The Core

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In the spirit of “Armageddon” and all the loud, dumb disaster flicks before it comes “The Core,” in which scientists bore through rock and magma to reach the center of the planet, start the core spinning again, and save the world. You would think such endeavors would occupy every part of a person’s mind, but these terranauts are so good that, even when facing imminent doom, they can still find time to fall in love.

Yes, it’s THAT kind of movie, full of questionable science, macho men and manly women, and a big, brassy musical score underlining the importance of it all. It has men in crisis yelling things like, “Surely you compensated for the MRI bias!,” with the men being yelled at completely understanding what they’re talking about.

It begins with a few twists of originality, suggesting we are in for something more witty than the standard fare. First, 32 people in Boston keel over dead simultaneously when their pacemakers suddenly stop working. (They account for about half the humans visible in the scene, which seems to me like a high percentage of pacemaker recipients. But hey, I don’t even know what an MRI bias is.) Then, in London, thousands of birds lose their balance and begin flying pell-mell into windows, walls and people.

The reason for all the disturbance is that the electromagnetic field around the earth is falling apart. This is bad because it makes pacemakers stop and birds go crazy, obviously, but it will also allow the sun to roast the planet within a year. This is graphically demonstrated in a meeting with stern-faced government officials in which one scientist holds up a peach and a cigarette lighter, and another scientist sprays air freshener through the flame, setting the peach/Earth on fire.

Before that happens, though, there are massive disturbances like lightning storms and heat waves, which destroy some of the world’s landmarks. This is because natural disasters are always attracted to landmarks, rather than to ordinary buildings like bakeries and video stores.

The electromagnetic field is failing because the earth’s core has stopped spinning. It will therefore be necessary to journey to the center of the earth, jump-start the core with — what else? — nuclear devices, and high-tail it out of there.

Aaron Eckhart, whose meaty face and bulky physique suggest he was born to play an action hero, is Josh Keyes, the professor-turned-adventurer who leads the expedition core-ward. Joining him are astronaut extraordinaire Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank), her no-nonsense commander Iverson (Bruce Greenwood), pretentious scientist Dr. Zimsky (Stanley Tucci), French weapons expert Sergei Leveque (Tchéky Karyo), and maverick scientist Braz (Delroy Lindo), who has built a subterranean craft out of an indestructible new element he calls “unobtainium.”

Once the actual mission begins, the film becomes considerably less interesting; the inside-the-earth scenes are hard to conceptualize, much less show with CGI and models. There are the expected heroics and martyrdoms, quarrels and resolutions, one-liners and kisses. It is not, as Iverson says at one point, going to be subtle, and it’s certainly too long, but it is a decent bit of silly fun.

B- (2 hrs., 15 min.; PG-13, one F word, a lot of non-graphic action-related violence.)

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