MGM // 1997 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // July 21st, 2009
Re-mastered. Re-cut. Re-imagined. Remarkable!
In 1994, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich introduced the world to the Stargate with their feature film starring Kurt Russell as Colonel Jack O'Neil and James Spader as Dr. Daniel Jackson. In 1997, Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner continued the franchise with Stargate SG-1, a series made for Showtime that picked up a year after the movie ended with Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks playing the two leads.
The series ran on Showtime for five years then made the switch to the Sci-Fi Channel, where it became one of the network's signature and most successful series with yet another five year run. In those ten years, Wright and Glassner learned a lot about how to make a scifi series, about special effects and about the whole Stargate universe. Now if only they could remake the pilot to take advantage of what they've learned...
It's Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods, the way they would have made it then, if they knew what they know now.
It's been one year since Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson, MacGyver) and his team ventured through the Stargate to battle the soldiers of Ra. But now a new threat has come through the Stargate, so O'Neill is called out of retirement and asked to lead a new team into the great unknown.
O'Neill and his men from the previous journey are joined by astrophysicist Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping). They go through the gate to Abydos where they meet up with Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), who has been living with the native people since the original expedition. But shortly after their arrival, the compound is attacked by Apophis, who kidnaps Daniel's wife, Sha're, with plans to use her as a host body for his bride, and that's just the start of his evil plan.
Can the SG-1 team stop Apophis and his creepy stomach snakes from taking over Abydos and eventually the Earth? Sit down for ninety minutes with this pilot episode and you'll find out.
Seven minutes. That's how much time has been cut from the original pilot movie. Odd, huh? Usually, the "Director's Cut" of anything is longer and more complex than the original. That's not the case here.
Stargate creator Brad Wright says he decided to produce this special cut of Children of the Gods when he saw his kids watching the original ten years after it first aired. He cringed at some of the special effects and dialogue and he kicked himself for mistakes in the storyline and scenes that didn't conform to now established laws of the Stargate universe. In short, he knew he could do better, and he convinced MGM to let him try.
One of the biggest changes is in the area of special effects. Digital technology has come a long way in the past ten years, as has the budget for the project. Back in the day, it took three different special effects houses to create the signature, watery, event horizon that occurs when the Stargate is activated. Wright had all of these incidents redone so they're all crisp, bright, and matching. The behind the scenes featurette shows the old and new versions side-by-side and there's a huge difference.
They also redid the mat painting of the pyramid on Abydos, making it larger and grander, and they added ships and bad guys to really sell the attack sequences. Overall, the video quality is brighter and sharper and much improved over the version that you'll find on the Season One DVD.
Wright also made several changes in the audio, including a new original score by Joel Goldsmith. Goldsmith manages to deliver a TV soundtrack that could have come straight out of a feature film. From the strong, military-style action beats to the softer, more mysterious tracks, his score is a huge improvement over the original which was pieced together with bits from the movie soundtrack.
On the subtler side, Wright had Christopher Judge come in to re-record his dialogue in the film to match the deeper tone that he used later in the series. Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks also did a little re-recording, laying in some new dialogue that helps sort out a couple of holes in the plot but you'd have to be a real die-hard fan of the movie to notice.
The largest change comes in the form of the re-edit. Wright cut scenes, re-ordered others, and added new angles all with an eye toward delivering a tighter film. Some of these edits were ones he wished he could have done at the time but couldn't because of production problems such as a scratch in the film marring all of Shanks' close-ups in a pivotal scene. But other edits were made with an eye toward a more sophisticated audience. One of the small changes is the removal of a MacGyver joke. A larger change is in the introduction to Carter's character. In the original, she comes on with a female chip on her shoulder, saying that she shouldn't be denied just because her sex organs are on the inside and not the outside. This line has been removed and the scene re-edited so it's clear that O'Neill's only problem with her is that she's a scientist and not a soldier.
The edit that's causing the biggest uproar is removal of the frontal nudity that was shown when Sha're is presented to Apophis. Remember, the series was originally made for Showtime, so nudity was a given. But now that the series is considered safe, family fare, the scene has been removed. Many fans have voiced their displeasure, saying that the nudity was necessary to accentuate Apophis' callous indifference, to make it feel more like a rape. Others are thrilled to see the scene gone, saying that it was a blot on an otherwise excellent movie. Though I wouldn't go so far as to call the original cut pornographic as some have, removing the nudity does invite a wider audience.
Want to know about all the changes that were made? Don't worry, you don't have to watch both films simultaneously, all you have to do is listen to the commentary by Brad Wright and Richard Dean Anderson. Wright uses this time to point out all of the changes that were made delighting and surprising Anderson, who obviously hasn't seen this pilot in more than ten years. Anderson's laid back banter and Wright's enthusiastic attention to detail make this commentary track both fun and interesting.
From a filmmaking standpoint, there's no doubt that this new version of Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods is superior to the original. But the question is, just because we can make something better, should we? Studios routinely remaster old movies and TV shows to present a cleaner, brighter finished product, so why stop there? Why not improve on special effects that may look hokey by today's standards? And if we're going to fix that, shouldn't we also fix clunky dialogue and plot problems? And hey, if you're going that far, why not recast the movie and make it all over again?
Therein lies the problem. Once you start fixing and correcting, where do you stop? At what point do you say, this is a whole new movie? I don't think the changes Wright made to this film are that drastic, that being said, do the changes justify a double dip? Certainly studios have rereleased movies with less.
The solution would have been to put both versions of the movie on the DVD, and I'm surprised they decided against it.
If you're a Stargate fan, Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods is worth owning just to listen to Richard Dean Anderson and Brad Wright reminisce and for the Joel Goldsmith score. If you have the Season One DVD and have been frustrated by the quality of the video, then you'll really be delighted by this bold, bright version of the movie that started it all.
This court finds Children of the Gods guilty of evidence tampering but innocent on all other charges.
Review content copyright © 2009 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated