Why is there yet another DVD of Stargate? This time it really is an improvement. The Ultimate Edition contains a director’s cut which is about 16 minutes longer than the original. If you like the original better, a second disc is included which contains the original cut. This was Devlin and Emmerich’s first real blockbuster. I found Independence Day and The Patriot to be better films, but Stargate has its moments. It’s a little hard for me to accept Kurt Russell as Jack O’Neal after 7 years of Richard Dean Anderson. I did gain a new appreciation for how closely James Spader and Michael Shanks portray the pivotal character of Daniel Jackson.
In 1928 a team of archeologists discover a giant metal ring at the base of the Great Pyramid at Giza. After decades of trying to decipher the glyphs on the ring and its cover stone, Daniel Jackson (Spader) translates the crucial symbol to activate the “Stargate”. An Air Force team led by Col. Jack O’Neal enters the gate and is transported to a distant desert planet to fight an alien “god”.
The disc contains a superb Dolby Digital-EX 5.1 and a DTS 6.1 soundtrack. This is one of the most aggressive surround mixes I’ve heard to date. Even the opening credits flood your rear speakers with wonderful effects. The tracks are pretty much interchangeable. You can expect more dynamic lows and a notch higher output from the DTS track. Every aspect of the audio is near perfection. Highs are outstanding in their clarity. Dialogue is always well placed and easy to distinguish. The soundtrack is as marvelous as you might remember. It never sounded better even in the theaters. Lows are powerful with nary a moment of distortion. You could calibrate any system using this disc as a reference.
There is a commentary track with Devlin and Emmerich. The commentary is obviously old, likely the one offered on the special edition laserdisc. It is informative but not overly so. They do complain a lot about the many obstacles involved in making such a “large” film.
Stargate is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This transfer is far superior to any previous DVD or laserdisc version previously offered. I was particularly impressed with how the transfer handled the wide desertscapes. The bright lighting and highly reflected sand never shimmers. There are a few examples of film artifacts, mostly on the added scenes. The edge distortion present in the earlier special edition has been completely corrected here. Colors are bright and steady in spite of the harsh lighting needed in the desert shoot. There isn’t a whole lot of darkness on this film, and maybe the largest complaint would be the inferior contrast present on the interior shots.
Stargate: Ultimate Edition gets the 2-disc treatment. Disc one contains the director’s cut while disc two contains the original version.
The two features are worth a look. “Is There Really A Stargate” is an interview with “Chariots Of Fire” author Erich Von Daniken. Although it doesn’t really talk about a possible Stargate, it details some evidence the author has uncovered that aliens may have influenced earlier civilizations. “The Making Of Stargate” is a longer behind the scenes look at the film’s production. It’s really the typical cursory glance at the production.
You’ll also find the typical trailers, production notes, cast and crew bios, and galleries to compliment the package
It’s no secret that Devlin and Emmerich were unhappy with the series SG-1. They expected to continue the story as a film franchise. I think everyone won here. I’m much happier with the duo’s later films, which we might have missed in exchange for future Stargate adventures. I’m a big fan of Stargate SG-1. (Sorry Roland and Dean). If you don’t already own the film, here’s your chance to have a strong release. If you already own a release, rent it and at least check it out. And ask yourself, “Who do you think built the pyramids?”