Sunday, 12 December 2010



Ye cannae change the laws of physics, as Scotty was wont to say every week (before doing precisely that). Gravity at sea level is 9.81 and a bit and always will be, lead sinks in water and always has. But you can barge past these petty rules and formulae, and completely ignore them in the way many people take not a shred of notice of the "please turn off your mobiles" blurb in the cinema. Bad science, or non-existent science, can work, if it sounds plausible while being beyond most of the audience, but when you start contradicting the basics, the fourth-form stuff that even the average simpleton can remember, the whole thing will fall apart.

So it is with The Core, in which things are going badly and spectacularly wrong all across the world. A large number of individuals, entirley unconnected with each other, all drop dead at the same moment. Pigeons go crazy in Trafalgar Square. The space shuttle comes in to land miles off course - what could possibly be causing it? Turns out that the Earth's core itself has stopped spinning, thus switching off the electromagnetic field that protects us from cosmic radiation, allows birds to navigate, and maintains magnetic North. With this field breaking down, the Earth is surely doomed in a matter of days, unless....

Unless you get some scientists and have them drill down to the core and set off nuclear bombs to get the core spinning again. This they do by firing a specially constructed ship downwards through the crust, equipped with an ultrasonic laser drill ("the same thing they use to break up kidney stones", someone helpfully explains) and a payload of five atomic warheads. But they've got to dodge the vast diamonds, the empty chambers filled with crystals and liquid magma, set the explosions off, then somehow turn around and defy the increased gravity by tunnelling all the way back up to the surface! Fortunately they have something called Unobtainium (a full six years before James Cameron used it in Avatar!) which they can use as a giant solar panel to power their way back (if they can reverse the polarity of the neutron flow, or something). Meanwhile the ion storms are gathering above Rome, and the ozone layer is breaking up over San Francisco....

This is the most scientifically ludicrous movie you could imagine. Essentially it's Deep Impact upside down - there they sent a ship upwards to save the planet with nuclear bombs, here they send it downwards. There's loads of incomprehensible scientific gibberish, noble sacrifice, petty bickering and it's all played straight enough to pull the dumb premise off. It's got a terrific cast of actors rather than stars: Hilary Swank (shuttle pilot), Aaron Eckhart (dedicated scientist), Stanley Tucci (egomaniacal scientist), Delroy Lindo (embittered engineer). And it is fun - stupid, but entertaining, with the interior of the Earth mostly rendered in colourful, occasionally pleasingly abstract CGI. It's a big splashy apocalyptic disaster movie which has absolutely zero chance of coming true. (We hope.)


No comments: