Several disasters or near-disasters involving Earth’s magnetic field tell geophysicist Doctor Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart), Doctor Serge Leveque (Tchéky Karyo) and Doctor Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) that the Earth’s core has stopped rotating. Unless it can be started in time, the magnetic field will collapse, and Earth will be bathed in deadly solar radiation.
The U.S. government initiates a secret project to build a vessel to drill to the core and explode nuclear warheads to restart the rotation. They use the work of Doctor Ed Brazzleton’s (Delroy Lindo) material unobtainium, which can convert heat into electricity, and his high-speed drill. NASA pilots Commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Major Rebecca Childs (Hilary Swank) will pilot the U.S.S. Virgil, and computer hacker Theodore Donald Finch, called Rat, (D J Qualis) will keep the looming disaster and the secret project off the Internet.
The Virgil is launched in the Marianas Trench and digs through the crust. They damage the lasers in a gigantic geode and Iverson is killed. Further on, they pass through diamonds, one of which damages the compartment housing the detonators. Leveque sacrifices himself to make sure the others can detonate the bombs.
The team reaches the molten core and find it less dense than they had planned. On the surface, Lieutenant General Thomas Purcell (Richard Jenkins) orders them to quit and use a secondary protocol, which is the secret weapon that stopped the core in the first place. But it might destroy the Earth. Lightning storms in Rome and ultraviolet rays destroying San Francisco alert the world. On Virgil, the rest of the team plan to place the explosives in the ship’s compartments and time their detonation to trigger the core. Brazzleton and Zimsky both sacrifice themselves to do this. The rest restart the rotation and ride a pressure wave up to the surface through tectonic plates and come out near Hawaii. In the end, Finch alerts the Internet to the crew as heroes.
The film was directed by John Amiel, written by Cooper Layne and John Rogers, produced by David Foster, Cooper Layne, and Sean Bailey, and released by Paramount Pictures to mixed reviews and an actual financial loss. The scientific inaccuracies were numerous. Hundreds of scientists in a poll on bad science-fiction films declared The Core the worst of the lot. The University of British Columbia in an Earth and Ocean Science course uses this film to analyze bad science. IMDB listed fourteen impossible things before breakfast in this movie. Yet Roger Ebert confessed to an unreasonable affection for it. Why? Because it’s really exciting and spectacular. The music by Christopher Young pulls the story along tightly.
The beginning, with the space shuttle landing in the Los Angeles River, makes you laugh, both with its improbability and it’s sheer bravado, then it goes on to trash major cities on the globe in spectacular fashion. A collection of some of the best journeyman actors in Hollywood manage to carry it off, as long as you don’t think about it much. A scene of birds crashing into windows included a trout, put there by the CGI team. Unobtanium, used here and in Avatar, is a word used to describe something hard to get, like Titanium when the Soviet Union controlled the supply. A peach was to be used by Aaron Eckhardt to explain the Earth’s core, but the peaches were no good, so they painted an apple to look like a peach and put a pit in the middle. In the flight simulator, Aaron Eckhardt threw up on Hilary Swank. I want to look down my scientific nose at this movie, but the fact is: I enjoyed it immensely.