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Paramount Studios presents
The Core (2003)

Dr. Josh Keyes: I want you to read this.
Dr. Conrad Zimsky: What's it about?
Dr. Josh Keyes: The end of the world.

- Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: December 17, 2003

Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank
Other Stars: Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Greenwood, Tchéky Karyo, DJ Qualls, Alfre Woodard
Director: Jon Amiel

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi life/death situations and brief strong language
Run Time: 02h:14m:48s
Release Date: September 09, 2003
UPC: 097363346746
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-B+ B

DVD Review

The Core is sort of like an inverted take on Armageddon, where rather than sending a mixed-bag crew into outer space to stop a colossal threat to all mankind, the mixed-bag crew is instead launched toward the center of the Earth in order to stop a colossal threat to all mankind. The massive asteroid of Armageddon has been replaced here by the suddenly non-rotating core of Earth, and the resulting and ever more destructive electro-magnetic disturbances that caused the core's stoppage are set to bring about the fiery end of the planet in less than a year.

Don't bother to get bogged down in the dizzying scientific logic laid out here, or even scratch your head at the hasty and miraculously designed ship used to ferry the crew to the Earth's core, one that busts up rock sonically like so many oversized gallstones. Like a good popcorn movie should be able to do, The Core presents an array of fuzzy facts in a patina of convenience and stripped down 5th-grade explanations, all designed to showcase some exceptionally exciting action sequences, dramatic deaths of expendable secondary characters, and inventive visual effects. This is nothing like Pat Boone and James Mason trekking on foot in the lovably hokey Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959); The Core's crew undertakes a truly perilous trip toward the inner core, and it is akin to a deep space journey, full of unexpected moments of beauty (the massive geode crystal canyon) and general all-around danger (requisite oceans full of bubbling hot magma).

Director Jon Amiel has assembled a fine cast for this fluffy sci-fi thriller, including an Oscar® winner (Hilary Swank), an Oscar® nominee (Alfre Woodard), and a pair of always reliable actors (Delroy Lindo and Stanley Tucci). Aaron Eckhart (Erin Brockovich), probably the least pedigreed of the bunch, is the film's lead, as Dr. Joshua Keyes, a scruffy geomagnetics expert called in by the military to head the expedition inward. Swank, who doesn't necessarily get the leverage to show the dramatic goods she did in Boys Don't Cry, is relegated here to mostly giving reaction shots to green screen effects shots. Swank is a space shuttle astronaut pegged for the mission, and is joined by Lindo and Tucci as bickering scientists, Bruce Greenwood as the ship's pilot, and Tchéky Karyo as the token European. DJ Qualls is left topside, along with Woodard, as a teenage hacker called in to "control the Internet," which means there are plenty of scenes featuring him frantically hacking into various computer systems when needed.

An end-of-the-world movie is only as good as its moments of wholesale destruction, and Amiel stages a few doozies in The Core, spaced out enough to liven things up just when watching a CG ship burrow through colorful molten rock becomes too much to bear. Rome doesn't fare too well during a nasty electrical storm, one that razes the Coliseum in a moment that seems lifted from the big White House explosion sequence in Independence Day. The Golden Gate Bridge encounters an errant beam of energy in one of the film's most visually exciting sequences, and Trafalgar Square is home to a wonderfully chaotic mass of unbalanced birds raining down like three-pound feathered hailstones.

I didn't really expect The Core to educate me or impress me with any degree of quantifiable logic, and all I really wanted was to be entertained for a couple of hours and see a few standout moments of visual effects. Amiel delivered that fairly effortlessly, and even threw in a couple of decent dramatic moments that were particularly well done. This film received quite a bit of negative buzz when it was released theatrically (including some bad press regarding the space-shuttle-in-jeopardy scene, which came on the heels of the real-life Columbia tragedy), and despite the less than favorably word on the street, I found The Core to be a fun, enjoyable way to spend an evening.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount has come up with an outstanding 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for this single-disc release of The Core. Colors and fleshtones are first rate, balanced by largely consistent solid blacks (save for a couple of sequences). The thing that really impressed me on this one was the razor-sharp clarity of the image, down to the smallest detail. No apparent instances of artifacting is present, nor is there is any sort of compression issues to contend with.

This is a beauty.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in English in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, as well as 2.0 surround, and is nearly as strong as the image transfer. As you would expect in an effects-heavy film like this, there are plenty of situations where all five channels are used to create an appropriately noisy and tense environment. Rears get used extensively, as does the .LFE track, though not as wall-rattling as I might have expected, considering the content. Dialogue is cleanly mixed, and there were only a couple of noticeable instances where score elements seemed to overpower the actors voices, but for the most part the presentation was evenly balanced with voices anchored in the center channel.
A French language 2.0 surround track is also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Timeline, Tombraider: The Cradle of Life, The Indiana Jones Trilogy
10 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jon Amiel
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Leading the supplements off is a full-length, scene-specific commentary track from director Jon Amiel. Steering clear of just reiterating the plot, Amiel chats up a pleasing mix of technical info and production anecdotes, all delivered with an easy-to-listen-to demeanor. Amiel keeps his patter fresh, and before I knew it I had sat through the 135 minute film a second time, and I never felt like the commentary was meandering or an obligatory filler exercise.

There are ten deleted and/or extended scenes, running just short of fifteen minutes altogether, available with an optional commentary track from Amiel. Most of the edits seem appropriate (though Tucci's pain in the ass Zimsky has a couple of funny deleted scenes), with the exception being Eckhart's Keyes reacting to the realization that the world is going to end, which is surprisingly moving.

To the Core and Back: The Making of The Core (10:51) is a step above the usual EPK content, and while it doesn't really offer any earth-shattering insight, it does offer a breezy mix of interviews, storyboards, and effects shots discussions. Deconstruction of the Visual Effects runs about fifteen minutes, and is actually a five section breakdown of the general process of creating the CG effects. The Pre-Vis also covers four specific sequences in the film (Rome, Trafalgar Square, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Geode) and how the effects were developed and deployed. During the Trafalgar Square segment, Amiel mentions that a CG trout was inserted as a joke amidst the flurry of CG pigeons, but he never fesses up where it occurs. Eagle-eyed viewers handy with the freeze-frame will have to step through the finished sequence to find the errant trout, and if you can't find it, just email me.

In addition to three trailers (Timeline, Tombraider: The Cradle of Life, The Indiana Jones Trilogy), the disc is cut into 20 chapters, and includes subtitles in English and French.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Sure, the science and logic is more than a little questionable, but when has that ever had an impact on having a good time? This is a loud, noisy popcorn movie with some wildly fun and destructive action sequences, all shored up by a fine cast of dependable actors (Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci).

Very fun stuff, and worth a rental for genre fans.


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