The Core

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Listen, if you were to line up all the distaster movies made in the wake of their resurgence in the 90’s and cast an objective eye over all of them, they’d all come across a pretty stupid – after all, it’s the nature of the beast, right? But in an effort to dodge such tumbling debris such as awful science, stunning leaps of logic and some sizable doses of deux ex machina, at least some of those titles tried to circumvent them in their own way. Take Michael Bay’s Armageddon, for example, which impressively doubled down on its ludicrous “drillers in space” plot while sticking its fingers in its ears and making loud “la la la” sounds to drown out the haters; or Deep Impact who attempted to smother any unlikely bullshit with large doses of schmaltz; or even Dante’s Peak who just threw a James Bond actor at it and hoped for the best…
However, in 2003 a disaster movie emerged that seemed not to give the slightest shit about any of that and presented it’s ridiculous “what if” with awful dialogue, daffy plotting and special effects so bad, it makes 1974’s Earthquake look like Jurassic Park.
Ladies and gentlemen – it’s time to enter The Core.

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Bizarre occurrences are causing traumatic happenings across the globe such as a certain brand of pacemaker suddenly sorting out and killing everyone who has one all at the same time, or flocks of pigeons in London making out like The Birds is a movie worth copying and it seems to have something to do with the Earth’s magnetic field.
Simply put, the Earth’s molten core is fucked and has stopped rotating and if humans can’t figure a way to jump start the fiery bastard, all life as we know it will end within a year and we know this thanks to the work of disheveled geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes and fellow scientists Dr. Serge Leveque (French, cheerful) and Dr. Conrad Zimsky (rich, asshole).
Weirdly, the U.S. Government leap into action and within three months, all these giant brains – plus Zimsky’s disgruntled ex-partner Dr. Ed Brazzelton – put together an audacious plan to create a manned vehicle that can drill down to the earth’s core and detonate nukes down there to get the whole thing running again. Roping in daring NASA pilots Robert Iverson and Rebecca Childs and, for some reason, skinny computer hacker Rat to keep any leaks to the public to a minimum, this group of six randos launch into the crust via the Marianas Trench and immediately undergo a gauntlet of varied problems and obstacles that conveniently wipes out only one of their number at a time as they get ever closer to their goal.
But how did the core suddenly stop spinning in the first place? Will Keyes ever learn to make the tough decisions? Will Childs learns what it takes to become a true leader? Will Zimsky ever get to have another smoke? All these questions you never thought to ask plus more are piled on as the pressure builds, the heat rises and the silliness hits a dangerous peak.

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It’s tremendously fitting that we’re talking about freaky magnetic fields, because while watching The Core you’ll find it’s almost impossible to pull away from it’s almost hypnotic, paradoxical crapness. It’s extremely dopey, but not enough to be camp and yet it’s overflowing with high drama and life and death decisions despite utterly failing to engross me for more than two minutes at a time – and yet I found it insidiously watchable; almost like wasting an afternoon finding a YouTube compilation of fails that’s at least two hours long. Honestly, I can’t think of another movie made during the 2000’s that’s so repellently inept but still kept me watching from beginning to end – is their subliminal messaging hidden within the editing? Does the strobe lighting subconsciously spell out “KEEP WATCHING” in Morse Code? Genuinely, I don’t know what it is but it kept me watching this turkey from beginning to end like the sad little disaster movie junkie I am and that’s probably the secret.
You see, The Core follows the sci-fi/disaster movie playbook so closely you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen and when and even why a good forty minutes before they actually occur, but before you freak out and think someone’s spiked your drink with one of those pills from Limitless, calm down – it’s just a case of open book filmmaking. Long before Bruce Greenwood’s fatherly NASA pilot catches a dollop of lava right in the dome, you realise he’ll have to kark it if Hilary Swank’s character is ever going to reach her potential – the same goes for Tchéky Karyo’s buddy character and Delroy Lindo’s grumpy teammate, if these guys live, how is Aaron Eckhart’s vanilla hero possibly going to level up his XP to save the day?

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Elsewhere, the actual plot is simply Armageddon meets Jules Verne as their journey is beset by a string of predictable problems that simultaneously seem hopeless, yet get cleared up within minutes after yet another bout of brain storming. Maybe things would be easier to take seriously if the special effects on display wouldn’t have been shockingly inferior even if they had been released ten years prior as it’s fairly tough to take all the panicked claims of the end of the world seriously when the effects look like they’ve been knocked up on an Amstrad during a lunch break. While other movies use their effects to create breathtaking set pieces (Armageddon’s opening meteor strikes, Dante’s Peak’s pyroclastic cloud), The Core’s visuals are less ground breaking than they are flat broke thanks to the melting of the Golden Gate by ultraviolet rays and the destruction of Rome thanks to a violent lightning storm looking like they were bankrolled by The Asylum.
You would think that a truly impressive and massively reliable cast would soften the blow, but somehow this array of glittering talent actually makes things worse as the these familiar faces (including Richard Jenkins and Alfre Woodard) vainly struggle with the thin material to prove that this is one turd that will stubbonly remain unpolished. In fact, Stanley Tucci’s wordless chaotic meltdown as his vain character realises he has volunteered himself for a suicide mission is one of the most entertaining spots of bad acting by a great actor I’ve seen since Dennis Quaid’s equally spectacular freak out in Jaws 3-D.

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The disaster movie equivalent of staring directly at an eclipse (you can’t stop looking at it despite you knowing it’s not going you any good whatsoever), if you really need to watch an Americans fix the earth with nukes movie then stick with Armageddon or Danny Boyle’s Sunshine – because this core is rotten.

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