The Core (2003) Review
If “Battleship” is a dumb remake of “Independence Day” (itself a dumb remake of “War Of The Worlds”) then “The Core” is the dumbest possible reimagining of Jules Verne’s “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth”, combining ludicrously inaccurate science with terrible characters and stupefying dialogue (“Hack The Planet!”) and yet, it’s a film I’ve got something of a soft spot for.
When it’s discovered that the Earth’s core has stopped spinning, scientists face a race against time to develop a method of restarting the core and building a vehicle to deliver the core spinning doohickey to the very centre of the planet.
Rivalling “2012” for its sheer scientific nincompoopery, “The Core” never quite lets on whether it’s deliberately tongue-in-cheek or in deadly earnest. It’s got a neat line in disastrous portents, though, as the magnetic field protecting the planet starts to flicker and fail, causing London’s Trafalgar Square to be beset by kamikaze pigeons and revealing that Chicago has a surprisingly high concentration of pacemaker wearers per square mile. San Francisco and Rome, meanwhile, suffer weather-related mishaps, with San Franciscans suffering some really bad sunburn and Rome’s Colosseum turning into a lightning bowl.
Coining the phrase ‘Unobtanium’ a full seven years before “Avatar”, here’s it’s used to handwave away the inconceivable pressures encountered as they build a train to take them to the centre of the Earth. Good job they didn’t have to rely on a rail replacement bus service at any point.
Deep in the magma layer of the Earth, our band of intrepid explorers discover giant diamonds, a nice paralleling of the film’s star-studded cast list which attracted names far bigger and brighter than a film of this nature deserved. Aaron Eckhart, Bruce Greenwood, Alfre Woodard, Stanley Tucci and Hilary Swank are all pulled in by the gravity well of this scientific sinkhole and yet all emerge relatively unscathed for the experience, with considerably fatter wallets.
It accidentally gets one thing right, including a genuine fact which must have slipped past the writers when they name-check the Kola Superdeep Borehole, the deepest man-made point ever dug into the earth at 7.6 miles deep. Of course, this isn’t actually used in the film as they launch the train into the Marianas Trench to start its journey (wave to “The Meg” as you go by, guys), using a super-powered laser drill and some kind of quantum x-ray to see where they’re going. If you’re a fan of MacGuffins in films, then “The Core” is a real treat because it’s pretty much all MacGuffins, all the way through. Of course, this is a disaster movie and so we’re going to lose a few folks along the way and it’s fun to guess which of the cast members is going to finally tire of the nonsense and ask to be written out next. Even better is when, in the closing minutes of the film, it reveals the ace up its sleeve and makes a late bid to be a conspiracy thriller when it reveals why the earth’s core stopped spinning in the first place.
Alongside all the action-packed macro-spelunking, the film also adds that edgy cool movie character: the hacker, Rat (DJ Qualls), who is given the job of monitoring the web and erasing any mention of the secret project or the real problem with the Earth’s magnetic field and later does a Black Widow from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to let the world know what has happened.
It’s a nonsensical, literally incredible hot mess of a movie and yet somehow, it retains an innate likeability and goofy charm that burrows deep into your terrible movie-lovin’ heart. The movie holds a special place in the Craggus pantheon thanks to an evening early in the courtship of Mrs Craggus when she came to my flat one evening after a long day and proceeded to fall asleep on the sofa within minutes of the film starting, periodically waking to peer blearily at the screen, scowl and say ‘this is shit’. A difficult critique to argue against, but an endearing one nonetheless.