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Hollywood loves its disaster movies and so it is no surprise that I’m sat here reviewing the latest addition to the ‘destroy everything and save the world’ franchise. For once though, we’re not dealing with a huge asteroid hurtling towards the earth at a rate of knots. Armageddon and Deep Impact have already done that pretty successfully and so Paramount has instead turned the focus towards inner space. Naturally the world is on its last legs again, so a crack team of scientists are sent to bury deep inside the core of the earth to jump-start it. Simple. The film passed by largely unnoticed earlier this year so I wasn’t sure what to expect as I sat down for another big budget adventure. So is it any good? Well, let the explosions and mindless carnage begin, as it’s time to venture into The Core…

Core, The
Movie
The opening twenty minutes of The Core are surprisingly gripping. The movie begins with a normal enough business meeting in a Boston suburb. Just as one of the businessmen is about to make a sales pitch to the rest of the team, he collapses face first onto the table in the center of the room. Was it a heart attack? The mystery deepens as the camera pans around outside of the office complex. It quickly becomes clear that dozens of people have collapsed, apparently all at the same time. Was it a terrorist attack? Geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) is sent to find out. After a few seconds of deliberation, he comes to the conclusion that all of the victims suffered complete cardiac failure. The reason? They were all fitted with pacemakers. As time progresses, Keyes realises that this could be the first stage of a potentially catastrophic occurrence. It would appear that the Earth’s inner core has stopped rotating completely, thus causing the planet’s electromagnetic field to deteriorate. Within months, earth will be destroyed. Only one hope now exists: to send Keyes and an elite team of scientists in a subterranean vessel to the center of the Earth. As mankind’s fate hangs in the balance, the scientists and the ship’s crew must do the unthinkable – detonate a nuclear device to reactivate the Earth’s core. Sounds like fun…

I must admit; I do have a bit of a soft spot for these big budget disaster movies. Although the budget for The Core was nowhere near the level of Michael Bay’s Armageddon, director Jon Amiel (Entrapment) has managed to craft a pretty entertaining action romp on the whole. The movie received a fair amount of criticism prior to its theatrical debut for some highly questionable scientific reasoning. Admittedly, some of this is probably well placed criticism but at the end of the day this film is made for pure entertainment. On that basis, you should have a pretty enjoyable time with this movie. With a movie about the end of the world, you’d expect a decent array of destruction, and luckily enough - The Core doesn’t disappoint. The opening twenty minutes are particularly impressive with a couple of extremely well crafted action sequences. One of these scenes is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds as it has an entire flock of rampaging pigeons, hitting buildings, cars, people and everything else that gets in the way! The CGI work here is practically flawless and lasts for a good minute or so in total. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about some of the other CGI work, but I shall be talking more about that a little later.

Core, The
You may have already noticed that most successful disaster movies tend to have an overly capable cast. Armageddon had Bruce Willis, Deep Impact had Morgan Freeman and The Core has Hilary Swank. Ok, so not quite the Hollywood A list but nevertheless Swank brings a great deal of weight to her role as the hugely talented, yet slightly inexperienced astronaut Beck. The supporting cast is also impressive with the academy nominated Stanley Tucci and Alfre Woodard taking the roles of stuck up scientist Tucci and flight controller Stickley. Another honourable mention should go to the ever-reliable Bruce Greenwood who brings some much needed believability to proceedings. The weak link comes in the form of Erin Brockovich’s Aaron Eckhart. Although he handles the routine acting pretty admirably, put him in a dramatic situation and he overacts to the extreme. One particularly cringe-worthy scene has him on the verge of tears, but the only thing it evoked from me was tears of laugher. Not a good sign! Still, on the whole, we have a more than respectable cast, which really help to elevate the film beyond mediocrity.

Not everything is quite as impressive. As you would expect, a big event movie such as this puts a lot of emphasis on the special effects, and as I’ve already mentioned, they don’t always deliver in the way that they should. Although the Trafalgar Square scene is genuinely quite impressive, other scenes of natural disaster look pretty ropey. For example, many of the television adverts for the film, used the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge as a major selling point. This probably wasn’t the best choice, as this scene in particular looks fake and unfinished. It wasn’t bad enough to be hugely distracting but it could certainly have done with a few weeks more work. There’s also some awful CGI work on some Orca whales which makes the CGI shark in Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life look cutting edge. Other questionable design decisions include making the drilling machine look remarkably like an enormous ribbed dildo, and the center of the core looking far more like the center of an oversized lava lamp! Still, if you can get past these minor distractions I’m sure you’ll have a reasonably entertaining, although thoroughly forgettable time!

