Film Review: The Core (2003)

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Hollywood always had problem taking the “science” part of science fiction seriously. Things, however, seldom escalated to the point that actual scientists had to complain and start demanding censorship and similar efforts to prevent general population from getting potentially catastrophic misconceptions about certain scientific facts. One such occasion occurred in with The Core, 2003 science fiction disaster film directed by Jon Amiel.

The plot begins with the series of frightening and baffling natural phenomena that start appearing around the world. Team of American scientists led by Dr. Joshua “Josh” Keyes (played by Aaron Eckhart) discovers that the cause might be the Earth’s core, which, for some reasons, stopped rotating. This would gradually remove Earth’s magnetic field and expose the planet to life destroying space radiation. US government launches desperate effort to send experimental vessel to the Earth’s core equipped with nuclear bombs that would, if they detonate, restart core’s rotation. The vessel, named Virgil, is crewed by Keyes and his fellow scientists, as well as veteran astronauts US Navy Commander Robert “Bob” Iverson (played by Bruce Greenwood) and USAF Major Rebbecca Childs (played by Hilary Swank). As the vessel begins its long and dangerous journey, team also relies on Theodore Donald “Rat” Finch (played by D. J. Qualls), top hacker who remained on the surface who is officially tasked with suppressing information that would lead to panic.

Complaints of the scientific community over implausibility of The Core were mostly matched by the critics, which have greeted the film with hostility greater than usual towards average Hollywood blockbusters of its time. Much of that hostility was with the suitability of disaster film being released in US cinemas with memories of real catastrophe of 9/11 being still fresh on audience’s minds. To make things worse, The Core had misfortune of having a scene featuring Space Shuttle Endeavour making emergency landing at L.A. River; film had originally be scheduled for release in October 2002, but it was postponed because CGI special effects had to be tidied up. As a result, its release came roughly two months after real life Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which, unlike in the film, didn’t have a happy ending and made The Core look even more Hollywood-like than similar blockbusters.

Complaints about scientific accuracy and preposterous basic premise aside, The Core represents mostly satisfying experience for less demanding audience that likes its entertainment light. The script by Cooper Layne and John Rogers builds on the legacy of 1960s science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage, but also takes inspiration from Armageddon, the loudest and most successful of science fiction disaster film by that time. Jon Amiel, however, proves to be more disciplined and restrained director and The Core lacks pathos and drowning in American chauvinism that characterised Bay’s work. The result is silly but occasionally entertaining film which had mediocre results at the box office and mostly sank into oblivion. Those who stumble on it might conclude that such fate wasn’t completely justified.

RATING: 5/10 (++)


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