STARRING:  Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, DJ Qualls, Tcheky Karyo, Bruce Greenwood, Alfre Woodard

2003, 135 Minutes, Directed by: Jon Amiel

Description: A team of experts pilot an earth-boring ship to jump-start the planet's spinning molten interior, now stalled by a military secret that could seal the fate of all humankind.

After the dramatic real-life disaster of September 11 2001 there was a lot of speculation in the media about how Hollywood would probably lay off making disaster movies like Deep Impact and Independence Day for a while.

Sure, soon after there was a nuclear device detonating in a major American city in Clear & Present Danger and Arnie as a vengeful fireman killing those responsible for the death of his family in a terrorist attack in the unfortunately named Collateral Damage.

These movies were still in development when the calamitous events of September 11 took place, but The Core really has no such excuse. There is something almost gleeful in the way it recounts several disasters such as Rome and the San Francisco Bridge being roasted by cosmic rays. Not to mention the opening scene in which the space shuttle is in danger of crashing – and so soon after the real-life shuttle disaster too!OK, so The Core isn’t exactly in synch with current American social sentiment.

For starters, there’s a sympathetic French character! (If you’ve been missing the news: overly patriotic right-wing Americans are up in arms against France for not going along with its Iraq invasion plans, going so far as to rename things like “French fries” as “Freedom fries” in some restaurants! I kid you not!) All right, the French character still dies – I hope I didn’t spoil that for you - but we all knew he was doomed when he went around flashing photos of his loving wife and kids in his wallet to everyone . . .

"Unashamedly exults in every movie cliché, er, under the sun. . . ."

In a way, one has to admire a movie like The Core for the way in which it not only ignores faux sensitivities, but also unashamedly exults in every movie cliché, er, under the sun.

The plot is sheer silliness: the earth’s core has stopped moving, which results in the earth being slowly roasted by cosmic rays. We’re talking the hole in the ozone from hell here! A plan to drill to the centre of the Earth and detonate some nukes to restart the core spinning again is hatched, and a very Freudian high-tech drilling machine piloted by a group of scientists is launched.

Aptly the vehicle’s name is Virgil. This literary allusion is spelt out for audiences by one of the characters in the movie: Virgil accompanied Dante into the various circles of hell. (No one spells out who Dante was thankfully. if you don’t know, you have to go look it up for yourself.)

Suspect science, gaping plot holes, and a ridiculous premise. Yup, this is Journey to the Center of the Earth stuff all right. Moreover, while our intrepid crew of scientists does not find a lost world of dinosaurs at the Earth’s core, they might as well.

The Core is at its heart a Fantastic Voyage for the new millennium. It regurgitates the genre’s clichés until the point where it becomes Armageddon, but without that dud’s insipient American jingoism, macho posturing and crappy Aerosmith songs. In fact, The Core is a lot more fun than Armageddon and many others of its recent ilk.

Fast paced with some good acting and the occasional viscerally thrilling sequence, The Core may lose some energy after the first hour, but its sense of humor goes a far way.

Look, in all earnestness I really can’t recommend The Core to anyone. If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and in a silly mood, then go. If your movie diet consists exclusively of worthy but dull pics like Chocolat and The Shipping News, then stay clear. File this one along with guilty pleasures such as Congo, Barbwire and The Ghost and the Darkness.


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