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The Core
2003 - PG-13 - 135 Mins.
Director: Jon Amiel
Producer: David Foster, Sean Bailey, Cooper Layne
Written By: Cooper Layne, John Rogers
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, DJ Qualls
Review by: Jennie Kermode
   
It is often the case that an otherwise entertaining science fiction action film will be marred by one or two glaring errors which continue to irritate the educated viewer for some time afterwards. This is certainly not the case with 'The Core'. On the contrary, 'The Core' is almost entirely comprised of glaring errors, with very little substance in between, so that it's difficult to know where to begin with a critique. In fact, calling this science fiction feels almost as inappropriate as calling a Keanu Reeves film 'deep'. Its deep underground burrowing owes itself, naturally, to Jules Verne, but its heroic all-American action is sub-'Armageddon' and has more in common with the apocalyptic fantasies of George Bush, who might as well have written the script as well, for all the depth that achieves. Like a Bush speech, however, this contains some unwittingly marvellous lines:-

"The Earth's core has stopped rotating!"
"How was that allowed to happen?"

...etc. Early on, we get a demonstration of the hippy college professor hero's brilliance when he takes "less than a minute!" to work out something which took the average audience member less than five seconds. Hip with the kids he may be, but it's difficult to see how his fellow terranauts put up with him for the duration of their journey, especially considering how his appearance implies he must smell. We're supposed to sympathise with him, of course, and instead hate the English-accented scientist whose overwrought smugness makes one more irritated with the writers than with him personally; he may be full of himself, but he's the only one there who seems capable of thinking, so it's all the more annoying to see a comedy moment centred around him getting punched; brawn overcoming brains; wishful thinking on the part of this big-budget production's investors. Rounding out the crew are an engineer with no personality (at all!), an obscure Frenchman who never gets the chance to develop; an utterly forgettable space shuttle commander; and a young NASA major ("There's only one girl in this movie, and it's Hilary Swank!" lamented a friend of mine), who, according to what we are told, ought to be smarter, more skilled and generally more useful than all the other characters put together, but who, being a girl, ends up playing out the Uhura role and simply repeating what the computer says. She also flaps her arms a lot, pouts, and gets terribly tearful for a supposed recipient of military training, bawling every time somebody gets wasted, which just doesn't happen often enough. At least she has sufficient brains not to snog the surviving hero, who's probably a bad bet for that sort of thing, considering what he's recently been dragging around next to his genitals.

Add to this predictably motley bunch a youthful computer nerd whose very nose is a cliche (who has 'War Games' style 133t 5ki115, bizarrely, despite using shitty software and not knowing how to use apostrophes), and you've got just about all the average film can bear. The audience holds out, of course, because everybody has come to see this film for the lava, the big machines, the individual suffering and (most importantly) the big famous things getting blown up. An early sequence with dead birds dropping out of the sky holds some promise, though no-one ever explains how a million extra pigeons fitted into the hotly contested territory of Trafalgar Square (which we are told is historic and in London, in case we didn't know) in the first place. The Colosseum in Rome blows up pretty impressively, albeit inexplicably, but the scene is cut too soon, depriving viewers of any truly satisfying carnage. There's some good grim death stuff on the Golden Gate Bridge, which comes to a sticky end, but we've all seen that particular monument get it twenty times before. And that's about it. The biggest mistake this film makes is to announce halfway through that if the dubious scientists' dubious special weapon is used (the only other way to save the world), "every volcano on Earth will explode"; after which, of course, one longs for our heroes to fail. There's a lot of appealing teasing here, but ultimately, as a disaster movie, 'The Core' just doesn't put out.

So is it worth going to see at all? It's quite funny in places (all accidentally); it's not as slow-paced as I'd feared, and there's something dumb enough to make one's jaw drop roughly every ten minutes. My companion liked the swirly magma at the centre of the Earth, though I thought it looked like old 'Star Trek' monsters with the blue and purple filters switched to orange and yellow ones. Of course, there's something delightfully silly about the notion of going to the centre of the Earth anyway, especially in such a crassly phallic machine, ribbed for her pleasure. Despite the five thousand degree heat, we do get to see our heroes get out and wander around, and there are giant crystals and other such foolishness. So it might be worth a mindless popcorn night out. Just don't expect to care, or to remember any of it a week later.

 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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