here for Internet Movie Database entry)
There are never enough
movies where the hero has a Ph.D. in Physics! It's been a while since
we saw Jody Foster (Astrophysics) in Contact, Helen Hunt and Bill
Paxton (Atmospheric Physics) in Twister, Kelly McGillis (Astrophysics)
in Top Gun , Data (Astrophysics) in Star Trek: The Next Generation,
or Denise Richards (Nuclear Physics) in The World is Not Enough. But
now we have Aaron Eckhart and Stanley Tucci (Geophysics) in The Core.
This film does have some basis in actual physics. The Earth's magnetic
field is thought to be caused by a rotating core
of iron at the center of the planet. However, after laboring through
many minutes of screen time to explain this little bit of physics, The
Core leaves real science behind and becomes Armageddon underground. While
the Earth's magnetic field does protect the planet against cosmic
rays, none of the effects shown, particularly microwaves from space "cooking"
the planet, would happen if the magnetic field were suddenly not there.
Physics aside, The Core is a pretty entertaining
movie. It starts with weird events happening all over the Earth, including
a near disaster that befalls the Space Shuttle on landing, obviously filmed
before the Columbia crash. A physics professor (Aaron Eckhart) has an epiphany
and realizes what is happening. He takes his theory to another well-known
physicist (Stanley Tucci) who is a Carl-Sagan type on a book tour. Soon
Eckhart and Tucci are convincing the US government that there is a problem.
Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem. The solution
involves two other scientists (Delroy Lindo & Tchéky Karyo) and
a "ship" that can journey to the center of the Earth. It is made of a substance
called unobtainium which at least shows that the movie's writers are not
taking themselves too seriously. The plan is to tunnel down to the
core and restart it by letting off a nuclear explosion. Even a non-scientist
might realize that this won't work. But we are in a movie, so our four
scientists joined by two NASA astronauts (Bruce Greenwood & Hilary Swank)
head for the center of the Earth.
Ok, the plot is laughable, but it is presented in an
entertaining way. This movie takes the no-win scenario,
the famous Kobayashi Maru seen in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,
to another level. In The Core, the characters are in the no-win
scenario over and over again as we lose one character after another. Aaron
Eckhart, best known for playing mysogonists (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors),
is quite good as the brainy but compassionate hero. In fact, Eckhart has done two movies in a row playing a brainy
but compassionate hero. In Possession,
he had a Ph.D. in English Literature. Stanley Tucci, as always, is
a joy to watch. He takes what could have been a one-dimensional arrogant
scientist and makes him into an actual character. Lindo and Karyo are
good too. They are clearly having fun playing wacky scientists. Greenwood
and Swank play stock astronaut characters. Greenwood sleepwalks through his
part, but Swank gives it a good try and mostly succeeds. Why the writer picked
this plot and how it got made, I don't know but it's a good addition to the
lexicon of dumb but entertaining science fiction movies.