Length: 134 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: September 9, 2003
Fans of Armageddon would be among the first to admit that the film is not Science Fiction - for it doesn’t take science fact and make a fictional story around it. What it does is take a rudimentary knowledge of science, twist it into a form which allows the plot to advance as the writers wish it to advance, and present us with an action film that surrounds this warped view of science reality. Where Armageddon succeeded is in its heart.
The Core takes Armageddon’s twists of scientific reality and twists it even further. It’s as much the little things (unimaginably powerful lasers, static-free communication through miles of solid rock, flimsy suits that can stand up to thousands of pounds of pressure, building an entire vessel out of a substance which doesn’t exist any any quantity - in just a few months, the Golden Gate Bridge disintegrating in seconds after a hole in the atmosphere allows solar radiation through above it...) as it is the big things.
And, The Core has less heart that it’s progenitor.
Having made my point clear about the bad science in The Core, if you are able to switch off the logic circuits of your brain, you may still enjoy the ride in this formulaic action movie.
Aaron Eckhart stars as geophysicist Josh Keyes. Unfortunately, he presents as more “surfer dude” than geophysicist and college professor. Hilary Swank is along for the ride, and does an admirable job - but seems too young for her position. Stanley Tucci is an annoying presence throughout, as a chain-smoking scientist with an ego the size of Manhattan. Alfre Woodard is wasted in her role as mission controller. She stands around and looks worried a lot. Richard Jenkins is the typically brash military leader, who would be sorely missed in a formula disaster flick. Bruce Greenwood and Delroy Lindo round out the cast, and provide some real authority and heart to this film.
So, the film opens with a number of unexplained deaths in Boston. It seems that 39 people suddenly dropped dead. The only connection between them is that they all had pacemakers implanted. Then, across the Atlantic, in London - the pigeons in Trafalgar Square suddenly go mad in a scene reminiscent of The Birds, crashing into cars, buildings and people, injuring many in the process. Back in Chicago, Professor Josh Keyes jumps to the obvious conclusion that the Earth’s core has stopped spinning, that the planet’s magnetic field is collapsing, and that we will all be dead in a year because solar radiation will cook the Earth. He demonstrates this by lighting a sprayed stream of air-freshener and roasting a peach. It is hinted (and becomes clear later on) that this devastating damage to the Earth is due to a top-secret military weapon.
So, an elite team of scientists build a subterranean vessel (made of “unobtainium”- apparently a very strong substance) and embark on a dangerous journey to the Earth’s core, in order to set it spinning again with a thousand megaton nuclear explosion.
Are you still with me?
I won’t divulge any more of the plot... it might give too much away.
The visual effects are okay - some better than others - but none are cutting edge. The direction by Jon Amiel (Entrapment, Copycat) is adequate, given that he didn’t have a strong script to work with.
If you like disaster movies and are forgiving of films that play it loosely when it comes to science, you may well enjoy The Core. Having heard so many bad reviews before I screened this film, I went in with extremely low expectations - and I was mildly surprised that, for what it is, it isn’t all bad. The film’s saving grace is that it is somewhat character driven. While it’s true that the characters are rather formulaic, there are some genuinely interesting scenes, and moments where performances are quite sincere. This pushes much of my complaint into the background. The preposterous situation the characters are in can almost be forgiven, if you’re willing to just go along for the ride. I can’t quite give the film a positive recommendation - but if you’re a fan of the genre, there is something for you in The Core.
The Core is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The picture is bright and sharp, with outstanding shadow detail. There are no obvious signs of edge enhancement. There is virtually no visible grain. Colors are true and well saturated. The print used for the transfer was free of dust. This is, quite simply, an absolutely beautiful transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is well-mixed. Dialog is crisp and clear, and always intelligible among the sound effects and music. Voices are reproduced very well, with a good frequency range - deep enough in bass, but not boomy. Music fills the front soundstage nicely, without covering dialog, and it blends quietly into the surround channels. Surrounds are active with sound effects, without being overdone. The early scene in Trafalgar Square has some great rear effects. Low frequency effects are present and reasonably active, but there could have been a bit more “punch” with the nuclear detonations. Overall, this is a very nice sounding Dolby Digital mix.
Commentary by director Jon Amiel
Amiel gives a traditional commentary here, without being too technical. He describes the types of visual effects as they appear (lot’s of CGI). He comments on the accuracy of scientific statements made by the characters, at those times when the science is accurate, anyway. He even occasionally comments on some of the “scientific license” taken on the film... though the most egregious errors go unmentioned. Comments are made on the actors and props when he wants you to take note of some interesting points. Look for the fish in the London sequence!
To the Core and Back: The Making of The Core (10:52)
Writers, producers, director and others talk about the impetus and evolution of the film. We learn of the process of putting on screen things that human-kind has never seen. Major cast members chime in on performing in a film where they need to react to things they can’t see or understand.
Deconstruction of the Visual Effects
Discussion of the story-boarding process, and how animatics and entire scenes are built in the computer.
Trafalgar Square (03:16)
Birds and buildings are created in CGI. A crew of 9, for six months - 34 shots.
Deconstruction of the destruction of the Coliseum in Rome, via an 80 foot model.
The Golden Gate Bridge (4:27)
We see how the Golden Gate Bridge was destroyed, thanks to CGI.
The Geode (3:03)
Again, CGI (combined with a small set on a stage) creates a 2000 foot wide geode.
Deleted / Extended Scenes (total time: 14:11)
10 deleted scenes (untitled) play back-to-back, with or without director commentary.
These scenes are quite interesting - some giviing more back-story to the characters, some describing technology in more detail. My guess is that these scenes were cut for reasons of pacing, more than anything else.
Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life
The Indiana Jones Trilogy
Special Features are not anamorphic.
The film may not be to everyone’s taste (Roger Corman fans notwithstanding), but it has it’s moments. The video presentation is up to Paramount’s usual high standard, and the Dolby Digital Soundtrack hits the right notes. The deconstruction of the special effects was interesting to watch - this film used a lot of CGI effects. The deleted scenes were also of interest. This film gets proper treatment on this DVD.