The Core Movie Review
It would be a terrible shame if talented actors like Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo and Alfre Woodard have reached a point where money trumps professional pride. But I can't imagine any other reason they'd sign on to a half-witted, obscenely formulaic, huge-budget save-the-Earth sci-fi embarrassment like "The Core."
Almost exactly the same movie as "Armageddon" -- and almost as insufferable -- it features a handful of good-looking scientists and NASA astronauts who, instead of going into space to set off a nuke and save the world from a asteroid, travel to the center of the Earth to set off a nuke, thus restarting the dying molten core and saving the world from electromagnetic disaster.
The exact same shopworn characters die in the exact same order, some accidentally, some heroically to save the mission. The simplest laws of physics and even plain-as-day physical facts are utterly ignored (the nuke-the-core plan is based on two-dimensional thinking even though the Earth is -- duh! -- a sphere).
But even without its scientific blunders, "The Core" is beyond idiotic. Screenwriters Cooper Layne and John Rogers put so little common sense into writing the script (if you call their Crayon-copied hack job "writing") that they built an entire subplot in which, to avert panic, a comic-relief teenage hacker (DJ Qualls) is hired to hijack all internet news sites and thus prevent anyone in the world from noticing that the planet is crumbling around them. Never mind that the Aurora Borealis is moving south, thunderstorms are destroying Rome and microwave radiation melts the Golden Gate Bridge and half of San Francisco. Never mind that the kid can't hack TV and radio news. If it ain't on the Internet, it must not be happening.
And drowning in this pathetic nonsense are poor Tucci ("Big Night") playing a smug, condescending celebrity physicist; Lindo ("Get Shorty") as a slightly mad but brilliant inventor of a convenient Earth-penetrating, armor-plated, drill-bit-styled vessel; and Woodard ("What's Cooking?") completely wasted as a Mission Control desk jockey. What's more, these great talents are stuck playing second bananas to second-rate special effects and second-tier actors in the planet-saving hero roles.
Aaron Eckhart ("Possession," "Erin Brockovich") gets the hero role as a scruffy but studly, jutting-jawed scientist who foresaw the impending doom but had a hard time convincing the government. Hilary Swank ("Insomnia," "Boys Don't Cry") plays a shapely space shuttle navigator who proves her IQ is bigger than her bra size in an early action sequence by emergency-landing an orbiter in a Los Angeles canal after the core stoppage threw off the ship's Global Positioning guidance systems.
It's not even worth cataloging this bomb's innumerable logical chasms that plague nearly every scene, because defenders of low standards for popcorn pictures could just pull out the old check-your-brain-at-the-door argument. But "The Core" doesn't begin to earn brain-check status because in addition to being patently nonsensical, the movie is downright boring.
Director Jon Amiel's ("Entrapment") sense of pacing leaves a lot to be desired. Ostensibly flirtatious Eckhart and Swank have no chemistry. Most of the action consists of five bickering stock characters (including French actor Tcheky Karyo as another scientist) in a tight cockpit, coupled with repetitive, lackluster F/X shots of the drill-bit ship diving -- uneventfully save for the occasional on-cue, over-scripted turbulence -- through a sea of swirling, gurgling orange magma that represents the planet's mantle.
Back in Mission Control there is, of course, a contingency of military types who are itching to go to their even riskier Plan B -- blasting the core with some giant laser device that is revealed late in the film (but early in the trailer) to have caused the disaster the first place. But the hacker puts a stop to that by shutting down the nation's power grid, thus taking the laser offline (as if the high-tech, top-secret base where it's located wouldn't have its own source of electricity).
But by the time that hackneyed plot point comes into play, "The Core" has long since passed the point of mental meltdown and exposed its own core of pure, copycat-driven greed. Movies this stupid don't happen by accident. Studio executives know that if insipid, poorly directed, intelligence-insulting movies do huge box office, there's no point in wasting money and energy making smart movies. And it would take a lot more than a nuclear bomb to revive the dignity of anyone involved in this disaster of a disaster movie.