Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Core

The Earth’s core has mysteriously stopped spinning which is weakening the magnetic field and wreaking havoc across the globe. First, a bunch of people with pacemakers all drop dead at the same time. Then, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square start flying into things. You wouldn’t think either of these things would lead to mass death and destruction, but they do. Apparently, when pigeons lose their ability to navigate by the magnetic field, they freak the fuck out and fly at high speeds into cars, store windows, and people. Who knew?

Ruggedly handsome scientist Josh Keyes, that’s who. He quickly figures out what the nation’s best and brightest couldn’t – that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, probably because the core has stopped rotating. And, as Josh dramatically says at the Pentagon, “Everybody on the Earth is dead in a year.” Sure, it doesn’t look all that dramatic on paper, but when it’s coming from the chiseled jaw of Aaron Eckhart, even I was concerned. Then, he lit a peach on fire using hairspray, and it’s kind of hard to take a man seriously when he’s igniting fruit.

Astonishingly, the top military men at the Pentagon are more moved by props than by proof, so they agree to fund the construction of a shuttle made of an alloy created by Brazz, the eccentric engineer. In his words, “The hotter and deeper she gets, the stronger she gets.” No one follows that up with “That’s what he said,” which is totally disappointing. Anyway, he’s created this super alloy that he has named … are you ready for it? Unobtanium. Yes, Unobtanium. This is technically a term used to talk about a device or substance that is impossible but ideal. However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of amazing that the actors have to keep on referring to the “Unobtanium.” It’s my favorite part of any disaster movie: focusing on the fact that these are actors, reciting words that they don’t always know the meaning of. Seriously, watch a disaster movie with that in mind. It’s instantly 75% more awesome.

So, we now have our $15 billion Unobtanium shuttle that will take a ragtag team of scientists to the center of the Earth to restart the core and save us all. We have: Major Rebecca Childs, the hot astronaut; Commander Robert Iverson, the stoic astronaut; Serge, the scientist with a wife and two children; Dr. Ed “Brazz” Brazzleton, the eccentric engineer of the ship; and Dr. Conrad Zimsky, the pompous scientist who is totally not Carl Sagan.

Keep in mind that Josh is played by Aaron Eckhart, Rebecca is played by Hilary Swank, and no one else has their strong-jawed, steely good looks. That should be your first clue that any other characters going on that trip are probably going to die by the last act of the movie. Your second clue that everyone else is going to die is that the other characters can be summed up in two words or fewer:

Commander Iverson: mentor
Serge: family man
Brazz: eccentric
Zimsky: asshole

It’s not a question of if, if it’s a question of, “How painful?” And trust me – some of them are pretty painful.

Each character dies at a conveniently timed act climax. Movies conventionally have either a three or six act structure, with the end of each act featuring an exciting moment or major plot development (until the resolution). There, I’ve just taught you all I learned in four years of film school.

So, each character dies during the four acts where they’re going to the Earth’s core. First, the intrepid crew drills into a giant geode, and while trying to remove a large crystal from the laser thingy, Josh has to remove his oxygen to power the saw, and then he dies. Oh, wait, no, sorry. I forgot it was Aaron Eckhart. Magma breaches the geode, and it pours in. As they’re all trying to get back in the shuttle, a crystal dislodges and embeds itself in Commander Iverson’s skull. He falls back into the magma and sinks dramatically out of sight.

Then, as Serge and Josh are trying to reset the nukes – oh, right, the nukes. I didn’t mention those before? Well, they’re restarting the Earth’s core using a series of nuclear explosions, because this is America, and we believe that anything can be fixed using nukes. So, Josh and Serge are trying to reset the nukes, as Josh has brilliantly realized that Zimsky and the smartest people in the world failed to calculate for something sciencey that doesn’t really matter. The whole time, Serge is making a huge disaster movie mistake: talking endlessly about his wife and two daughters. He’s not trying to save six billion lives, he’s just trying to save three of them. It’s like he wants to die.