Core, The
Video
Paramount have really been impressing me lately, and they haven’t disappointed with The Core. The disc receives the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment and it is practically immaculate. I’d almost go as far as saying it’s too good because it really does highlight the flaws in the CGI at times. Everything looks exactly as it should with highly accurate flesh tones and no noticeable picture artefacts. The Core also features little to no edge enhancement, which I seem to be saying an awful lot about Paramount releases lately. Keep up the good work Paramount!

Audio
Another area Paramount seems to be excelling in lately is the quality of the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that they constantly put out. I’m happy to say that The Core isn’t going to be the disc to let them down either as we’re once again given a thoroughly enjoyable Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The surrounds are again used to great effect here, whether it be during the destruction of Rome, or the wonderful use of Christopher Young's heroic orchestral score. The track certainly doesn’t lack any punch either with an incredibly deep throbbing use of bass. If this doesn’t get the neighbours calling the noise pollution squad, I don’t know what will! Despite all this, you’ll be pleased to hear that clarity of speech never becomes a problem, with everything clearly audible throughout. Good stuff.

Extras
The movie certainly didn’t set the box office alight and as such the disc isn’t as packed as it might have been. Still, a fair selection of material has been included and starting things off is an audio commentary with the director of the film - John Amiel. He begins proceedings by discussing his intentions to focus a large part of the movie on the characters, which he believes is something all too often missed by films such as this. We also learn that a trout was inserted into the Trafalgar Square scene as a joke by the visual effects crew. It’s a shame they didn’t put the time into the Golden Gate Bridge instead! He also touches upon the Columbia disaster and the difficult decisions they had to make on whether or not to keep the shuttle crash sequence in the movie. Overall then, this is a pretty interesting commentary although if you’re after him to justify some of the more questionable scientific decisions, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed as he glosses over them completely.

Core, The
Next we have a short making of featurette entitled To The Core and Back: The Making of The Core. It runs to a little over ten minutes in total and features interviews with the director as well as the rest of the cast and crew. They discuss how the film was originally conceived and how the director was constantly reminding the screenwriter to focus on the character development rather than adding another mindless action sequence. A pretty standard promotional affair on the whole then, there’s certainly nothing here that you’d want to watch more than once. I should also point out that this feature is pretty spoiler heavy, so I wouldn’t advise watching this before the movie itself. Next we have a Deconstruction of the Visual Effects. This feature gives you the choice of looking at the work undertaken during Pre-Visualisation, the Trafalgar Square sequence, destruction of Rome sequence, Golden Gate bridge sequence and finally the making of the Geode. Each of these visual effects deconstructions lasts a couple of minutes each, and for me, make up the most interesting part of the disc. Plenty of early CGI work is on display, although worryingly some of the pre-visualisation work looks almost as good as the final product!

Completing the package is a selection of deleted and extended scenes as well as a few promotional trailers. There are a little over fourteen minutes of scenes in total and all of them are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately, most of these scenes are pretty forgettable, although the first scene is reasonably memorable. This one shows Josh Keyes’ first realisation that the world is going to end, and it makes for a pretty touching scene overall. It’s a shame this was cut to be honest as it is one of the few scenes in which he doesn’t overact! Certainly worth a watch anyway, if only for more footage of Bruce Greenwood and co. Finally we have a selection of trailers for some upcoming Paramount theatrical and DVD releases. On offer are non-anamorphic widescreen trailers for Timeline and Lara Croft: The Cradle Of Life as well as a full screen trailer for the upcoming Indiana Jones Trilogy.

Core, The
Overall
At the end of the day, The Core is an entertaining, if completely forgettable action adventure. Although the film features a number of well-conceived action sequences; many of them are overshadowed by some pretty average CGI work. As a result, the film is a little hit and miss at times but it certainly never outstays its welcome and for that reason I’d recommend it for a rental at the very least. Paramount hasn’t let the side down either as they’ve put out another solid disc with a practically flawless transfer and a powerhouse Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The extras are also reasonably interesting although I really do think that it’s about time Paramount started to include trailers for the main presentation.


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