The great poet Norah Jones, who also sings her poems, said that
when the world goes out, it will be not with a bang but with a breathy
whisper. And that's sort of how it happens in The Core.
It all begins when a bunch of people unexpectedly drop dead in the
middle of the day. Then a flock of pigeons in London's Ginger Spice
Square goes completely nuts, attacking people. Then China inexplicably
falls 100 feet straight down. Then Pez dispensers all over the world
suddenly become sentient and, frankly, a little peeved with the heads
that have been chosen for them. Then a black man casts a vote in
Florida without interference. Woodrow Wilson's ghost suddenly appears
and says that he's rethinking his whole "14 points of light," or
whatever they were. A sad-eyed puppeteer begins to feel that Ollie is
just a third wheel to Kukla and Fran.
Not to brilliant geomologist Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart, Ph.D.).
Josh puts 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 together and realizes
either that the earth's core has stopped spinning or that God has gone
on a wicked bender. It turns out that God actually had been "having
some issues," though these played out on a solar system far from our
own, and that the real problem was actually the core thing.
It turns out that the earth is actually shaped sort of like a ball,
and that there are different layers, which Josh helpfully explains by
using a peach, available at the fruit table common to most Pentagon
briefing rooms. The pit of the peach is the "core," which isn't hard
like a peach pit, but is actually sort of liquidy with a big iron ball
at the middle. If it doesn't spin, the earth will catch fire, melt,
and then explode. Because the military men in the room appear not to
understand, Josh helpfully demonstrates the outcome by setting the
peach on fire.
I don't know about you -- actually, I thought I did, but my doctor
said that you probably are not a beautiful, huge-breasted blonde woman
who wants to have sex with me and will discover me through my reviews
on the web -- but I love science fiction action movies. They're
exciting, but they also teach you something about how science works.
Josh quickly assembles a team to fix the problem. They include Beck
Childs (Hilary Swank), a brave woman who dressed as a man, became a
space shuttle pilot, and then landed it on top of Dodger Stadium
because of a zany navigational mishap. There's Professor Viande Morte
(Tchecky Karyo), Josh's surprising noble French friend. And then
there's Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tushy), who is chosen because he is
evil, vain, and prone to panic attacks. For comedy relief, they hire
DJ Qualls (of
to play a puckish computer hacker who can destroy the entire world in
a second but chooses to live in a 2nd-floor walkup.
To find and build a machine that can get them to the center of the
earth, they think of holding a National Science Foundation grant
contest, but figured that the money would, as usual, probably just go
to a cantankerous black independent scientist living in Utah anyway,
so they just skip the whole competition thing and just go straight to
the winner. Dr. Ed Brazleton (Delroy Lindo) has designed the world's
longest and most powerful drill ship. His prototype, the U.S.S. John
Holmes, works well but then burns itself out, so he redesigns a
stubbier, more user-friendly version, the U.S.S. Ron Jeremy, which
might have the stamina to make it all the way through the earth and
The US government tries to get the Ron Jeremy to power up its
Overthruster and go immediately to the center of the earth, but France
and Germany stall for roughly half of the movie, demanding more time
for UN core inspectors. They finally learn their lesson, though, when
an electromagnetic solar storm destroys Rome, which is in one of the
This was the most astonishing moment in the film. Because the
filmmakers wisely spent 95% of the film's budget to hire Christopher
Young to compose the score (after all, the man behind the music of
The Country Bears doesn't come cheap), they had to cut corners in
other areas, including direction, screenplay, stars, and, most
notably, special effects. But, as the saying goes, sometimes if you
don't spend much money on special effects, you end up with even more
No Lincoln Log was left unscorched in this brilliant sequence,
perhaps the most terrifying and convincing view of catastrophe since
the controversial blast scene in A Very Brady Apocalypse. But
besides the model of the Coliseum, built from Tinker Toys and a
Lite-Brite set, the filmmakers wisely use the scenes from the computer
game Myst to recreate other Roman landmarks like the Parthenon, the
Great Wall, and, I think, 10 Downing Street. They are demolished by a
child's fist wrapped in aluminum foil, which looks amazingly
Anyway, the main characters have to go to the center of the earth,
where the only thing that is certain is that some of the people
probably won't make it back, and it's almost as certain which ones
those will be. They have to use their noggins to deal with the fact
that the earth's core is very different from the way they'd "wargamed"
it, and it actually puts up stiffer martyrdom resistance than had
initially been expected. But using good old-fashioned American
overwhelming destructive power, as well as the thrustive force and
amazing length of the USS Ron Jeremy, they fashion a scheme to destroy
the core in order to save it.
Recently I was criticized for giving away the surprise ending of
Hours, when I pointed out that Meryl Streep turned out to be
Virginia Woolf, who had lived to the age of 130. I've apologized
already, but I've learned a lesson, so I will point out here that the
following might be a spoiler.
OK? Spoiler Alert.
But I have to mention how brilliant the ending is. So the USS Ron
Jeremy is shooting through the earth to escape a massive nuclear
blast, and the steering is really tricky, and very exciting, and then
suddenly we get a subtitle -- "16 hours later" -- and the ship pops
out of a volcano, with the sound effect of a young woman moaning with
pleasure. That's how you know a really well-structured film. Other
movies would have made you sit through a terrifying 16-hour chase to
see how the heroes hold up under the enormous pressure of blasting
their way through a planet that is pretty much exploding. But with
remarkable and unexpected panache, the makers of The Core know
that a simple subtitle can save all of us a lot of trouble.
Anyway, this is a revolutionary action film in pretty much every
way, from its use of a Gnip-Gnop game in the special effects, to its
frighteningly accurate understanding of science, to its recognition
that a lot of action scenes are pretty much unnecessary, when you have
the magic of narration and subtitles.
I predict that next March, Oscar will have a new name: Ron Jeremy.
Oh, meaning that The Core is going to win many Oscars.
On a scale of four or five stars, I give The Core
Earlier Positive Movie Reviews can be found at