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Introduction
Disaster movies raise their heads every couple of years, most of them predicting the end of the world and then the most unusual characters step in and save the day. You wouldn’t trust most of these people to even clean your car, let alone to save the world! The majority of these movies sound weak on paper, but there is something about this genre which draws in the crowds. Recent films such as Armageddon and Deep Impact have concentrated on a huge asteroid causing the end of the world, but earlier this year director Jon Amiel (previously know for taking charge of Sean Connery in Entrapment) decided to introduce his own unique take on the genre. The Core was released earlier this year; it cost over $70 million to make but only took roughly half that sum during its theatrical release. Paramount obviously hopes for better things from the DVD release, so read on to find out if it deserves a greater audience.

Core, The
Movie
The movie opens in dramatic style, thirty two people mysteriously drop dead in the middle of a busy Boston suburb. The relationship between the people is unknown at first but it soon becomes clear that they all had pacemakers. This is the start of some weird catastrophes worldwide, pigeons start to fall out of the sky in London's Trafalgar Square, while in America a space shuttle finds itself dangerously off course and heading towards downtown LA. Obviously concerned by these incidents, the good old American Government step in to investigate what is happening. In the process they call upon geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart), who quickly establishes that there is a disastrous chain of events occurring which will end in the destruction of the Earth.

The problem is quite simple; the Earth's inner core has stopped rotating, causing the shield around the Earth to deteriorate, and in the process letting through deadly solar radiation. The earlier catastrophes are predicted to be just the tip of the Iceberg, with many more lethal events predicted which will slowly contribute to the end of the world about a year later. So, can anything be done to stop this? A hopeful plan is hatched to reactivate the core by detonating a large quantity of nuclear warheads within the core itself. Obviously this requires a specialised team digging down to the Earth's core, which considering that the deepest anyone had previously drilled was around six miles is quite a feat.

Taking on the task is a group of specialised scientists headed up by Keyes. A special craft has been created to ensure that the group reach the core, and its creator Dr Edward Brazzleton (Delroy Lindo) joins the crew to offer his expertise. Also making up the crew are pilot Major Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank), her commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood), French weapons expert Dr. Sergei Leveque (Tchey Karyo) and the rather annoying Zimsky (Stanley Tucci), a scientist who thinks he knows everything. Backing up the team is a computer geek (DJ Qualls), who is tasked with the job of making sure that the press don't get hold of what is happening, therefore he has to control the internet. Can this team really save the world, well I’m sure you already know the answer to that!

The writer of the movie obviously thought it was wise to go into a lot of detail concerning the feasibility of the movie's premise, and not being a scientist myself I'm not sure how accurate this film is. It all sounds pretty impressive, but there was something surreal/unrealistic about seeing a team digging into the Earth's Core. Due to the nature of The Core, whether this film succeeds or falls down is largely dependent on its special effects. Some of the earlier scenes looked realistic and raised my expectations for the rest of the movie, however from the hour mark when the crew start drilling underground, the special effects start going downhill as well! I was never totally convinced that the craft being used to reach the core was actually drilling through rock, and the crew’s journey seemed too smooth. Would you really look so relaxed if you were drilling thousands of miles down into the Earth?? Whether the dodgy effects will spoil peoples' enjoyment of this movie is probably down to personal opinion. I have read some reviews where people were raving about the effects, but I would have to disagree and say they spoilt my enjoyment of the movie.

Core, The
Another thing about The Core is that it is extremely predictable. From the outset I made an educated guess about who was going to survive, and guess what, I was right! As far as disaster movies are concerned, The Core offers nothing new story-wise, it sticks to the same rigid guidelines that most other movies of this genre seem to adhere to, that is immenient disaster, a crew is formed, several people die and the world is then saved! Saying that, the two hour running time passed extremely quickly and I did find myself engrossed in several of the action scenes. Probably another reason the movie lifts itself out of the doldrums is the talented cast who put in assured performances. There are no ‘Class A’ superstars, but nevertheless the cast seemed to be happy in their roles. Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank stand out the most, but that is probably down to the fact that they have more screen time than most of the other cast members. There is very little character development, in fact very little background information is given about the characters, so the fact that I found myself concerned for the outcome of certain characters means that the actors/actresses must have excelled.  The Core is a reasonable night’s entertainment, which should hold your attention, but certainly won’t stay in your mind for months to come. Give it a try, just don’t expect a classic.

