Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hr 15 min.
Our content rating (1-10): Violence 4; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 1.
As Betty Davis famously advised, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,” so it is with director Jon Amiel’s The Core. It is a long way between this and the Jules Vern adaptation Journey to the Center of the Earth. I am thinking of the 1959 version with James Mason and Pat Boone, made at a time (1959) when an audience, largely clueless of scientific theories about the center of the earth, could still believe that the core could contain a hidden civilization. Not that the current film will advance anyone’s scientific knowledge, other than to remind us that today scientists think that the earth’s core of iron and nickel is surrounded by a liquid molten layer and that it’s magnetic field is somehow influenced by all this.
The film starts out with a gripping scene of the crash-landing of space shuttle in Los Angeles, its guidance system apparently disrupted by a shift in the electromagnetic field of the earth. Fortunately co-pilot Maj. Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank) is able to devise an alternate landing plan quicker than NASA’s computers back in Houston. There is also the weird, sudden deaths of dozens of people in Boston, the one thing in common being that all wore pacemakers.
In London pigeons are thrown off course and into a tizzy, and in San Francisco the Goilden Gate bridge collapses. Dr Aaron Eckhart (Josh Keyes) thinks he knows why all this is happening. The earth’s core has stopped revolving, he tells world famous (and vain) Dr. Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci). After intial rejection, Eckhart finds himself hauled into the Pentagon where Zimsky has been working on a secret military project that might have gone awry and caused all the problems besetting the world. It looks like within a year all life will become extinct upon the earth. Unless—and of course, this is where the mind-boggling solution comes in. As one scientist says, technology (or did he say science?) caused the problem, so technology (science) will fix it. Nothing like good ole American “can-do.”
The military set Eckhart up as head of a money-is no-cost project that makes the Manhattan Project look like a junior high science fair project—after all, it took that team several years to come up with two atom bombs, and this time, the team has just three months to develop a means to journey to the center of the earth and “fix the problem.” Thus we come to Dr. Edward Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo), an eccentric genius who had been cheated by Dr. Zimsky years before of credit for their joint project. He has developed a harder than diamonds substance called ( I kid you not) “Unobtainium” and has devised a machine that can bore and blast its way deep into the earth. And so the journey of the motley crew begins, with all the usual daring-do and sacrificial deaths along the way. Some of the latter is touching, but mostly, the proceedings are so much hokum, very much like that in so many of the 1950’s movies to which this owes so much. Yes, the film is quite a bumpy ride, and yet I must confess to the guilty pleasure of enjoying much of it. Each year I find escape in one or two such thrillers. This will do until the Fall or Winter.