The Core

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The Core
File:The Core poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jon Amiel
Produced by
Written by
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography John Lindley
Edited by Terry Rawlings
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 28, 2003 (2003-03-28)
Running time
135 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $85 million[1]
Box office $74 million[1]

The Core is a 2003 American science fiction disaster film. It concerns a team that has to drill to the center of the Earth and set off a series of nuclear explosions in order to restart the rotation of the Earth's core. The film was directed by Jon Amiel, and starred Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, Tchéky Karyo, DJ Qualls, Bruce Greenwood and Alfre Woodard.

The film earned mixed reviews from critics and was a box office flop.


Geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) and scientists Serge Leveque (Tchéky Karyo) and Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) become aware of an instability of Earth's magnetic field after a series of incidents across the globe. They determine that the Earth's molten core, which generates this field, has stopped rotating, and within a year the field will collapse exposing the planet's surface directly to devastating solar radiation. Backed by the U.S. Government, Keyes, Leveque, and Zimsky create a plan to bore down to the core and set off several nuclear explosions to restart the rotation. They gain help of rogue scientist Ed "Braz" Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo) who has devised a vessel made of "Unobtainium" that can withstand the heat and pressure within the Earth's crust and convert it to energy, as well as a laser-driven boring system that will allow them to quickly pass through the crust. Construction starts immediately on the Virgil, a multi-compartment vessel to be helmed by Space Shuttle pilots Commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Major Rebecca "Beck" Childs (Hilary Swank) who will join Keyes and the others. To prevent a worldwide panic, Keyes enlists computer hacker Theodore Donald "Rat" Finch (DJ Qualls) to scour the Internet and eliminate all traces of the pending disaster or their plan.

Virgil is launched through the Marianas Trench from an offshore platform. The team accidentally drills through a gigantic empty geode structure, damaging the lasers when it lands at its base and cracking the geode's structure and causing magma to flow in. The crew repair and restart the laser array in time, but Iverson is killed by a falling crystal shard while returning to the ship. As Virgil continues, it clips a huge diamond that breaches the hull of the last compartment. Leveque sacrifices himself to save the nuclear launch codes before the compartment is crushed by extreme pressure.

Virgil eventually reaches the molten core, and as they take readings, discover that the density of the core is far different from what they expected, which will not allow their plan to work. They calculate that by splitting their nuclear weapons into the remaining compartments and jettisoning each at specific distances, they can create a "ripple effect", where the power of each bomb will push against the blast of the next, generating the energy required to restart the core. However, because Virgil was not designed to jettison undamaged compartments, the plan requires someone to deactivate a safety switch that is in an area exposed to the extreme temperatures. Brazzelton volunteers and deactivates the switch, dying shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the public becomes aware of problems after super storms and unfiltered patches of ultra-violet radiation destroy Rome and San Francisco. Finch is unable to stop worldwide panic but instead learns of the top-secret project "DESTINI" (Deep Earth Seismic Trigger INItiative), which is the government's 'secondary protocol' and will be deployed should the Virgil mission fail. Finch relays his information to Keyes, who discovers that Zimsky was one of DESTINI's lead scientists. DESTINI, according to Zimsky, was designed as a weapon to propagate earthquakes through the Earth's core, but its first activation, ironically, unintentionally stopped its rotation instead. Zimsky reveals the government will use it again to attempt a restart of the core. Keyes is convinced it will have disastrous results, and has Finch hack into DESTINI's system and cut its power supply to buy the Virgil more time.

Keyes and Zimsky race to reset the nuclear charges, and Zimsky gets trapped in one of the detaching compartments. Keyes believes they still may have too little yield, but Zimsky suggests they use the ship's nuclear fuel source as well, which will leave the Virgil without power. Keyes deploys the nuclear core in the last compartment and detaches it just as the triggered detonations start, successfully restarting the core's rotation. Drifting powerless in the core, Keyes and Childs realize they can use the Unobtainium shell to convert the heat and pressure from the wavefront to power the Virgil, and they are able to escape the core. They break through the crust underwater, leaving them safe on the ocean floor but lacking power and communications. They believe themselves lost but use the remaining power to activate a weak sonar beacon. The beacon attracts a nearby whale pod, and Finch is able to trace their whale songs to locate the Virgil. A week after the mission, Finch unleashes the full details of the mission including those lost, and of DESTINI to the public via the Internet.


