If ever a genre should have benefited from the explosion of CGI, it's the disaster film. Just look at Titanic (soggy dialogue aside). Instead, we have Volcano, Deep Impact and Armageddon. If the effects are good, the characters are so much flotsam and jetsam; if the effects are bad, the characters are so much flotsam and jetsam.
The Core tries to redress the balance by assembling a strong cast and spending time with them. Much of the action is located inside Virgil, an `indestructible' craft that's burrowing its way towards the Earth's centre, as the talented likes of Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Delroy Lindo sweat it out in close-up. Just why these "terranauts" are journeying south is preposterous - - the planet's core has stopped rotating - - but at least helmer Jon Amiel makes good on his promise that "effects won't override human beings".
Just as well, considering much of the computer jiggery-pokery recalls the Tron era. Especially embarrassing are the exterior shots of Virgil penetrating Mother Earth like a giant dildo, giving worrying credence to one character's proclamation that ""we're fucking our planet"". Better, though, are the peeks at what's going on topside, freakish weather laying waste to Rome's Coliseum and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Thankfully, these money shots aren't the only things to enjoy. The `something's not right here' build-up is snappy, pigeons crashing out of the London sky and Bostonites mysteriously keeling over, while the rag-tag saviours are knowingly sketched. There's also a neat line in humour, some of it campy (Stanley Tucci's conceited geophysicist), some of it dry (Eckhart suggesting they pay for Virgil's creation by credit card so they'll snag some frequent-flyer miles). Okay, so it's not enough to excuse either the 135-minute running time or an incredibly dull sequence when the ship gets stuck on a geode (no, it's not worth an explanation), but it's no disaster either. Hell, it sure beats Dante's Peak.
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Buckle up, it's gonna be a bumpy ride... But it's worth it, a strong cast and a handful of good gags making The Core better than its delayed US release date suggested.