Video
Paramount can normally be relied upon to supply impressive DVD transfers, and they have done a first class job with this presentation of The Core. The movie is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is also anamorphically enhanced. The image itself is highly detailed which is obviously a plus point, however I cannot help feeling if the transfer wasn’t so clear then some the lame special effects might not have stood out so much. However, that is not a fault of the DVD producers and they have done their job well here. Colours are vibrant throughout, especially during the latter part of the movie. Black levels appeared solid and skin tones were realistic. The image was free from grain and compression artifacts were nowhere to be seen. The transfer’s only real downfall is the occasional glimpse of edge enhancements which were obvious in a few scenes. Otherwise this is a first rate transfer, which shows that Paramount produces quality transfers for not only its older catalogue, but also its newer titles.  

Core, The
Audio
There are two soundtracks included with this release. Both tracks are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, the languages being English and Czech. Paramount have produced an aggressive track which
makes excellent use of the full sound stage. A good example of this is the shuttle scene towards the beginning of the movie where I felt as if I was actually in the shuttle with the crew. This is just one of a few instances where the rears are used to their full potential, and I would probably go as far as saying that this is one of the most immersive Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that I have heard this year. Dialogue levels are also spot-on, ensuring that during some of the noisier scenes the voices are not muffled. Overall this is a soundtrack of pure quality, and could be used as a demo track.

Extras
Working through the extras in terms of worth, the most substantial one on this disc is called To The Core And Back – The Making Of The Core. This extra, as the title suggests, is a ‘making of’ documentary, which delves into certain aspects of the movie and how it was eventually brought to the big screen. The documentary starts off with the director explaining why he chose the theme behind the movie. If you found some of the concepts behind the movie a little confusing then you should probably give this documentary a few moments of your time. There are also a lot of storyboard drawings which are nice to look at and shed some light on what the makers were trying to achieve. This documentary lasts for just over ten minutes, and unlike most documentaries it doesn’t actually give away much of the storyline!

Next up is a section called Deconstruction Of The Visual Effects. This section focuses on five of the special effects from the movie. Each set piece is described by the people who were involved in bringing it to the screen. If you are interested in any of the big special effects scenes within the movie then you will love this section, as a lot of detail is given and you can see how the scenes came about. The five scenes featured are Pre-Visualization, Trafalgar Square, Rome, The Golden Gate Bridge and The Geode.  Next up are Deleted/Extended Scenes, of which there are around fourteen minutes worth. The scenes have to be played together and can be accompanied by an optional director commentary. Most of the scenes would have been featured in the first hour of the movie, but there are also some action scenes which would have been part of the dig to the core. These days deleted scenes are becoming less worthwhile and often feature scenes which are just extensions of the original scene, however that is not the case here. Most of the scenes are completely new, which makes a pleasant change.

Core, The
The final extra on this disc is the director’s commentary, which can be watched with English subtitles. This commentary is actually very informative and from the outset the director says he is going to try and make it an interesting commentary. There are long pauses throughout the commentary, but even so there is plenty of information for fans of the movie, and it is also good to hear about how the movie was researched. This is one of the better commentaries I have heard recently.

Overall
The Core comes at the disaster movie genre from a slightly different angle, and to some extent succeeds. However, there are just as many reasons why it fails, and poor specials effects and a predictable storyline undo all the good things that the movie has going for it, dragging it down to a level where it is nothing more than mediocre. There are certainly better films out there - a lot of comparisons have been made between it and Armageddon, which in my opinion is the better film. The Core is a perfect Saturday night rental movie, watch it and you will probably have forgotten what it was about two weeks later. As for the disc, Paramount have produced yet another one of their competent transfers, and have also included an atmospheric soundtrack which is probably the highlight of this release. Extras are a little on the light side, but that’s not such a bad thing. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing this DVD because technically it is good, just don’t expect anything memorable from the main feature.  


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