NOW PLAYING: The Core

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2003

As disaster films go, The Core is not a bad movie. It's got your requisite melodrama, big explosions, and global terror. It's just that it's a little out of place. It's kind of like the kid who shows up late to the dance and then has no one to talk to. Everything from Independence Day to Twister to Armageddon has come and gone leaving The Core with a "been there, done that" kind of feeling. Not exactly what the filmmakers were hoping for, I'm betting.

The film opens strongly with a rash of people in a crowded city center suddenly dropping dead for no apparent reason. Their pacemakers, as it turns out, have been fried by an electromagnet pulse, just one of a series of horrors in store for mankind, all on account of the fact that the core of the earth has mysteriously stopped spinning. (theatrical gasp!) I don't remember my geology teachers ever mentioning that the core of earth does anything but sit, but the filmmaker's contention here is that the center of our planet is made up of an inner core and an outer core, the latter of which swirls around and around in molten fury. This swirling is what generates the electromagnetic shield around the earth, which, in turn, protects us from ultraviolet rays, solar winds, electric superstorms, rivers of blood, plagues of locusts, and various other signs of the apocalypse. Apparently it's pretty important.

Obviously, the core has to be restarted, and it's up to an intrepid band of heroes to save the day. There's the rumpled professor, uncomfortable around girls, but possibly the smartest man alive. There's the wacky inventor who'll do anything to make sure his miracle tunneling machine makes it back intact. There's a heroic French weapons specialist (fence mending, anyone?)There's the All-American hero and the up-and-comer. There's the geeky computer genius and the shady general who may have a secret or two. There's even a selfish, petulant scientist ala Dr. Smith from Lost in Space. No matter how many of these movies they make, they always seem to hover around the same archetypes. Oh well, I guess creativity isn't really what we're going for here.

As far as the basics go, The Core is passable. It's easy, sorta fun, and somewhat engaging. The journey to the center of the earth is sufficiently roller-coastery and there are plenty of special effects to keep you oooing and ahhhhing. The acting is ok, and the writing didn't make me want to get up and throw something at the screen. Not exactly glowing praise, but what more can you expect from a film that has nothing new to offer to a genre whose time has just recently passed.

One of the major issues with these types of movies is believability, and The Core makes no leaps forward, unfortunately. I realize I need to suspend my disbelief for two-plus hours and just enjoy the escapism. But about the tenth time the entire incredibly complicated plan to save the planet falls apart, only to be solved at the absolute last possible second by a million to one shot, I begin to lose interest. It's the old "boy who cried wolf" syndrome. They keep telling me the world is going to end and everybody is going to die; for real this time. And then it all gets fixed. Ten minutes later, like clockwork, it all starts back up again. You don't have to be Einstein to catch the pattern. All suspense is lost.

Problems aside, one thing disaster films can always count on is an enthusiastic audience. Nothing gets people whipped up faster than watching some national monument get blown to smithereens. There was a guy behind me who talked to the screen the whole movie. Finally I heard his buddy lean over and whisper "hey, man, it's just a movie." I suppose maybe it is possible to suspend your disbelief indefinitely.

For me, going to see The Core was like going grocery shopping. Not something I necessarily look forward to, but not too terrible a chore either. However, it's rare that my shopping trip will last two and a half hours, though I never get out for $7.50 either. When you get down to it, The Core is simply mediocre; a piece of mid-season fluff with very little center. Grade: C

The Core is rated PG-13 for language and scary action.



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