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Sci-Fi Stargate (1994)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Anthony G Williams, Oct 12, 2013.

  1. Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard Writer

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    Film: Stargate (1994)

    It's been a long time since I saw this film and, as I recalled enjoying it, I thought I'd give it a second viewing. I should perhaps add at this point that I have never seen any of the various TV spin-offs such as Stargate SG-1 so I can't make comparisons (in fact I didn't realise there had been so many spin-offs until I looked up "stargate" in Wikipedia).

    First, a plot summary (with some spoilers). The film starts in 1928 with a baffling archaeological discovery in Egypt; a huge ring several metres across made of some unknown mineral and carved with a variety of strange symbols. Cut to the present day when the US military has got hold of the ring and is trying to work out what it is for. Cue the recruitment of a geeky academic Daniel Jackson (James Spaader) whose radical theories about ancient Egypt had caused him to be regarded as a joke. He is able to decipher the symbols and activate the ring, which turns out to be a stargate, providing instant access to another planet. There Jackson and a team of soldiers led by Colonel O'Neill (Kurt Russell) discover what appears to be an ancient Egyptian civilisation still thriving, but dominated by a powerful alien who has adopted the identity of the sun-god Ra (Jaye Davidson). They learn that Ra had long before transported the Egyptians from Earth to this planet to mine the rare mineral used to make the stargate. The team find themselves battling with Ra for survival and to protect the Earth.

    I must admit I enjoy this kind of story – I am fascinated by the sheer alienness of ancient Egypt (without believing that it must therefore have been created by aliens!). I also like the concept of the stargate, which has featured in so many SF novels that it can be regarded as one of the standard tropes of the SF genre, along with spaceships which can travel faster than light. No-one has any idea how either type of device might practically work but they are too convenient to space opera to ignore, so they are usually passed off with mumbo-jumbo about wormholes and warp drives. Another trope is of course the academic with crazy ideas who everyone laughs at until he proves to be right all along, so this movie ticks lots of comfort boxes.

    There are also the less forgivable Hollywood SF tropes, notably that radio works instantly, everywhere. The vast distances and timescales of the galaxy (let alone the universe) are far too inconvenient for Hollywood to bother with, so they just ignore them. In more advanced scenarios they apply some more mumbo-jumbo about tachyons, ansibles or dirac transmitters, but in Stargate they don't have such fig-leaves, just ordinary steam-age radio. This doesn't deter them from taking this trope to the extreme, with a robotic probe sent trundling through the newly-opened stargate instantly sending back a radio message via a cute little foot-wide dish antenna from a location which the scientists are able to work out is on the other side of the universe. Umm, guys, you do know how long it would take for a radio message to arrive from the other side of the universe (assuming it had sides, of course)? About 13 billion years….which is even longer than the combined running time of all of the Stargate spin-offs!

    Having poked some fun at it, I have to admit that I still like this film. I admired the dramatic alien spaceship and the way it used a pyramid as a parking bollard, and was intrigued by the androgynous Ra – I still wasn't certain whether Jaye Davidson was male or female until I looked him up. There are some engaging characters among the people of the distant planet, supplying both humour and romance. The CGI is dated but adequate. Despite its age, it is well worth watching and still provides far better entertainment than the majority of SFF films. About the only aspect which niggled me this time was the obtrusive and over-dramatic background music constantly sawing away, which does date the film.

    A final dose of reality which crossed my mind – the next expedition to the planet had better take a large quantity of vaccines and other medical supplies or the ancient Egyptians would be rapidly wiped out by the accumulation of evolved viruses and other pathogens which we carry around with us.


    (This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)
     
  2. Zelanar

    Zelanar Ensign

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2013
    I agree. This film is fantastic, even if a bit unrealistic. But sometimes that's worth it for something as good.
    I have watched the spin off series and enjoyed them just as much. Its works and its all about character development.
     
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2004
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I love the original Stargate movie and, though it spawned off its own family of spinoffs, it still stands up as a great standalone work.

    @Anthony G Williams if you are up for some TV viewing, try the first few seasons of SG-1. Over the years the franchise flip-flopped between drama and light comedy but there have been some good story lines along the way.
     
  4. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    SG1 was a great series - I prefer the later seasons when they went for a little light comedy. Atlantis isn
    t bad. Stargate Universe can be avoided without missing anything of value.
     
  5. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2004
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    My issue with the later episodes that leaned on comedic elements is that they essentially turned the SG-1 leader, a straight-arrow military man on the verge of suicide, into a buffoon.

    Atlantis has grown on me a bit but Universe will still go down as the "ST: Enterprise" period of the SG franchise.
     
  6. Zelanar

    Zelanar Ensign

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2013
    I enjoyed SG: Atlantis and SG1.

    I feel Kevin got it right for SGU though.
     
  7. BirdOPrey5

    BirdOPrey5 Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2005
    I liked ST: Enterprise. SGU is much more like crappy early season Voyagers.
     
  8. Zelanar

    Zelanar Ensign

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2013
    I can see where your coming from but Voyager came in to itself. I don't think that would of been possible with SGU even if it had a load more series.
     
  9. Birdman

    Birdman Birdman

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2009
    Location:
    MO
    I love (x3) the original Stargate movie! Also love the series SG1 and SGA...dropped SGU after the first two episodes.
    Jaye Davidson...I was also confused when I first saw this movie as to gender, I was comfortable in thinking either way this person was "pretty", lol. I'm straight but my artistic side still appreaciates symetric beauty and I like looking at fair people that are just aesthetically pleasing to the eye....not in any gay sense by any means but from a purely appreaciative standpoint (just to be clear).

    In SG1, I appreaciated General O's self promoted ignorance. I got the feeling that O'neil purposefully acted ignorant as a strategic counterbalance for his genius. Several times throughout this phase, he displayed a deeper working knowledge and understanding beneath the facade of stupidity. Several times when Carter was offering an explanation of some event, O'neil effectively cut in with the proper conclusion....to Carters brow raising surprise.

    Through out this phase of the series, I got the distinct impression that Carter also understood this about O'neil and that is why she never lost any respect for him. In fact a few occasions she actually acknowledges the fact that O'neil is actually brilliant. I also think this is the reason that the writers chose to make O'neil the appropriate vessle for the ancient knowledge downloads. It is also verified that O'neil actually has an "evolved" brain through these series of events, lending credability to the idea that O'neil is actually just in a habit of "acting" ignorant most of the time.

    I think they were trying to add more depth to the O'neil character....since many fans don't actually get the prior explained....I think they sort of failed but it was a well thought out attempt.
     

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