The Core review by Mike Long

If you've been to a video store or perused late-night cable TV, then you've certainly come across a low-budget movie which was inspired by (ie: ripoff) a big-budget hit. But, how often do we see a top-flight studio movie which is a carbon-copy of another film? That's the case with the shockingly unoriginal The Core, which is bursting onto DVD.

The Core opens with the mysterious deaths of a group of unrelated individuals in Boston. Fearing that this may have been terrorist related, General Thomas Purcell (Richard Jenkins) calls in college professor Dr. Joshua Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) and weapons expert Dr. Serge Leveque (Tcheky Karyo) for an opinion. The two doctors feel that the incident wasn't a weapon and may have been linked to electro-magnetic activity. After a group of birds attack pedestrians in London, Dr. Keyes begins to further research his theories about the Earth's magnetic field. He takes his theories to the imminent geologist Dr. Conrad Zimsky (Stanely Tucci). Meanwhile, the space shuttle, piloted by Commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Major Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank) flies dangerously off-course and is forced to make a crash landing.

Following this event, General Purcell is willing to listen to Dr. Zimsky and Dr. Keyes. It seems that the Earth's core has stopped spinning, thus creating a flux in the magnetic field. This leads to severe static electricity storms and the bombardment of Earth by microwaves. It is hypothesized that the detonation of a thermo-nuclear device at the Earth's center could re-start the core. The government approaches Dr. Ed Brazzleton (Delroy Lindo), who is requisitioned to build a ship that will take a crew to the Earth’s core. Dr. Zimsky, Dr. Keyes, and Dr. Leveque are recruited for the mission, while Commander Iverson and Major Childs are brought in to pilot the vehicle. Finally, super-hacker “Rat” (D.J. Qualls) is tapped to keep rumors of the project off of the internet. The team now has three months to get the ship functional and complete the mission, or the Earth will begin to tear itself apart.

If the premise of The Core sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it all before...twice in the recent past. The film is an amalgam of Armageddon and Deep Impact (with every other disaster film thrown in for good measure), but instead of facing a threat from deep space, the Earth is fighting destruction from within. And that twist is the only original aspect of The Core. Everything else is lifted directly from Armageddon, as we have problems with a space shuttle, the destruction of a European city (Rome in this case, whereas Paris got the ax in Armageddon), and the recruitment of civilians to aid the government in saving the world. The storyline follows the familiar premise as well -- the discovery of the problem, the solution theory, the formation of a team, and the mission. Even after The Core sets up this familiar pattern, it refuses to be original. Once the mission begins, the characters which we expect to die all die, in the order that we think they’ll die! I simply can’t imagine why Paramount would have spent $85 million dollars on a rip-off. (Especially when it only made back $31 million at the U.S. box-office.)

But, The Core isn’t all bad. Taking a tip from Deep Impact, The Core has assembled an Oscar-calibre cast. Indy-favorite Eckhart is very good in the lead role, and it’s nice to see him take a more mainstream role. Similarly, Tucci seems to be reprising his role from Big Trouble and is clearly having fun here. Even Hilary Swank comes off as credible. The special effects are excellent and look virtually seamless. Though the film is a bit too long at 134 minutes, director Jon Amiel keeps things moving along at a nice clip. But, the film still seems to drag, as the viewer always knows what will happen next.

The Core flows onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film is available on two separate DVD editions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. This transfer offers a pristine transfer of the film and the picture looks fantastic. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no distortion. The image shows no defects from the source material. The colors, which range from very dark to the molten orange of the core, look very good. The picture does show some minor evidence of video noise and edge-enhancement at times, but these problems are very, very minor. The primary audio track on the DVD is a great Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track provides clear dialogue and outstanding surround sound effects. The rear speaker action and stereo effects are nearly constant during the core exploration scenes, and there is a plethora of bass response. The audio may be the best aspect of the film!

Possibly reflecting The Core‘s inability to ignite the box-office, the DVD only has a few features. We start with an audio commentary from director Jon Amiel, who provides a very nice chat. He speaks at length throughout the film, offering a mixture of comments on the technical aspects of shooting the film, the story, and the characters. We next have an 11-minute featurette entitled “To The Core and Back -- The Making of The Core“. This segment contains a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and many comments from the actors, producers, writers, and director. Next up are 5 segments which make up the “Deconstruction of the Visual Effects”. The sections -- “Pre-visualzation”, “Trafalgar Square”, “Rome”, “The Golden Gate Bridge”, and “The Geode” -- contain 19-minutes of behind-the-scenes secrets, which are overseen by visual effects supervisor Gary McMurry. Finally, there are 10 deleted scenes (totaling around 14 minutes) which can be viewed with or without comments from director Amiel. These scenes are mildly interesting, and mainly feature further character development. (Unfortunately, there is no menu for these scenes. They must be watched in one large chunk.)

The Core is a truly odd film. It has a great cast, good special effects, and some interesting scientific theories. But, there isn’t an original moment in the film. You could certainly do worse at the rental counter, but don’t expect any surprises from the movie.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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