Adventure never ran so deep!
Deep Core. The title alone conjurors images of men in work suits fighting against time to save the earth from imminent peril. To look at the cover of the DVD case, you're struck with the faces of three of the films stars, looking pensive and taut, knowing that only they and they alone can protect earth from the evil that is…the Deep Core!
Or, maybe this film is all hokum. I'm leaning towards the latter.
Paramount pictures and UFO LLC have teamed up to bring you adventure so big that no DVD medium can hold its power!
Hide the children! Feed the dog! Lock up the china! Deep Core is on the loose!
Facts of the Case
Deep Core is one of those films that have a really complicated plot (technically speaking). Let me see if I can sum it all up in layman's terms: Apparently there's been some kind of trouble in the earth's core. A tsunami has already wiped out a tropical island, and another small town has been gobbled up by a sinkhole. Local and international scientists have no clue what the heck is going on. Only one man had the answer: Brian Gordon (Craig Sheffer, Nightbreed). Brian realizes that a disruption in the Earth's mantle has caused a chain reaction all along the planet, threatening to tear the entire world apart. Nothing like a little Armageddon to spruce up one's day, huh?
The decision is made to dig deep into the Earth's core (hence the title Deep Core) where some big nuclear boom-booms will be detonated to release the pressure and make everything A-OK again. How this plan will work I have no idea; I just watch the movies, I don't explain 'em.
Gordon leads the expedition, assembling a crack team including Wil Wheaton of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fame and Bruce McGill from Animal House. I don't know about you, but if I was attempting to save the world from mass destruction, I don't know if those are the exact two people I'd want to have along with me. Actually, throw in Nell Carter from "Gimmie A Break" and you've got yourself a deal.
The clock has been set. The magma is flowing. The plant must me saved. [Editor's Note: I think Patrick meant "The planet must be saved," but I like how that sounded, so I'm leaving it.]
Deep Core is the poor man's Armageddon. If you've seen Armageddon, you know that's not the highest praise a film can receive. Deep Core certainly knows its source material. It's got a little bit of every disaster movie in it: Armageddon, Volcano, The Towering Inferno…yes, Deep Core knows where it's coming from. The bottom line is that Deep Core is silly entertainment. It's one of those B-grade titles that you see on your local rental shelves that are always left over after the top Hollywood films have already been checked out. That said, it must be reviewed against the B-grade type of movies (you know, Tornado!, Python, Shark Attack, that sort of "eight dollar budget" stuff).
Deep Core wasn't boring. Hopefully the makers of the film will take that as a compliment, as that's the biggest hurdle a film like this must overcome. The storyline is very shaky, and though I wasn't up to par on the technical details, I had enough of an idea what was going on to make it enjoyable. I love these "Earth in peril" films. It's always a hoot to watch a crack team of scientists and at least one rebel (two forces that must always be present in this kind of movie) desperately attempt to stop Mother Nature from taking a big dump on our home turf. Deep Core is well paced, and although the effects are a bit cheesy (alright, you caught me…A LOT cheesy), it's what I've come to expect from these goofy straight-to-video titles. It even has the standard dialogue we've come to expect. When one character starts messing in forces beyond his control, our protagonist quips, "I'm warning you, if you dig too deep, the ramifications will be irreversible." It just gets me all giddy when I hear dialogue like this because it means that we, the audience, are in for a big treat.
The cast all work overtime to make their performances look realistic, and the one who fares best is Bruce McGill. McGill will be a familiar face to movie buffs, starring in such films as the classic Animal House and the time travel flick Timecop. He's a gruff, funny guy who knows exactly how to deliver the hokey, disjointed dialogue that Deep Core throws at him. Terry Ferrell, an ex-model turned actress, shows why ex-models turned actresses get a bum rap. She's not bad, though she's not especially good. Hey, at least she's nice to look at. Before you ladies start throwing tomatoes at me, realize that if I were a woman I would have said the same thing about Craig Sheffer. In fact, Sheffer looks like he is nursing a hangover through the film; his hair wild and his expressions always pained. I'm sure that Wil Wheaton will be none too happy when he reads that I think he still looks like he's 16 years old. There are one or two "villains," but they're unimportant and not worth mentioning compared to the menace that is…Deep Core!!!
Deep Core is presented in a full frame version, and to be honest, I can't tell if it's formatted from an original widescreen version. It wouldn't surprise me if Deep Core was shot in a standard format to begin with. The picture looks only passable, with colors being bright though often times soft. There was some grayness to the blacks, and many of the scenes shot at night (or in the underground caverns) had a filtered look to them. Digital artifacting wasn't spotted, and from my vantage point neither was shimmer. A semi-decent transfer for a semi-decent film.
Audio includes Dolby Digital 5.1 English, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround in English. The 5.1 track sounds relatively good for a film of this degree. The mix is aggressive and well done, using rear speakers effectively while having dialogue sound crisp and clean. The surround feature is especially utilized during the underground drilling scenes, as well as any of the underwater sequences. Bass was deep and thick with music and effects mixed excellently. A good job by Paramount. English and Spanish subtitles are also optional.
Deep Core features a few special features that are not quite as exciting as the feature film. First up there is a full frame theatrical trailer that makes Deep Core look like the most explosive action film ever made. Needless to say, they lied. Next is a still gallery that includes still photos from the movie, as well as a few cast and director biographies.
Finally there is a commentary track by director Rodney McDonald and editor Randy Carter. The track is a bit dry, though informative, and the two men seem to have been friends before Deep Core was made. They aren't very amused by anything, and seem to take this movie as seriously as possible (which is pretty silly, considering what they're watching). I will give them this: they know their technical details. Half of the time I had no idea what the hell they were talking about.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Boy oh boy, what were the effects people thinking when they made this turkey? Spotting exactly where the computer generated effects lie in Deep Core is like being able to point out a pink polka-dotted toupee on a head filled with gray hears. Many of the scenes in Deep Core are done through computers, and if my calculations are correct from viewing the film, that computer belongs to a 13-year-old in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When a cascade of lava falls down on one character, it looks as if chunks of orange Play-Doh are toppling down on him. Most of the time, everything that's CGI looks like it came straight out of a "Tomb Raider" video game. Laughably fun effects if I've ever seen them.
Otherwise, this title belongs under that extra special list of films that are so bad they're good. Sure, most of it doesn't make sense, and the effects are shoddy and cheap, but you watch for the same reason you eat at McDonalds: when you're in the right mood, crap can taste like heaven!
I know when you hit Blockbuster you'll be hoping to snag the newest Harrison Ford or Jim Carrey film. I know that it will be disappointing when you see it's not there. Hold in your teary contempt and try out Deep Core. It's more exciting than Six Days, Seven Nights, and funnier than Ace Venture: Pet Detective. Though Deep Core is the type of film that might have benefited from a widescreen transfer, we'll live with what we've got.
Deep Core is adventure that will make your blood race and your throat giggle. Innocent!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Rodney McDonald and Editor Randy Carter
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