This is a big, dumb, explosion movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — often big, dumb, explosion movies are fun to watch and do very well at the box office. But this one suffers from very bad timing. At a time when the world feels a little fragile, watching CGI versions of Rome and San Francisco be all but destroyed and a (successful) crash landing of the space shuttle, no matter how impressive the technology, is not fun at all. And without a, well, core of substance, wit, or energy, this movie cannot recover.
Aaron Eckhart plays rumpled University of Chicago professor Josh Keyes, brought in to figure out what is going on when dozens of people just drop dead all at once. It turns out that for some reason the core of the earth has been slowed down (possibly by something we did), throwing off the electromagnetic charges that govern everything from navigation by birds and aircraft to pacemakers. The first part of the movie is smart people figuring out what is wrong and how to fix it, and then they all climb in a sort of rocket ship that can melt thousands of miles of solid rock and dive down to the center of the planet to essentially reboot it.
So, it’s basically “Journey to the Center of the Earth” without the dinosaurs crossed with “Armageddon” without Bruce Willis. The script isn’t bad. Co-writer John Rogers has a degree in physics and is a former stand-up comic, and both areas of expertise are evident. If it is formulaic, at least it understands the formula reasonably well. There is something of a Ten Little Indians feeling, as members of the crew start getting picked off in various dramatic ways. Stanley Tucci wildly overacts as a fame-seeking scientist with a book deal who serves as this expedition’s Dr. Smith without Will Robinson to push around. Everyone else in the cast does their professional best, but the only standout is D.J. Qualls as a super hacker who lives on Xena tapes and hot pockets.
Parents should know that the movie has sustained and intense peril. There is widespread destruction and many characters are killed. There is some strong language, including the obligatory single f-word permitted in PG-13 movies. There are female and African-American characters who are exceptionally talented but who have had to face obstacles to their professional advancement. Diverse characters work together well.
Families who see this movie should look at look at this site for more information about the core of the earth.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Fantastic Voyage (about an expedition through the human body) and When Worlds Collide.