Strange things are happening to planet Earth. In Boston, everyone with a pacemaker suddenly drops dead, and in London the pigeons go crazy and start flying into buildings and attacking people. Scientist Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) is called in by the U.S. military to answer a few questions on the pacemaker puzzle, and he determines that the cause was not a secret weapon. Dismissed by the military, Josh returns to his university and begins to look into the strange phenomena occuring across the world, then formulates a theory as to why it's happening, realising life on Earth has only a few months to live...
Written by producer Cooper Layne and John Rogers, this was a late entry into the disaster genre that re-emerged in the nineties. In the end, it was not the blockbuster it was presumably intended to be, although it closely resembled another end of the world movie, Armageddon. This time, rather than the threat to humanity bring an asteroid heading right this way, the threat is that the planet's magnetic core has stopped moving, and a plucky crew have to head to the centre of the Earth and get it going again. So you see, they don't go into space, they go under the ground. Big difference.
Like Armageddon, it casts a motley bunch of actors who had made their mark out of the mainstream, but there's no big star for them to revolve around here. Perhaps it's closer to Fantastic Voyage, with it's crew of experts on a dangerous mission, enclosed in a specially designed vehicle; this one, named the Virgil, drills its way through the rock using a laser beam device. Along with Josh, the heroes are marked out as mavericks early on, setting up tension between the humourless military and the crew, but they're all dependable to the last, don't you worry.
Beck (Hilary Swank) is a space shuttle pilot who saved a shuttle mission from certain disaster when it was sent towards Los Angeles by the corrupted magnetic fields. Serge (Tcheky Karyo) is Josh's best friend, an irreverent French scientist. Brazzleton (Delroy Lindo) has spent years in the scientific wilderness until his pioneering work is recognised for the mission. The exception to these mavericks is the steadfast Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Zimsky (Stanley Tucci), a pretentious, renowned boffin who took the credit for Brazzleton's work; he represents the establishment and is naturally first to suggest they turn back and let a doomsday weapon do their work for them.
It's all about restoring the balance of nature, a point underlined when the Virgil is accompanied by singing whales as it dives beneath the waves on its journey to the Earth's crust. Everyone go "Aww..." But as they do, you may wonder what the scenery will be like under the ground, as surely you wouldn't be able to see anything? The film looks to its special effects team to solve this problem, with what looks like a rendering of an orange and yellow soup for the Virgil to plow through, and the odd giant diamond in the way.
To be honest, the effects are a little variable. The plot demands mass destruction and the deaths of countless anonymous people, but the annihilation of Rome, complete with the Coliseum blowing up, looks too much like a computer game. On the other hand, the destruction of the Golden Gate bridge is surprisingly effective. Meanwhile our team discover a huge, underground bubble, which they burst, making a neat point about how mankind affects everything it touches, which is returned to when the real reason for the disaster is revealed. The Core is silly but ambitious, and its good heart should win you over if you can stick with it and pass over the illogicality of the whole thing. The suspension of disbelief and all that. Music by Christopher Young.