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THE CORE

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, Hillary Swank, Stanley Tucci
Director: Jon Amiel
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Surround
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 134 Minutes
Release Date: September 9, 2003

Film ***

How many times have I seen the movie Journey To The Center Of The Earth?  Well, more times than I care to admit, actually.  How does that apply to this review?  Simply put, I thought The Core was nothing more than a remake of Journey. When I heard the first advertisement for the film hitting theatres, I tuned out the ad, and thought derisively to myself, not another remake…come on, people!

For the, oh, at least fifth time this year, let me say my preconceived notions about a film were seriously misguided.   Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars with an impressive group of actors in this modern day adventurer’s tale. 

It seems that the military is up to its normal movie style trickery and has invented a weapon of mass destruction.  What mass destruction you ask?  Well, instead of just being prepared to take out the enemy, they’ve managed to stop the earth’s core from spinning, thus bringing about the early destruction of the earth and its peoples.  

Thanks to the keen intellect and quick thinking of Geophysicist Josh Keyes, played by Erin Brockovich rough rider Aaron Eckhart, the powers that be are apprised of this situation and begin to take steps to correct the error.  They just need to find a way to get to the center of the earth, jumpstart the earth’s core with a little nuclear CPR, and get out before they get blown to smithereens!

Rebecca (Swank) is a Major in the United States Air Force.  She’s worked hard and long to earn the rank she has and earn it at a very young age.  She’s ready to captain her own crew.  However, the people in charge seem to have a different opinion.  When the mission to the core goes awry, it’s up to the very young Major to save the earth, or die trying.

Now I don’t know about you, but at this point I’m still thinking, okie dokie, this is going to be very bad on so many levels and in so many ways.   I was pleasantly surprised to find as the movie progressed that the character dialogue and situations were very believable and put together very well. 

With any movie requiring special effects, you always have this fear that the effects will become more than the script can handle, or that the acting will be so over the top that the effects will not have their chance to shine.  I think they achieved a sense of balance with this film not seen in more recent special effects movies.

I think what helped this film the most was the dedication and drive of director Jon Amiel.  He is the kind of director who wants his actors to perform.  He wants to see them take the script, and make it more than what they see on paper.   He is an actor driven director who respects the special effects process and knows that it has its place in Hollywood cinema, yet he doesn’t allow it to take the place of what should truly be going on onscreen. 

As far as actors go, Hillary Swank in my book is high up on the list.   With her Academy Award for Boys Don’t Cry, she is among the Hollywood elite.   That said, I wasn’t overly impressed with her in this film.  She did a fine job of delivering her lines, but I almost felt like her heart wasn’t in the character she played.  

Award winner Stanley Tucci and Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard are among the supporting cast members on this amazing journey.  Both do a wonderful job of helping the viewer relax into the illusion that Hollywood presents in movie form.  

Despite the fact that I have said this film did not rely solely on the special effects, you cannot forget that they were a part of the film.   I wasn’t impressed with respect to the actual effects themselves.  The concepts behind the effects for this movie were very achievable, yet they fell short and missed the bar.   By how much, well, that’s for each individual to gauge.  However, if one effect looks really cool and the next one is cartoonish, then you have an inconsistency that even a novice viewer will recognize. 

With a great cast of characters, a strong script, and okay effects, you get a movie that is enjoyable and refreshing.  Take the time to experience this film and I think you’ll agree that it was time well spent.

Video **

The video quality on this disc was a mix of good and bad. 

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer was very nice to watch.  All of the colors were vibrant and bold, with just the right amount of shading to compliment them in the varying forms of light used.   

The visual effects were a little sub-par in my opinion, in that it was obvious they were done in an effects lab.  The one thing you want with a film is for the effects to mirror the natural surroundings as much as possible.  While the over all look achieved by the digital effects team was nice, a lot of the individual sequences looked animated, and hard around the edges.   A little smoothing, and less degradation between the film and effects, and it would have been easier to watch.

Audio ***

The audio on this disc was good.   The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround made good use all speakers, and on an effects movie, that is terribly important.  You have what’s going on in front of you, but you all need to feel that the sound encompasses everything else going on without sacrificing anything in the mix.   The balance achieved for the mixing on this DVD was superb.  

There were no audible dips or drop outs in the audio.  Also, there was no evidence of white noise interference or low end hum.

Features ***

The features on this disc really help to push it high up on my scale.

The commentary by director Jon Amiel was an absolute dream to listen to.  He is such a passionate man, and enjoys what he does so much that you can’t help but fall into his enthusiasm.   He is really an actors’ director and makes it very clear that effects are great, and they help a film, but it’s the actors who drive things from start to finish.

To The Core And Back – The Making Of The Core is a wonderful look behind the scenes of this movie.  You get cast and crew interaction as well as a lot of information on the filming itself.

Deconstruction Of The Visual Effects is a featurette detailing the effects process and all in entails.  You get a good look at the thought and patience that went into making the effects for this movie.

A preview for the film version of the Michael Crichton book, Timeline, is included, as well as previews for Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life, starring Angelina Jolie, and the four disc collectors set of the Indiana Jones Trilogy. 

With very nice interactive menus, and ten deleted scenes that you can view with or without the director’s commentary, the only thing needed to round out this DVD’s extras would be subtitles, and what do you know…those are provided for you in English.

Summary:

I really enjoyed this DVD, and think that if you give it a shot, you will to.  All you have to do is pop it in and drill down through the layers of acting and effects to realize that this movie is a great ride all the way to The Core!