“The Core” – Pushing Boundaries of Disaster Movies

In the next of my posts about movies which I studied for my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, I am writing about The Core (John Amiel, 2003), a movie which pushed the boundaries of what sort of science fiction movies were included in the study.

A summary on IMDb about the movie is as follows:

The Earth’s core has stopped spinning. Disasters are happening around the globe, including; animals acting in bizarre ways, monstrous thunderstorms. Dr. Josh Keyes and his crew of 5 go down to the centre to set off a nuclear device, hoping to make the core start spinning again, or humanity will cease.


As I discuss briefly in my post in Deep Impact, for example, as well as in the article itself, there is an issue of what constitutes a disaster movie and particularly what science fiction movies should be included in the study. To me, at present, even the summary above of The Core sounds totally unbelievable and as I was wanting to including disasters that really happened or stories that could happen, The Core seemed beyond this limit. However, as I point out in the article, if someone had said before 6 August 1945 that it was possible to create a massive bomb by splitting an atom, I suspect many more would have dismissed this as science fiction. The bomb that fell on Hiroshima that day, and the long term impact of the event, showed that the boundaries between science fact and fiction are not always as clear as we may like to think they are.

Thanks in part to The Core and making me thinking about these issues, my working definition of science fiction movies was revised to those which include monsters and extra-terrestrial invaders – and such movies were excluded from the study. Although I am not ruling out the possibility of such monsters existing (and it did create an unfortunate impact that meant that, despite the article studying Japanese disaster narratives, it didn’t include the Godzilla films, perhaps Japan’s best known ‘disaster’ franchise) and again there were movies that made me think about exactly what the boundary was , and I certainly believe there is likely to be life on other planets, a line had to be drawn somewhere and this is the way I drew it (which had the benefit of saving me from having to watch Battleship (Peter Berg 2012), set on the USS Missouri, again). The revised line meant that The Core remained in the study.

In terms of the revised list of conventions that I developed as part of my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, The Core has 14 out of the 17. In terms of missing conventions, one that is not there, and is surprising given the 12A rating (suggesting it may have been targeting children as an audience), is ‘family’.

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