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Stargate: The Movie(1994)
When Professor Daniel Jackson innocently accepts the offer of a mysterious woman to decode an ancient Egyptian artifact know only as the Stargate, he unwittingly takes the first step on an epic adventure that will span the galaxies and decide the fate of an entire planet. Colonel Jack O'Neil a true soldier with nerves of steel and a tragic past, is brought back to active duty to commandeer the first trip through the Stargate. On a desert planet on the far side of the universe, Jackson and O'Neil must battle the powerful alien Sun God, Ra. At stake: the freedom of an ancient civilization from slavery and any chance of ever getting home!
For more about Stargate: The Movie and the Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray release, see Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on October 31, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Alexis Cruz, Djimon Hounsou
Director: Roland Emmerich
» See full cast & crew
Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray Review
“Give my regards to King Tut @**hole!”
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, October 31, 2009
Ask a science fiction fan to name their top ten films of all time (within the genre), and I'd wager the majority of them will place Stargate somewhere on the list. That's not to say the film is the pinnacle of outer space entertainment (I'll reserve that honor for the original Star Wars trilogy or 2001: A Space Odyssey), but considering the sparse selection of genre entries in the past fifteen years, Stargate stands as a shining example of how to turn a creative concept into cinematic gold.
Beyond the success of the film itself, it's also worth mentioning the multiple offshoots the film generated (television series, books, comic books, video games, and two films released directly to home video). Hollywood hasn't seen a franchise expansion of this sort since Star Wars and Star Trek created a storm of convention-seeking fans with wild and outrageous costumes. Stargate hasn't earned a spot next to those iconic classics at this point, but considering the effect one small film has had on the science fiction community, it's difficult not to feel a certain level of respect for the accomplishments of filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.
During a 1928 archeological expedition in Egypt, a massive circular structure is unearthed from beneath the sand, with strange hieroglyphic inscriptions scribed along the ring. Fast forward to the present day, and the daughter of the lead archeologist recruits the assistance of Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader), to help decipher the ancient writing on tablets that hold the key to unlocking a mysterious gateway. Upon his arrival to a secret facility, Jackson discovers the military is heavily involved in the scientific discovery hidden within the facility, and he's soon introduced to the Colonel Jack O'Neil (Kurt Russell), an emotionally damaged leader, who's been asked to take charge of the military expedition through the gate. It doesn't take long for Jackson to decode the symbols that activate the gate, but the group of soldiers still have no idea what to expect on the other side of the portal. Jackson asks to join the expedition, believing he can unlock the gate at the other side of their journey into the unknown. Colonel O'Neil agrees, and the small band individually steps through the gate, emerging through a similar gate in an Egyptian temple on the other side of the universe. Once there, Jackson discovers he's unable to reopen the gate to take them back home, unless he's able to find the hieroglyphic markers pointing back to the gate on Earth. Stuck on a foreign planet without the means to return home, O'Neil and his men must protect Jackson in his search for the inscriptions, while uncovering the truth behind the creation of our ancient Egyptian civilization.
To give you an idea how much I enjoy this film, I've seen it twice in the theater, owned five versions on various home entertainment formats, and likely sat through at least a dozen viewings over the years. If you do the math, you'll realize the average time-span between each viewing has been just over a year (considering this is the 15th anniversary reissue of the film). Going back to the first time I witnessed Stargate in the theater, I recall leaving with a tremendous sense of wonder at the concepts in the film. Many would label the thought that aliens creating ancient Egypt preposterous, but I found the idea and implications to be highly effective in creating a new universe where anything's possible. After all, science fiction by definition isn't supposed to offer a substantiated or plausible explanation for the depictions on display. Savoring the initial viewing of a film should always be a priority (since you can never have that experience again), but Stargate is a film where it's especially important. The moment Jackson stepped into the Stargate, I could feel a hush fall over the theater, as everyone wondered what would emerge on the other side. It's one of the most effective moments in the film, since it begs the viewer to question their own ability to walk blindly into the unknown. Once the crew emerges on the other side, we're slowly shown more and more of the foreign land, as the story continues to build on the alien premise. My second favorite moment of the film is the emergence of Ra's bodyguards in the base of the temple that holds the Stargate. The use of quick cuts, impressive weaponry, and booming vocals (if you can call them that), create a scene that's truly intense on your first viewing. Repeat viewings won't hold a candle to your first experience with Stargate, but those of you still able to remember that long-ago day in your hometown theater, should find plenty to appreciate as you re-live the experience.
