MGM // 2008 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 23rd, 2008
Hallowed are the Ori...
A straight-to-DVD continuation of the cult sci-fi series Stargate: SG-1, Stargate: The Ark of Truth ties up some loose ends for fans of the show, but is a poor jumping-off point for newcomers. Trust me on that one. Yikes!
The Ori, a group of ascended beings who use their technology to manipulate lesser races into worshiping them as gods, have finally set their sights upon Earth, determined to force conversion upon its people and turn them into followers of Origin. Knowing themselves powerless to stop the attack, the SG-1 team desperately try to recover an old Alteran artifact known as the "Ark of Truth," a device that can be used to turn the tide in the ongoing struggle. Legend has it that the device is a powerful brainwashing tool that has been programmed to make anyone who gazes upon it realize the falsehood of the Ori...
It is a bit of a surreal experience trying to watch Stargate: The Ark of Truth having never watched a single episode of Stargate: SG-1 before, kind of like gate-crashing a family reunion of strangers. Fun, but somewhat disorientating. All I really knew about Stargate is that Richard Dean Anderson is a cast member, except apparently, he isn't anymore. Oh, well. The direct-to-DVD movie effectively wraps up loose plot points left behind after the Tenth Season finale ended the cult run. Producers were unsure if the show would be renewed for an eleventh season (it wasn't) and did not have the opportunity to wrap up outstanding storylines (like the Ori arc depicted here). So here we are, straight to DVD! Such loose-hanging plot points are entirely lost upon any newcomers, to say the least, rendering the near entirety of this film moot for us unlucky folk unfamiliar with the franchise.
If you have seen the Stargate feature film, at least you have the concepts down: man has discovered an artifact buried in the Egyptian deserts that connects to other planets in other galaxies and allows near-instantaneous transportation to other worlds. The real shocker is the discovery of humans on other planets, long ago transplanted from Earth to other worlds by alien slave masters, whose presence on Earth has been written into history as much of the folklore and mythology of major religions across the centuries. Pharoahs, and Norse and Greek gods -- all aliens, as it turns out. Makes sense if you think about it. Stargate: SG-1 picked up about a year after the film ended (recasting the major characters) and enjoyed a cult following for the last ten years, seeing mankind trekking through the stars and space fueled by this alien discovery, making friends and enemies wherever they go.
As a standalone adventure, Stargate: The Ark of Truth is a big spaceship-sized wreck of confusion, since so much of the story depends lock and stock on previous events, places, and characters established during the show's television run. There are aliens, weird religious cults, Merlin (apparently), tiny metal robots that look to be made out of silver Lego pieces, and all manner of foolishness. That being said, there is an undeniable campy charm to the affair, a silly adventure-of-the-week style fun in the modest production values, bad dialogue, and nonsensical plot points. It reminded me of watching fantasy-themed shows like Hercules: The Legend Continues and Xena: Warrior Princess at times, sans leather. I admit to not really following along with most of the subtext, but a few quick Wikipedia searches later had me (more or less) caught up enough to appreciate the film's fun. Yes, it was fun! This is not haute cuisine for your brain by any stretch of the imagination, but I finished the film with more respect for the Stargate franchise than I had before I began (which was none).
The presentation for Stargate: The Ark of Truth is decent, considering its modest budget. Special effects and CGI are liberally applied over every surface, with mixed results, but for a straight-to-DVD continuation of a television show, the effects are decent. This court has certainly seen worse. The anamorphic transfer is balanced and clean overall, with a muted color palate and some noticeable grain and compression here and there. The 5.1 presentation is surprisingly crisp and lively, with excellent utilization of rear channels during action sequences -- lasers fly over your shoulders like raindrops with nice, satisfying "whoosh" sounds. Dialogue is clean and bass response is acceptable.
Extras are very nice for a single disc. The disc gives the option of watching the feature film preceded by a 9-minute prelude assembled from clips from previous SG-1 episodes that fills in some of the back story for those of us starting fresh. Unfortunately, the clips themselves prompt more questions than they answer for us newcomers, rendering its effectiveness questionable, but it will probably serve as a helpful refresher for casual fans who are at least familiar with the events in the canon. A full-length commentary track with writer/director/producer Robert C. Cooper, director of photography Peter Woeste and actor Christopher Judge goes into nice detail on the creation of the film, with light and easy banter between parties (always nice to hear). A featurette, "The Ark of Truth: Stargate at ComicCon" films cast and crew answering questions by nerdy folk at ComicCon, but suffers from horrible video quality. "Uncovering The Ark of Truth" is your standard behind-the-scenes featurette with raw footage, interviews, and talking points from cast and crew. A few theatrical trailers round out the material.
Okay, seriously. Don't even pretend you can fake watching this if you've never seen the show. If I hadn't spent a good hour researching on Wikipedia, I'd have no idea what was going on in this movie. It's like watching Star Wars for the first time, but dubbed into Brazilian Portuguese.
The true value of Stargate: The Ark of Truth will elude all but the die-hard cult fan base, no doubt anxious to have more closure on a long and illustrious series. I am confident most fans will be satisfied by the high production values, familiar faces, and fun adventures. Newcomers, beware: you will only find a confusing adventure full of strange places, unfamiliar references, and incoherent plot points.
It's still oddly enjoyable all the same, though. Go figure.
This Judge is forced to recuse himself from passing judgment on this defendant until he spends the next ten years watching back episodes of SG-1.
Hmm. Gotta check my calendar...oh. This might take a while.
Review content copyright © 2008 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Stargate SG-1: The Road Taken: Prelude to The Ark of Truth"
* "The Ark of Truth: Stargate at ComicCon"
* Commentary Track with Writer/Director/Producer Robert C. Cooper, Director of Photography Peter Woeste and Actor Christopher Judge
* "Uncovering The Ark of Truth"
* Official Site