  • Aaron Eckhart as Dr. Joshua "Josh" Keyes, a scientist and professor at the University of Chicago who designs the navigation system for Virgil and is assigned as head of the project.
  • Hilary Swank as Major Rebecca "Beck" Childs, USAF, an astronaut who distinguished herself during an emergency crash landing of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles, California, a result of the magnetic instability.
  • Delroy Lindo as Dr. Edward "Braz" Brazzelton, the designer of Virgil and the ultrasonic laser.
  • Stanley Tucci as Dr. Conrad Zimsky, Earth specialist and designer of Project D.E.S.T.I.N.I., based in London. He went on high alert after the magnetic instability caused an attack in Trafalgar Square by an enormous flock of piegons.
  • Tchéky Karyo as Dr. Serge Leveque, nuclear weapons specialist.
  • Bruce Greenwood as Commander Robert "Bob" Iverson, USN, Major Childs' commander and mentor.
  • DJ Qualls as Theodore Donald "Rat" Finch, a computer hacker who is widely regarded as the best in the world, crippled the FBI's database, recruited to control the flow of information on the Internet to prevent public panic.
  • Alfre Woodard as Flight Commander Dr. Talma "Stick" Stickley, the mission commander for NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour and Virgil.
  • Richard Jenkins as Lieutenant General Thomas Purcell, a lieutenant general in the United States army and leader of the operation.


The Core had out-to-sea scenes, starring the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), with full support of the US Navy.


The film garnered mixed reviews. The film received 41% positive reviews out of 153 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10 at the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes; the site's consensus states "a B-movie with its tongue planted firmly in cheek, The Core is so unintentionally (intentionally?) bad that it's a hoot." Several reviews cited the numerous scientific inaccuracies in the film. The film made only $31 million in United States theaters, and another $42 million overseas for a total worldwide gross of $74,132,631.[1] thus failing to make its $85 million production budget back.

Elvis Mitchell, of The New York Times, said, "The brazen silliness of The Core is becalming and inauthentic, like taking a bath in nondairy coffee creamer. The Earth core's inability to turn is mirrored in the cast's inability to give the picture any spin."[2] Kenneth Turan, of the Los Angeles Times, was a little more forgiving, saying, "If The Core finally has to be classified as a mess, it is an enjoyable one if you're in a throwback mood. After all, a film that comes up with a rare metal called Unobtainium can't be dismissed out of hand."[3]

In response to criticism of his screenplay's lack of scientific realism, screenwriter John Rogers responded that he tried to make the science accurate, but expended three years fighting "to get rid of the ... dinosaurs, magma-walks in 'space-suits', bullshit-sci-crap sources for the Earth's crisis," and a windshield for the ship Virgil.[4]

On March 30, 2009, it was reported that Dustin Hoffman was leading a campaign to get more real science into science-fiction movies. Hoffman is on the advisory board of the Science & Entertainment Exchange, an initiative of the United States National Academy of Sciences, intended to foster collaborations between scientists and entertainment industry professionals in order to minimize inaccurate representations of science and technology such as those found in The Core.[5]

In a poll of hundreds of scientists about bad science fiction films, The Core was voted the worst.[5]

On February 21, 2010, The Guardian ran an article about American professor Sidney Perkowitz's proposals to curb bad science in science fiction movies. In the article, Perkowitz is said to have hated The Core. "If you violate [the coherent rules of science] you are in trouble. The chances are that the public will pick it up and that is what matters to Hollywood. The Core did not make money because people understood the science was so out to lunch," he added.[6]

The Core shares many of its key plot lines with an earlier, low-budget film Deep Core (2000).[7] These include the concept of a man-made global disaster, a renegade scientist hero, a self-propelled laser drilling vessel that can travel in magma and restoring the balance with a series of nuclear explosions.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The
  2. Mitchell, Elvis (March 28, 2003). "Movie Review - 'The Core' - Trying to Jump-Start the Earth's Heart". Retrieved December 19, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "'The Core' - MOVIE REVIEW - Los Angeles Times". March 28, 2003. Retrieved November 25, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The Screenwriter Of THE CORE Responds!!". Ain't It Cool News. Jan 4, 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "'Actor Dustin Hoffman lobbies for more reality in science-fiction movies'". March 30, 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ian Sample (February 21, 2010). "Drive to make Hollywood obey the laws of science | Film". London: The Guardian. Retrieved March 2, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "'Deep Core (2000)' - MOVIE REVIEW - Internet Movie Database". Retrieved November 28, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links