The only way to save Earth from catastrophe is to drill down to the core and set it spinning again.

A throw-back to '50s sci-fi.

In Boston, 32 people with pacemakers drop dead. In London's Trafalgar Square, the pigeons go berserk. And, in an unintended reminder of real life, something goes wrong with a U.S. space shuttle returning home, and it's forced to crash-land in Los Angeles.

What's up? Dastardly scientific experiments have, it seems, affected the earth's core, which has stopped moving, affecting the planet's electromagnetic field. What to do? Well, journey to the centre of the earth to nuke the core and start it up again. So an intrepid group of American scientists, led by Josh Keyes, Aaron Eckhart, and Conrad Zimsky, Stanley Tucci, along with a token woman, Hilary Swank, a token black, Delroy Lindo and a token foreigner, Tcheky Karyo, start to bore towards the core.

This is a real throw-back to '50s sci-fi, a preposterous plot that's nowhere near as entertaining as it wants to be mainly because boring into the centre of the earth isn't of itself much of a thrill. The early scenes of disaster are by far the best, with the scene in London surely a tribute to Hitchcock's The Birds. Rome gets destroyed, too, which makes for a mildly spectacular set-piece.

Try as he might, director Jon Amiel can't do much with a limp screenplay in which this global problem can only be solved by Americans – not a hint of international co-operation here. Stanley Tucci's amusingly sardonic character is mildly engaging, but the rest of the cast members don't impress very much. Altogether, a disappointingly second-rate sci-fi epic.

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2 hours 15 min