The premise might sound like Hollywood hogwash, except for one thing: According to geophysicist Dr. J. Marvin Herndon, this very disaster is inevitable.
Herndon, who laid out his theory in Discover Magazine in 2002, believes the premise of "The Core" is more science than fiction.
He says the center of the Earth is essentially a gigantic, natural nuclear reactor that could, at any time, suddenly stop working. The magazine and other geologists called Herndon's theory revolutionary and, if true, the biggest breakthrough in the study of geophysics since the discovery of plate tectonics.
Herndon, considered a maverick geophysicist, is releasing his latest findings on this phenomenon just as "The Core" comes to audiences.
"Sometime in the future -- we don't know whether it's a hundred years from now, or a million, or a billion from now -- the nuclear reactor will die and the geomagnetic field will no longer have a power source, and it too will die," Herndon says. "Life on Earth will never be the same."
Herndon cites his latest paper, which he says contains "very strong evidence that there is a nuclear reactor at the center of the Earth."