A team of scientists must journey to the center of the Earth to jump-start the planet's slowing rotation.
In this latest doomsday pic, Earth's inner core has stopped rotating, a situation that will eventually cause the planet's electromagnetic fields to collapse. If it isn't fixed pronto, static charges will create ''super storms'' that will generate hundreds of lightening strikes per square mile and cause microwave radiation to ultimately cook the planet. Government and military officials conjure up a team of scientists, led by geophysicist Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart), to travel to the planet's core and get it spinning again. Accompanying them are geophysicist Dr. Zimsky (Stanley Tucci), atomic weapons expert Dr. Levesque (Tchéky Karyo), ''terranauts'' Major Childs (Hilary Swank) and Commander Iverson (Bruce Greenwood), and Dr. Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo)--the renegade scientist who built the subterranean vessel. Their mission is to travel to the center of the earth to detonate a nuclear device that will hopefully jump-start the core and save the world. Like the ''terranauts'' grinding their way through Earth's layers to get to the planet's core, The Core laboriously plods through the storyline to get to its climax--and both are equally uneventful.
Despite a really corny scene in which he demonstrates what will happen to the planet by torching some sort of fruit on a fork, Eckhart (Possession) is believable as the sensible Keyes. Co-star Swank (Insomnia), meanwhile, brings intensity to the role of fledgling astronaut Childs. It is Tucci (Big Trouble), however, who creates the film's most interesting character, the arrogant Dr. Zimsky. The diva-esque geophysicist heads to the center of the earth in style with his Louis Vuitton monogrammed canvas bag and an endless supply of cigarettes--making him politically--and refreshingly--incorrect. You'll love how he pompously records the mission's progress in a Carl Sagan-style narration. Back at mission control, D.J. Qualls' computer-hacking character Rat mirrors a recent report describing the characteristics of computer virus writers: Male. Obsessed with computers. Lacking a girlfriend. Aged 14 to 34. Capable of sowing chaos worldwide. Qualls (The New Guy) couldn't be more suited for this digital graffiti artist role.
Director Jon Amiel helps define the film's main characters by weaving vignettes of their everyday lives throughout the first half of the film, but so much effort is devoted to exploring their individual backgrounds that relationships among the team members are never established. The minor characters are like extras in a Star Trek episode--they're just onscreen to die. The Core also fizzles as a believable disaster movie because of its flimsy scientific reasoning, even if you try to suspend your disbelief for the sake of cinematic ''escapism.'' While I can make myself believe, for example, that a government-created weapon of mass destruction is to blame for the planet's imminent annihilation, I cannot buy into the notion that this high-tech vessel was built by a renegade scientist in his backyard and is able to withstand the rough trip to the center of the earth. Although the film's original November release date was delayed because more time was needed to complete the special effects, don't expect to be visually dazzled by the voyage. Most of what we see is what the ''terranauts'' see on their screen: spotty, black-and-white renditions of sharp, jagged rock. Scenes of the Roman Coliseum getting zapped by lightening and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge melting aren't convincing either.
The Core doesn't rise above schlocky predecessors such as Deep Impact and Armageddon. The film's formulaic script is too predictable and the special effects are unimpressive.