Awfully Good: The Core

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Think I, FRANKENSTEIN looks bad? There’s no way it’ll top Aaron Eckhart’s worst movie…

The Core (2003)

Director: Jon Amiel
Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Hillary Swank, Stanley Tucci

When the Earth’s core stops spinning and threatens the future of humankind, a group of “terranauts” travel to the center of the planet so they can jump start it with nuclear weapons.

The Core gets the award for “Worst Science in a Feature Film,” which it will continue to win every year until they stop making movies. It’s truly unbelievable just how unbelievable this movie is.

And I’m not a stickler for realism in film. If you had to adhere to actual physics, most of my favorite films would put me to sleep. But every decision made on screen in THE CORE is bogged down with so much forehead-slapping scientific insanity that it becomes a fun game to see what creative new way the filmmakers use to defy physics and rationality.

The cast is extremely excited to be part of this film.

When a group of random people in Boston begin to drop dead, the government calls in handsome geologist Aaron Eckhart, who immediately figures out they all had pacemakers and that there’s something seriously wrong with the Earth’s magnetic field. His suspicions are confirmed when birds start suicide bombing London and the space shuttle’s navigation goes haywire, forcing Oscar-winner Hillary Swank to crash land it in downtown Los Angeles. And that’s just the first 15 minutes!

Turns out, the planet’s molten core has stopped spinning and the world is going to end. Planes will fall from the sky, electronics will be fried, and eventually everyone will die because the sun will now microwave the Earth. (The brilliant scientists have to set a peach on fire to demonstrate the severity of the issue to our stupid world leaders.) Except that’s not true. Earth’s electromagnetic field has nothing to do with protecting us from the sun’s harmful rays. And that’s ignoring the fact that there’s way too much energy and mass in the core for it to ever just stop. But hey, that’s the plot!

The Velveeta product placement was a bit much.

To fix it, the world’s brightest minds decide to do what they always do in impossible cinematic situations: they nuke it. Just like in ARMAGEDDON. (In fact, this movie is pretty much ARMAGEDDON if Bruce Willis and Co. went in the opposite direction.) However, Aaron Eckhart explains exactly why it’s impossible to drill to the center of the Earth, the one fact the movie actually gets right. But then Stanley Tucci declares, “We know a guy who can magically do it!”

“And now those savages are threatening our whole operation!”

You see, Delroy Lindo is a scientific genius who built an ultrasonic laser that can cut through the Earth’s crust, along with an indestructible ship also forged out of pure magic. (That’s not a joke. He actually says it’s made out of classic element “Unobtanium”… straight from Pandora!) Now they can put together a team to save the world. Aaron Eckhart is made team leader despite being a college professor who doesn’t know how to tie a necktie. He’s joined by Hillary Swank, the only pilot skilled enough to drive in a straight line to the Earth’s core; Stanley Tucci, who says things like “It’s as if we’re diving through the memories of the planet;” and a French guy with a family who definitely won’t tragically not make it home to see them again. There’s also ROAD TRIP star DJ Qualls as a computer geek hired to “hack the planet” and control the internet so no one finds out what’s really going on with the planet. (Apparently the apocalyptic occurrences around the globe aren’t enough to raise any red flags.) To prove how good his skills are, Qualls takes Eckhart’s cell phone and uses a stick of gum to give him free long distance for life. Thanks, but that already came with my Friends and Family plan.

Harvey Dent already had a few evil tendencies before becoming Two-Face.

The ship, prophetically dubbed Virgil, is launched in the Marianas Trench and survives an underwater earthquake and vortex to make it in to the Earth’s crust. Like a giant dildo tossed around a laser Floyd show, it travels through the poorly rendered CG environment with a cockpit not unlike a Nintendo Virtual Boy. And now we get to the “good” stuff.

Here are some of my favorite “facts” and actual lines from this section of the movie:

• I can’t get a cell phone signal in my basement, but the team still has crystal clear communication with the surface from the center of the Earth.

• The ship, which is navigating the unknowable insides of our planet, has an autopilot setting.

• Mission Control has a nice, handy Google Map displaying their progress. They also somehow have a real-time monitor of the core’s direction and activity.

• “As long as we can surf these magma flows, we’ll be okay.” – Hillary Swank

• Who knew gravity operates exactly the same in the center of our planet. Suck it, Newton!

100% accurate representation.

• Delroy Lindo sacrifices himself by going out in to the 9000° temperatures wearing a suit that can only withstand half of that. Unless my math is wrong, that means for a solid five minutes, Delroy Lindo is walking around in 4500° degree weather.

• “I combined the crystals in a tungsten-titanium matrix at supercool temperatures. That did the trick!” – Delroy Lindo

• Remember that time you went to the center of the Earth, got out of the ship and walked around to collect samples? And then your suit, which somehow withstood the amazing amount of pressure, was easily penetrated by a falling rock?

• The ship, which has floated in liquid hot magma and survived the insane pressures of the core, bumps in to a diamond and is destroyed.

• “So, we hotwire the nukes, as one does. We seed them through the core at locations that have to be accurate to the inch. We detonate them in a sequence that has to be accurate to the millisecond. Then we outrun the biggest nuclear shockwave in history. That should be fairly simple.” – Aaron Eckhart

Getting ready to fire your agent?

Every once in a while, the movie takes a break from all the core nonsense to show a random city being destroyed. In addition to London’s avian terror, you get to see Rome blown apart by lightning (The Coliseum absorbs electricity despite not being made of metal and then explodes) and San Francisco get microwaved (where the heat melts the Golden Gate Bridge, but only give some dude’s arm a slight sunburn).

Of course this is a movie where the heroes, despite a few casualties, make it to the core, save the world and then still somehow find their way home. In this case, Eckhart realizes that since Unobtanium is completely fictional, it can totally act like “a giant solar panel” and the nuclear blast will give them just enough energy to make it back. They drive through the crust without a laser and escape without issue. Which begs the question—why exactly did they need it in the first place? Oh, well. In the end, some whales sing them a song and everyone lives happily ever after.

Scientific gobbledygook and Hot Pockets.

Watch Rome get destroyed by lightning, San Francisco melt in the heat, and some CGI birds go all Hitchcock on London.

Does Aaron Eckhart’s butt chin count?

Get drilled! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Something scientifically incorrect happens

Double shot if:

  • A city is destroyed
  • Someone says scientific gobbledygook
  • Aaron Eckhart yells, “Serge!”
  • Someone says, “[Science] 101”
  • Someone gets stuck underneath a thermonuclear warhead. (Yes, this happens more than once.)

Thanks to Andrew, Stephan and Alex for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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