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Dir Jon Amiel
starring Aaron Eckhardt, Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci

THE CORE is a rip-roaring ‘disaster’ movie that succeeds as a pop-culture thriller

A techno-dweeb’s fantasy remake of Jules Verne’s classic sci-fi novel JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH director Jon Amiel’s THE CORE is a rip-roaring ‘disaster’ movie that succeeds as a pop-culture thriller in spite of its utterly nonsensical premise.

The U.S, military has been covertly and calamitously tampering with the world’s guts in the hope of causing monstrous earthquakes beneath the lands of its enemies. This nutzoid Operation D.E.S.T.I.N.Y has inadvertently caused Mother Earth’s electro-magnetic field to wobble fiendishly causing death and disaster as the microwaves that control such events as the migrations of birds and the stability of heart-pacers loop the loop. Cities are demolished as the Northern Lights grow like Topsy and the weird wobble worsens. Only a team of dedicated terranauts can save the day, led by absent-minded geophysicist Josh (Aaron Eckhardt) and absurdly ambitious former astronaut Beck (Hilary Swank).

Madcap inventor Braz ( Delroy Lindo) has perfected a technological breakthrough that can bore huge holes right through the toughest of tough materials known to man. For a mere $50 billion he can, in a matter of months, build a pioneering rocket that can in a matter of hours pierce the outer crust, infiltrate the molten mantle, and attain the actual hard core of our glorious globe.
All very sexual but also very understated – Mother Earth finds these new orgasmic ructions a bit too much. She longs for the sizzle not the steak. Too much excitement at her advanced age could be fatal, huh?

Joined in their fantastic voyage on the Virgil - the largest and hottest Cuban cigar you can ever have seen - , named after the Roman guide to the Underworld, by astronaut Bob (Bruce Greenwood) and weapons specialist Serge (Tcheky Karo) the terranautical team inevitably encounters major obstacles within the mantle. Not every crew member will return safe and sound. In keeping with the fundamental and irreversible rules of this disaster-flick game, of course.

The strength of Jon Amiel’s handling of this potentially preposterous powder keg of sci-fi clichés lies in his emphasis upon the psychology of his characters. None of them start out as heroic figures and their eventual willingness to sacrifice themselves is depicted with a rueful fatalism and a minimum of cornball dramatics. Amiel allows all the poppycock to remain in the highly entertaining balderdash of scientific bafflegab with every one initially running off at the mouth, if not frothing at the mouth, with sudden insights into the actual nature of the matter at the heart of the globe about which scientists know very, very little to this day……

Admittedly most of the hardware special-effects in THE CORE are just this side of chewily cheesy – the entire guts of Mother Earth here resemble a partially digested pizza pie drenched in bubbly Diet-Coke with loads of pepperoni slices daring hither an thither. And the occasional diamond as big as the Ritz! And crystals huge enough to delight any lengthily-haired New Ager!
The destruction of Rome’s principal landmarks is especially clumsy and that of San Francisco hardly any improvement, for the unforgiving purist of large-scale demolition mayhem. But what previous disaster movie did not prove clumsy and implausible in filming the unbearable and the utterly horrendous? A thick residue of clumsy camp is crucial for these mind-blowing wannabe motion-pictures when ‘reality’ would be far too disconcerting.

Thus THE CORE, while obeying all of the absurd and endearing regulations of this often disparaged genre. goes a little further in its concern for the human element and the winning clash of personalities cooped up in a crazy-quilt inner-space craft -it is not the journey to the earth’s grumbling intestines that matters, more the company you keep and the clashes of personalities en route.

© Alex Grant March 2003


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