Lionsgate // 1994 // 130 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 9th, 2009
It will take you a million light years from home...but will it bring you back?
Before Roland Emmerich set about destroying the world in increasingly hamfisted ways, he made this comparably low-key tale of interstellar faux-Egyptian-god hijinks.
When some mysterious tablets are unearthed from the sands of Egypt, a group of enterprising nerds figure out they are the instructions on how to use the magical Stargate which can blast you onto another planet in a matter of seconds. What do you do with this tech? Send in a bunch of hard-ass Army guys -- led by a Kurt Russell and his shockingly awesome flat-top -- and a hapless scientist (James Spader, Boston Legal). Upon their initial hyperspace transport, our heroes discover more pyramids and some indigenous natives who are slaves to the whims of a diabolical alien. You know what that means: nuke them!
This might be the only Roland Emmerich movie that hasn't grown more embarrassing with age. Stargate lacks the bombast and over-the-top spectacle of Independence Day and Godzilla, but it also doesn't suck balls. So it's got that going for it.
The premise is fairly interesting and, while typical action movie clichés show up in due time, the plot in and of itself is unique: magic star portal, androgynous alien that dresses up like an Egyptian god, henchmen with robot jackal heads who shoot lasers out of their spears; that stuff's pretty dope and imaginative.
It's when you bust out the natives that the film starts hurting from the overbearing pressure of genre conventions and begins to lose its luster. For the natives they are-a-restless, but more importantly, they're plucky. When you've got a tyrant with overwhelming firepower and lethal technology, pluck is the only thing separating you, oh flat-top-sporting badass, from subjugation and violent laser death.
With the broad cliché of "underdog, unbathed rebels" nailed down, it's time to hone in on the more individualized stereotypes: the born leader kid, who just needs to be tested by laser beams and jackal-heads; the goofy-looking comic relief, who is in the movie purely to get blown up for emotional impact; and last but certainly not least, the curiously made-up and wildly attractive female, whose caught the eye and groin of one of the main characters. Her eleventh hour mortal wound and the resulting dumb decision of the guy who's got the hots for her endangers the entire population of a planet.
Then again, jackal-headed guys with staffs that shoot #$%@ lasers out of the tips.
Onto the Blu-ray, which is high-quality from top to bottom -- a solid example of the right way to do a catalog high-def double dip. The 2.40:1 1080p widescreen is noticeable in its quality upgrade, displaying an augmented visual picture reflective of the tech boost. Stargate is a bright, vibrant film, the special effects (still strong, considering) pop with new life, and the sun-soaked, sand-blasted scenery comes across particularly nice. The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio spills out an excellent David Arnold score, with the frantic sound effects coming through clean and effective.
If you're a fan of the film, I'd say the A/V presentation is enough to seriously consider scoring this release, but Lionsgate dropped some nice extras to go along with it: an HD extended making-of documentary; a new gag reel, that's really some random candid on-set footage; a trivia challenge; the original behind-the-scenes feature; a picture-in-picture running through conspiracy theories about actual Stargates; an "Is there a real Stargate" featurette; and audio commentary from Emmerich and Dean Devlin.
Short and sweet: this disc is worth it.
Not Guilty. Give my regards to King Tut, a-hole.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Trivia Challenge
* Gag Reel