled for once. Instead they destroy Rome. With lightning. Get it?
The Core is a love letter to borderline jingoistic “America Saves the Day” disaster movies. The letter unfortunately was written by an infatuated 8 year old in crayon on a fast food wrapper. But in the face of so earnest an effort, one cannot help but be somewhat charmed by this film because of or despite all its flaws. If you’re the type who enjoys watching poorly executed movies just to marvel at the fact they even exist, or if you liked Armageddon, but it was just a bit too cerebral for you, this one will drill right into your heart.