Journeys to the center of the Earth have been a staple of fantasy literature since Dante visited the Inferno and Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole. Unfortunately modern science has replaced the imaginative worlds of Tarzan’s Pellucidar and the caverns of lost races and dinosaurs of H. G. Wells. Superheated magma just didn’t seem to hold the promise of much adventure and that’s why its surprising that The Core is as entertaining as it is.
When pacemakers stop working and birds loose their ability to navigate college professor Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart in his very best Scott Bakula mode) is the only one who figures out that the Earth’s core has stopped spinning. Since the Earth’s core is what powers the planet’s electro-magnetic shield, which protects us from being fried by radiation, this is not a good thing.
After taking his findings to a smug and media savvy scientist (Stanley Tucci) with government connections, Keyes soon finds himself leading up a group of scientists and two NASA shuttle pilots (including Delroy Lindo and Hilary Swank) on in trip into the Earth’s interior in an experimental vehicle to try and restart the Earth’s core rotation. Along the way the craft is menaced by superheated magma and diamonds the size of Long Island while one of the crew carries the secret as to why the core stopped rotating in the first place.
To be sure, this is the standard attempt-to-advert-the-natural-disaster movie formula and The Core makes no apologies for it. You know that not all in the group of scientists and soldiers that set out to save the world are going to return and you can make a pretty good guess as to who’s going to survive to the final reel. Still, director Jon (Entrapment) Amiel manages to wring some tension, thrills and a twist or two out of what could have come across as very cookie-cutter situations.
One of the most satisfying elements of the movie is also its most annoying and that’s the science involved. For the most part, it seems spot on, recalling high school earth science classes from the dim past. However, when the film tries to amp up the peril that Earth by showing super-electrical storms with lightening strike that explode the Coliseum or vaguely explain how the Earth’s core stopped spinning in the first place, the movie loses any credibility it had.