Meanwhile, Hilary Swank is piloting the ship through a field of diamonds the size of Rhode Island. As they dodge through the field, a diamond hits one of the hulls. She warns Josh and Serge that she’s going to have to eject the compartment, but Serge can’t get out in time. As Josh yells for Serge, the compartment closes and ejects. We watch on the video monitor as the pressure crushes Serge alive.

Like I said, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of “How painful?”

Brazz melts to death as he tries to reach an override he conveniently placed in the hottest part of the ship. Zimksy dies by nuclear explosion. Which, when you look at the other deaths, is probably the least painful way to go out.

Oh, and above ground, the government has brought in a hacker nicknamed Rat (DJ Qualls). He's quirky, although I'm guessing you could figure that out from the whole "DJ Qualls" thing. The movie was made in 2003, but from the way they're talking about this hacker, you'd think it was still 1993, when people still thought hackers had magical powers. In this case, the US government thinks DJ Qualls can keep the internet - and all computers - free of any information regarding the weakening magnetic field. I feel really, really bad for the kid who was writing his term paper on pole reversals, and Rat wiped it out because General Puffinstuff is an asshole. Also, at some point, Rome and San Francisco are destroyed in the process. The Golden Gate Bridge melts and the Colosseum explodes. It's pretty sweet.

Anyway, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank save the day, Rat is quirky, Alfie Woodard plays a stern yet maternal lady with a headset at mission control, and the US government turns out to be behind the whole thing. You see, they created a device that could cause pinpointed earthquakes around the globe, called DESTINI - Deep Earth Seismic Trigger Initiative. If nothing else, the movie got our government's love of cutesy acronyms right. Over testing of DESTINI caused the Earth's core to stop rotating, and if not for a brilliant last minute plan by Josh, the brain surgeons would have tried using it again to restart the core. So, Josh saves us all, and then Rat releases all the top-secret information on the internet, tagging it all as being part of the "Rat Network." Way to be incognito, Rat.

Up until this point, I've tried to avoid going into the scientific accuracies, or lack thereof. But there's one thing I can't ignore: the shuttle resurfaces at a space between two tectonic plates "somewhere near Hawaii."

How the fuck did the screenwriters not look at a map of the tectonic plates boundaries? Are you kidding me? Were the writers just trying to get things wrong? Because that's the only possible reason I can think of as to why they would even include that line. It's a hot spot - an upwelling of magma in the middle of a plate. Not just any plate, but the largest plate on the planet. They couldn't get further from a plate boundary if they tried. And I hope they didn't try, because I'd like to believe that they're effortlessly just that stupid.

Clever acronym for top-secret government project: +5
Having a strong-jawed, handsome geologist lead: +18
Having him come from University of Chicago: -10
Not destroying Chicago: -30
Repeated use of the word Unobtanium: +7
Commitment to using it in all seriousness: +14
Reminding us every five minutes that Serge has a family: +4
A scene where a bunch of confused birds cause widespread carnage: +12
Melting the Golden Gate Bridge: +24
A super lightning storm blowing up the stone Coliseum: +15
Following traditional act structure & killing one character per act: +14
Cmdr. Iverson’s lame death: -6
Zimsky’s awesome nicotine withdrawal-fueled meltdown: +17
Josh Keyes igniting a peach at the Pentagon: +7 (randomness)
Josh Keyes igniting a peach at the Pentagon: -3 (overly dramatic)
Using nukes to restart the core: +12
Having a hacker as a super-cool character in 2003: -5
Using magma flows to get back to the surface and conserve energy: +20
Re-emerging through a space between tectonic plates near Hawaii: -25
Missed opportunity to have the shuttle re-emerge through Kilauea, and surf down the volcano’s slope past visitors: -4

Total: 74 out of 100

Best Quote: "Hang on, this isn't going to be subtle." - Cmdr. Robert Iverson

The Core Trailer

1 comment:

  1. I have a feeling a lot of the movies you're going to be writing about for this blog are going to have lines that demand a "That's what she said!" in response. Maybe number of said lines could be added to the Arbitrary Points System...