When electromagnetic disturbances in Earth’s atmosphere start causing problems, the cause is traced to an anomaly in the planet’s core. Fortunately the technology required to tunnel to the core and sort things out is already well in development. A crack team of experts is assembled to pilot a tunneling machine deep underground to launch nuclear warheads into said core and save the world.
This follows to the letter the established template of films like this, such as The Abyss, Deep Blue Sea, Sphere and various other disaster/adventure type movies. The twist this time is that instead of being in space or under the sea, there’s the preposterous premise of tunneling to Earth’s core on a ship of vague capabilities. But the structure is the same. There’s the assorted crew of scientists, the unexpected mishaps, the forced romance between the last surviving man and woman, the bit where someone has to sacrifice themselves to save the ship, and the whittling down of the crew.
Filming a mission through molten metal presents a bigger challenge than space or water, and it’s a challenge to which this film’s makers are not equal. They rely completely on dated CGI to show the exterior of the phallic ship penetrating the layers of magma. It’s a difficult thing to realise on film, and it basically just means the exterior shots are an orangey yellow, with some swirly patterns that don’t really look like anything.
Aaron Eckhart proves very likeable as main character Dr Keyes, although the rest of the cast are fairly forgettable. The science stuff is unsurprisingly absurd, and breezily skirted over where it suits the plot. There’s even a substance called unobtanium. Is this coincidence, or did James Cameron think it was such a good name that he’d borrow it for Avatar? This film’s wacky premise isn’t enough to stop it from feeling just like every other of its kind. Add to this the visual mess of trying to represent travelling through magma and you have a film like tunnelling to the centre of the earth: better to avoid.