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The Core
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   Jon Amiel (director)
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   March 28, 2003
Review Date:   March 31, 2003
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)
The Core is the story of two screenwriters who make life very hard for six nice people who are trying to save the world by journeying to the center of the earth. If you're willing to accept that, then The Core's a bit of diversionary fun.

Or scratch the part about diversionary fun if things like space shuttles having flight problems and the destruction of well-known buildings seems a little too real to be fun. Me, I waffled between four attitudes during the scenes of destruction. 1) Too real to be fun. 2) Wow, that's cool! (The Los Angeles and London scenes). 3) The "I've already seen Independence Day, you've got to work harder to impress me. And 4) the juvenile giggling attitude towards destruction. I'm telling you, after having seen Mars Attacks!, it's almost impossible to watch a serious disaster movie without thinking about a herd of burning cattle, or those evil Martians carefully finessing the Washington Monument so it crushes a cub scout troupe.

Anyway, if you're thinking about seeing The Core because you've got a Godzilla-sized appetite for destruction, you might want to lower your expectations a little. London and Los Angeles are cool precisely because they don't rely on big explosions. The best part about the ho-hum burning of Rome (cue fiddle) is when the Italians get pissed because the television reception goes bad, thus interrupting a football match (that's right, I said football. Heretofore, by decree of me, American football will be called BigMenRunningAndSmashingInBetweenPickupTruckCommercials Ball). And the San Francisco scene. . . well, that brings me to my next point, which is. . .

Abandon All Logic Ye Who Enter Here

I'm not talking about the nits I could pick if I were a geophysicist. Forget that, especially since Stanley Tucci's character tartly points out that a lot of science is just inference and "best guess", thereby raising the hackles of scientists around the world who know everything about the center of the earth, the far reaches of space, the quantum universe, and what happened (put your pinky to your lip) one beeellion years ago, even though they have yet to be able to buy a bus ticket to those places for a hands-on rubber-glove inspection.

No, I'm talking about simple things like, say a scientist has an X-raylike imaging system that can see through lead. I'm talking about enough lead to protect Superman from a chunk of Kryptonite the size of Marlon Brando. Wouldn't that hurt the people who are blithely walking around in front of the rays of this device? Okay, maybe that's too narrow-minded. Maybe the guy was using something that could see through lead without hurting people. It's just a movie, stop being so picky. Right?

Then how about San Francisco? (SPOILER) Cosmic radiation starts shining down on the Golden Gate Bridge like God pulled out a magnifying glass to have a little ant-burnin' fun. The radiation melts the metal wiring supporting the bridge, and people and their cars go crashing into the drink. My question is, isn't the melting point of people lower than the melting point of metal? Well, I suppose I can dance around that one. The camera only showed us the guy who was far enough away from the radiation beam not to melt. There were people melting, but off camera, because melting people is a quick way to lose your family-friendly PG-13 rating.

But still The Core has an over-arching lunk-dumb mentality. You either have to go with it, laugh at it, or sit in your seat being annoyed. I opted for the first two. Like (MORE SPOILERS) when the team crashes into a giant geode, several of them go tromping out into an environment deep into the earth, and then somebody remarks, "sure glad these pressure suits work." It's like in Flesh Gordon, when the scientist steps out onto an unfamiliar planet, takes a deep breath, and says something like "The air seems breathable."

There are some acknowledgments at the farfetchedness of The Core. Delroy Lindo calls the miracle of science fiction alloy he's developed "unobtainium" And when Stanley Tucci takes his crew-mates to task for the dumb martyr optimism of their nonspecific "Plan C", he's like an on-screen stand-in for incredulous audience members.

Okay, now it's time for a lesson I like to call Painfully Transparent Plot Mechanics 101. Say you're building a compartmentalized mole-train with which to go earth-diving. (SPOILERS, AHOY!) You've made it so that if one of the compartments is breached, it'll lock down and be jettisoned. Now, you've got an "engine", plus six cars on your train. And you'll be transporting five nukes, which are the only way you have to fix the earth's core. Now, where would you put the nukes? Easy, you'd either put them in the engine, or in the first compartment. Because that would lessen your chances of losing your precious cargo. The stupidest place to put the nukes would be the caboose car, because, if any of the other five cars were breached, you'd lose the caboose too, and you'd be up magma creek without a paddle. So, where do our group of genius scientists put the nukes? You guessed it, in the caboose. And before you can say, "I knew that was going to happen", there's a harrowing experience as some heroic guy sacrifices himself to save the nukes before the last compartment is jettisoned. All that brain power, and not one of those Schrodinger cats has as much statistical sense as a first-time blackjack player. And then, to add insult to improbability, they just happen to have exactly enough compartments left to put "Plan C" into effect.

Now that I've given The Core a good spanking (you know what comes after the spanking, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more), I've got to say that The Core was actually pretty entertaining. At a full two hours, it steams along at a pretty cracking pace. It's not a rousing Jules Verne adventure, but it does have its Saturday matinee gee-whiz moments. And though the screenwriters don't get points for plausibility, they do get points in other areas. The repartee is witty and acidic, and the technobabble excites rather than bores, helping immensely in the suspension of disbelief department. In fact, the only time the dialogue falters is when the movie is aiming for the heart rather than the head or the funny bone.

Overall, The Core is standard action sci-fi. Dumb fun, as long as you don't think "dumb fun" is an oxymoron. Mindless, but not mind-numbing. A six out of ten. Add two points if you saw both Deep Impact and Armageddon at the theater. (If you saw Dante's Peak at the theater, I sympathize. That "just like riding a bicycle" line still makes me laugh, in the painful "I can't believe I watched that movie" way.) Subtract two points if you're one of those people whose recurring complaint about silly popcorn movies is something along the lines of "this movie was so stupid it lowered my I.Q." or "this movie was so dumb it killed my brain cells." You know who you are. Like dumb is a form of radiation. Seriously, if your brain cells are that easy to kill, maybe you should stop going to movies altogether. Just sit at home and wrap your brain in tin foil. I hear that it provides superior protection from ambient dumb-rays.
RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers once wrapped his brain in tin foil. Then he baked it and ate it up with sour cream and bacon. Nummy!

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