Beyond the wonderful concept, the incredible production values and acting in Stargate are the reason I continue to revisit the film and shell out additional money for each new release on the home video market. In one of the interviews included on this release, Roland Emmerich explains he was hoping to create a epic feel, as if this were Lawrence of Arabia in space. That's not exactly the result I've taken away from the film, but there no denying he created a world that feels both real and foreign. At the time Stargate was made, CGI was not fully utilized to generate landscapes and huge sets, so the crew had to assemble massive structures and pillar-laden interiors to give the viewer a sense of the scope found in structures of ancient Egypt. The results look amazing, rivaling some of the most extravagant films of the decade. Adding to the positives, the casting choices in Stargate were spot on. I've always been a huge Kurt Russell fan (since the release of Big Trouble in Little China), and his performance here is no exception. It would have been easy for him to turn in a one-dimensional performance as the no-nonsense military Colonel, but Russell digs into the back-story of his character to show us a soft, hurt side to his tough exterior. Part of his performance should be attributed to the strengths in the script, but I can think of multiple action stars who'd have butchered this role. Equally impressive is Russell's counterpart James Spader, as the eccentric and socially awkward Daniel Jackson. This isn't exactly a new role for Spader, but his inquisitive demeanor throughout the film is exactly what the viewer would expect from someone who's thrust into his position. Interestingly enough, director Roland Emmerich comments (in the special features) that Spader was a difficult actor to work with, since he was always questioning aspects of the script and his character's motivations. Perhaps this role wasn't far from his real-life persona.
Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the VC-1 codec (at an average bitrate of 23Mbps), Stargate finally received the high-definition upgrade fans deserve. As much as we hate double-dipping on our favorite films every two years, this is one case where the visual improvements outweigh the annoyance. First and foremost, the coloring problems that plagued the prior version have been corrected this time around, removing the "hot" skin tones, and artificial brightness boosting. On this version, we have a natural color scheme that accurately reproduces the spectrum of the source material, creating a highly appealing experience. Additionally, the level of fine object detail reveals elevated clarity in comparison with the prior release, though it still doesn't approach the precision of a glossy modern production. A perfect example of the increased detail can be witnessed during any panning shots of the gate itself, which maintains intricate, well-defined lines. Going back to the prior release, you'll remember a general harshness or lack of consistency in aspects of the transfer (edge enhancement, artifacts, etc.), likely resulting from limitations in the low-bitrate use of the MPEG-2 codec. Thankfully, those problems have disappeared with this newly remastered version, making for a smooth, film-like presentation. Rounding out the positives, black levels possess incredible depth despite the sun-drenched hues of the desert setting, and contrast offers excellent differentiation through the majority of scenes (only slipping occasionally during dark, indoor shots).
Considering Stargate is one of my favorite sci-fi productions of all time, I'm extremely happy to finally have a copy of the film that will remain satisfying for years to come.
Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Not to be outdone by the visual upgrade, the audio experience on Stargate offers an equally impressive experience. Lionsgate continues to demonstrate their dedication to offering 7.1 audio tracks on the majority of their titles, and the trend continues with this release. As with most action/sci-fi films, Stargate employs a robust sound design that contains a relentless mix of effects and music to create an epic feel. Thinking back on the first time I saw Stargate in the theater, I can remember being blown away by the space travel scene when Dr. Jackson first steps through the gate. This is the first time I've felt the same impact on a home entertainment release of the film, proving this is precisely the experience most of us have been waiting for. From the booming voices of Ra's bodyguards to the high-pitched wail of the futuristic planes soaring overhead, the audio mix is never bashful in making demands of every speaker throughout your room. Accentuating the excellent separation, clarity and balance in the various elements of the track, the dominant LFE portion will give your subwoofer a much-needed workout through the multiple explosions, sandstorms and rumbling undertones of the musical score.
