Somewhere in THE CORE there is a neat-o flick trying to get out. Unfortunately, its stymied by cliché characters and a series of hackneyed action-adventure plot points that all but kill any joy we might have found in the otherwise fun concept and occasional burst of crisp dialogue.
The premise is that the Earths outer core, the one that spins merrily and thereby generates the electromagnetic field that provides a warm, supportive and nurturing environment for all living things, is grinding to a halt. As it does, electrical appliances, things like espresso makers and space shuttles and pacemakers go kablooey. And as it slows to a stop, things will get really bad, as in all life ceases to exist and then the big blue marble burns to a small, black cinder. Dont worry about all the science. Aaron Eckhart as the hunky but rumpled scientist does a boffo lecture with visual aids that include air-freshener and an apple. He uses simple things and small words because hes explaining it to Americas top brass, so you know its got to be broken down to its simplest components for them.
Josh is there because he alone has figured out whats causing all the strange phenomena plaguing the planet, things like the Northern Lights in southern climes and pigeons becoming disoriented at the worlds most popular tourist attractions. One thing leads to another, as these things oft times will, and before you can say apocalypse, an intrepid band of heroes has been assembled and packed into a vessel designed to go to the Earths core and give it a thermonuclear nudge. The vessel, in a fit of classical allusion, is named Vergil for the poet who wrote about going to hell and back. Im a sucker for classical allusions.
So far so good. The script makes a plausible sci-fi case for Vergil being able to swim through solid rock by dissolving it with lasers on its tip. It even allows for the extreme pressures and heat that the crew will find by having the mad but unthreatening scientist who invented the thing also coming up with a shell material that he dubs unobtainium, which can not only withstand the extreme conditions, it will actually thrive on them. Things like the fluctuation in the effects of gravity are ignored because, I guess, the effects budget was only so big.
As for our intrepid team, this is where things start to fall apart. All our work has been done for us as far as sorting out who is good and who is bad. Stanley Tucci is the baddie. Not only is he a narcissist who steals other peoples work, including two of the other three scientists on the trip, but he also smokes and wears a bad toupee. Not that hes not fun to watch, but how about a little subtlety? Oops, wrong movie. Bruce Greenwood is the stalwart commanding officer, whose sole purpose is to point out to his navigator, Hilary Swank, what makes for a good commander. As for Hilary, she has a tendency to look at who shes talking to instead of watching where shes going. This might be a bigger problem than it seems, but theres also an auto-pilot on board that can navigate when shes elsewhere. So, obviously, shes only along so that Aaron Eckhart doesnt have to kiss Stanley Tucci, or Bruce Greenwood or mad scientist Delroy Lindo or weapons specialist Tcheky Karyoi. And you just know with all the emotions running high what with the end of the world looming, someones just gotta kiss someone. Back on the surface we have Alfre Woodard wearing a headset and a grim expression in a non-role, and DJ Qualls just adorable as the teen-geek hacker genius with a weakness for doing the right thing and Xena, Princess Warrior.
Still, we could have a lot of kitschy fun a la FANTASTIC VOYAGE if it werent for the cheesy special effects and the laughable perils the script has our gang endure. For example, as theyre speeding through the mantle, zipping along through the hole that the laser is making by dissolving everything in its path, a crystal gets jammed IN THE LASER. I only wish I were kidding. This means that someone has to exit the ship to face the peril of unjamming it. Then there is the manual override release thats conveniently located in a crawlspace where no one can reach it without encountering the peril of being fried. Lindos character, according to the script, has been working on this ship for 20 years and yet this design flaw seems to have escaped his brilliant mind. And dont get me started on the physics 101 math mistake that someone makes and that no one notices until its, you guessed it, almost perilously too late. As for the Coliseum exploding, its strictly INDEPENDENCE DAY redux. Oh, and because, just because, theres a nefarious and perilous military experiment gone wrong.
On the plus side, we all learn a little about the natural history of the planet on which we live. We also get to titter as we watch Virgil, long, cylindrical, and designed for penetration, launched on his mission by sinking quickly and surely towards the Earths core. Nothing like a little Freud to spice up the dreck.