Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stargate (1994)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I was just out of high school when this movie first came out. I don’t remember hearing much about it, but I hadn’t really been to the theaters for a while. Years later, I would catch parts of it (usually the end) on Encore or The Sci-Fi Channel. It wasn’t really until the fifth season of the TV show, Stargate: SG-1, that I really got into it. I knew the basic premise of the movie, so the show wasn’t that hard to follow.

Stargate starts out in Giza, Egypt, in 1928. An archaeologist arrives on a dig site to see this amazing discovery. There’s a big ring with all of these symbols and no one has ever seen anything like it. As far as anyone knows, it’s the only one in existence. 60+ years later, Dr. Daniel Jackson is giving a lecture about ancient Egypt. He has all of these wacky ideas about alien influence. What few people there are walk out and Jackson has no idea why. As he’s leaving the building, he’s approached by a woman who wants him to work on a secret government project. He accepts, seeing as how he has little else to do. He’s being asked in to help decode the Stargate, which is now sitting under a mountain.

Then there’s Colonel Jack O’Neill, played by Kurt Russell. He’s getting over the loss of his son, who accidentally shot himself with the Colonel’s gun. He’s called in to oversee the military aspect of the Stargate program. O’Neill and Jackson don’t hit it off at first. O’Neill is a military officer having to deal with the loss of his son; Jackson is a brainy researcher who isn’t really even accepted in his own field.

Dr. Jackson finally gets the gate working and a probe is sent through. They discover a similar Stargate on the other side, along with a device for controlling it. The Stargate is a means of transporting people across space. The connection doesn’t stay open for very long, so there isn’t much information to go on insofar as the other planet is concerned. The deciding factor is Dr. Jackson’s belief that he could get a team back. He, Colonel O’Neill, and several others go through the gate to the other planet and are told to assess the situation and report back. The trouble is that Dr. Jackson can’t get the team back. He had made the assumption that there would be instructions waiting for him on the other side.

To Dr. Jackson’s amazement, they find pyramids similar to the ones on Earth, which supports Dr. Jackson’s theories. The downside is that if they can’t get back, he won’t be able to tell anyone about it. Things start to look good when they find people living on the planet. Things take a serious turn for the worse, though, when Ra shows up. (For those that don’t know much about Egyptian mythology, Ra is the Egyptian sun god.) Ra is played by Jaye Davidson, who you may remember from The Crying Game. Dr. Jackson discovers that Ra is actually ‘possessing’ a host. Ra has simply taken on the persona of a god and has everyone on the planet worshiping him. Things get much worse when Ra discovers that O’Neill brought a bomb with him; Ra decides to modify the bomb and send it back to Earth. The race is on.

Of Jackson and O’Neill, I felt that Jackson was better developed in the movie. O’Neill came across as a military zombie. He’s made a career in the military and doesn’t seem to plan on making it back. Jackson, on the other hand, tends to be more optimistic. He thinks that there’s a chance of getting home and wants to work towards that end. There is a great deal of naivete in Dr. Jackson, which he’s able to overcome to an extent.

The special effects are going to seem dated . There were times when the effects looked patchy or inconsistent. Some of the lower-budget effects came across pretty well. The movie is driven more by trying to make a coherent story than a vehicle for the special effects. The thing that the story had going for it was its overall simplicity. Get the gate working, go through it, and then get back in one piece. The technical explanations of the gate and what Ra is didn’t really appear until the series began on Showtime.

I got the Ultimate Edition, which has both the director’s cut and the theatrical cut. The difference is that the director’s cut has a few additional minutes of footage. I don’t know that you’d even notice most of it. The real benefit is the other special features. You get the theatrical trailer, audio commentary and some behind-the-scenes stuff, which I found interesting.

Those that have seen the series are going to find some discrepancies. The gate program is housed in Creek Mountain in the movie, but in Cheyenne Mountain in the series. In the movie, Abydos (the planet that the team goes to) is in another galaxy whereas the series has it in our own galaxy.

Despite the inconsistencies and special effects, I’m going to recommend this movie. If you’re looking for a great movie, this is it.

IMDb page


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