I don't often find action-oriented catalog titles that warrant the highest honor I can bestow, but I have no problem recommending this as a nearly perfect audio experience.
Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Deciphering the Gate: Concepts and Casting (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 7:51 min): Including present-day interviews with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, this featurette offers a fascinating history behind the financing of the film and the decision-making process that led to the selection of the main cast.
Opening the Gate: The Making of Stargate (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 10:11 min): Continuing with the interviews from the prior featurette, this segment focuses more on the set design, technical details and logistics of shooting a sci-fi film with an Egyptian theme in the middle of the Arizona desert. This is well worth sitting through.
Passing Through the Gate: The Legacy (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 4:29 min): Rounding out the newly completed interviews on the disc, this section focuses on the impact Stargate had on the science fiction community, and the successful television offerings that followed.
Stargate Ultimate Knowledge PIP (extended cut): Running throughout the length of the film, this option opens a video window over the corner of your screen, presenting interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and other various tidbits about the production of the film. Some sections of the film are rather sparse on pop-ups, but overall this is a nice inclusion.
Master of the Stargate: Interactive Trivia Challenge: I like the concept here, but the execution is fairly poor. To begin, you choose the number of players interested in participating (1-4), and proceed to win Chevrons on your gate for correctly answering questions about the film, science fiction in general, or various other topics. The problem with the structure of the game is you're forced to wait up to a minute between each question, which becomes tiresome very fast. Thankfully the film plays in the background, so at least there's something to do while you wait for the next question, but I really wish we had a skip option.
Is There a Stargate (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 12:12 min): For those who haven't watched this extra on a prior edition of Stargate, we're introduced to Erich Von Daniken, the writer of "Chariots of the Gods". Von Daniken believes extraterrestrials were involved in the creation of several ancient civilizations, including Egypt.
Making of Stargate Documentary (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 23:36 min): Filmed at a time when CGI special effects were still in their infancy, this documentary covers a wide variety of visual effects from the film, as well as difficulties with the set locations (including some rather large-scale sets that were built specifically for the film). Easily the worst part of this extra is the narration from an overly enthusiastic gentleman who tends to sound more like an infomercial salesman than a narrator.
Gag Reel (480p, Dolby Digital, 3:17 min): Shot in one long extended take, this well-choreographed film shows the crew having a blast as they goof around on the sand-covered set.
Lastly, we have the original theatrical trailer that's been encoded in 1080p, but is clearly sourced from a 480p version, and a commentary track with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Of note, this is the same commentary track that appeared on prior versions of the film.
Stargate: The Movie Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you're reading this review, there's a good chance you've seen Stargate at some point over the years, and are mostly interested in the technical upgrade offered by this release. Many fans have dropped over a hundred dollars on multiple versions as each new format, director's cut, or extended edition arrives with the promise of a worthy upgrade. If that's the sole reason you're reading this review, I feel confident in my assessment that this is the definitive technical presentation that will continue to delight for years to come. Considering the hot commodity the film represents for Lionsgate, we'll no doubt see an uber-special edition at some point in the future, but I can't imagine a scenario where the film will look or sound better than it currently does. If you haven't seen Stargate, but have even a fleeting interest in science fiction, do yourself a favor and give the film a shot.
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• Today on Blu-ray - October 27th - October 27, 2009
After the unprecedented success of Pixar's 'Toy Story', Hollywood studios recognized the emergence of a new film genre and quickly acquired the equipment and expertise in order to ensure they had a piece of the computer animated cash-cow. One of those moves was ...
• Stargate 15th Anniversary Blu-ray Coming Up - August 4, 2009
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced that it will release 'Stargate: 15th Anniversary Edition' on Blu-ray on October 27. This release will feature a new 1080p encode, along with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Additionally, it will offer both the theatrical ...
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