There have been a couple of releases of Stargate. Mostly it’s been reissues of the same transfer. This time it really is an improvement. The Blu-ray contains a director’s cut which is about 16 minutes longer than the original. If you like the original better, you get that one as well. 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.
A whole franchise of Stargate has spawned from this 1994 motion picture, and over a dozen years later the franchise still remains successful. This film was originally intended to be a franchise of pictures but instead found its way onto television and writings, with a fair sized fan base. If people still like the concept thirteen years later, then it must be pretty appealing; myself, I have never seen this picture and am pleased that I finally have the opportunity.
Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is a widely known Egyptologist who is shunned by the majority of the academic community for his far-fetched theories and ideals. While making a speech about his beliefs that that pyramids of Egypt where not in fact built when believed during the 4th Dynasty, but with no hypothesis as to when they were built, the audience begins to walk out. Shortly after, Daniel is approached by an elderly lady who entices him into joining her with the promises that he can translate Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that maybe finally prove his theories. Reluctant at first, Daniel can’t pass up the opportunity and accepts the invitation.
On the other end of things, Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) is a retired Air Force colonel who is being called back into duty. When we are first introduced to his character, he is slouched over a pistol in his son’s room, we learn that his son accidentally died while playing with his gun; the depressed colonel is now officially re-activated.
Upon some investigation into the hieroglyphics and some government secrets, it is revealed to Daniel that there was an enormous device discovered at Giza – a “stargate”. This stargate transports whatever goes through it to the other side of the known universe, a planet filled with oxygen that can sustain human life. Eventually the group travels to this planet with the intentions of exploration and research, but when they get there they realize they can’t get back until they have the right hieroglyph combination. While on the planet they discover life, evil and innocent. While trying to make their way back, they must fight off the evil forces of this mysterious world and make whatever discoveries they can along the way.
Stargate turns out to be more unique and clever than I originally anticipated; it started off pretty slow but managed to keep my attention. I really enjoyed how they mixed an ancient society with the idea of science fiction, but despite its originality, at times it lacked certain things that make a good science fiction picture a great one. For example this picture was more dialog driven than action, a little bit more intellectual than it could have been. Despite that being said, there was some pretty good action scenes, just not as much as I would have liked in a movie like this. For those of you that like movies like Dune, you could consider this picture a great addition to your collection.
Presented in a 1080p 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Stargate makes an impressive jump to Blu-ray. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of picture quality when I threw this disc in; there has been a disappointing catalogue releases from Lionsgate; luckily this isn’t one of them. All exterior shots look amazing, especially the ones in the desert. The sand dunes and pyramids have terrific depth and detail; it was hard to imagine that this film is thirteen years old. Interior shots look good for the most part but clearly aren’t as crisp as exterior shots, often looking grainy or soft when compared. Colors luckily maintain a nice vibrancy as well as realistic looking flesh tones during these scenes. Some shots do contain some compression artifacts, and some CGI work looks washed out, but this is a small issue. These faults, however, do not take away from an otherwise excellent looking transfer. A very nice job by Lionsgate.
Lionsgate has included a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, and both do a good job presenting the films material. Dialog sounded good for the most part but at times it did sound muffled or flat. Rear support and bass was frequent especially during the films action sequences. All this use of rear channels is great, and subs rock.
Audio Commentary – Commentary by Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin.
Stargate History: (22:30) HD This is a three part documentary that mostly focuses on the casting and the linguistics from the film. Emmerich and Devlin participate as well as a couple of actors, but none of the leads is involved. The series is only mentioned in passing. The two creators here have not been very happy with the direction of Stargate. They have been wanting to do films, and still do. If these films ever happen they would like to ignore the events of the series. Good luck with that, guys.
There are some interactive games and trivia options.
Original DVD features in standard definition: 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.
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?”
Parts of this review features material written by Ryan Erb for his original Upcomingdiscs review.