Smarter than ''Armageddon'' and equally extreme, ''The Core'' is high-tech Hollywood hokum at its finest. It's scientifically ridiculous, but this variant of ''Fantastic Voyage'' at least ''tries'' to be credible as it plunges deep into the earth's inner core, where a formulaic team of experts pilot an earth-boring ship to jump-start the planet's spinning molten interior, now stalled by a military secret that could seal the fate of all humankind. It's a geophysicist's wet dream that only a fine ensemble cast could rescue from absurdity, and director Jon Amiel (''Entrapment'', ''Copycat'') draws excellent work (and plenty of humorous interplay) from Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, and a host of memorable supporting players, especially ''The New Guy'''s D.J. Qualls as the world's greatest cyber-nerd. With enough digital F/X disasters to satisfy anyone's apocalyptic fantasies, this is a popcorn thriller with all the bells and whistles that its genre demands. Sit back, pump up the volume, and enjoy the dazzling ride. ''--Jeff Shannon''