Stargate (1994)

We’re going to begin watching Stargate SG-1 here at the blog fairly soon. I’ll talk about it in more detail later, but I think it’s a program that starts out godawful, turns into a mostly good show, and eventually becomes tremendously entertaining. It’s based on a 1994 MGM film directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. A lot of Emmerich’s hallmarks are on display here. He’s kind of made an art of spending an insane amount of money and resources on movies that would be every bit as stupid with a tenth of the budget.

Stargate isn’t a movie that I’d ever really watched before; it’s a movie that’s been on while I’ve been in the room. And I can now say that it is every bit as lazy and stupid as I feared. Nothing surprising happens in this film; it’s an action movie by the numbers. About the only thing in the story that I really liked was a gruesome bit where the hero’s about to get the drop on the villain, and the bad guy is instantly surrounded by more than a dozen human shields; little children bred to die for their boss.

As for the actors, I liked Richard Kind’s petulant performance as a translator on the Stargate project whose work gets bulldozed immediately as soon as the new whizkid on the team, Dr. Daniel Jackson, shows up. Jackson is played by James Spader and Col. O’Neill by Kurt Russell, and it’s a testament to how little they brought to the movie that I spent the full 130 minutes saying to myself that Michael Shanks and Richard Dean Anderson are both so, so much better than these actors in the same roles.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s an incredibly long setup to get to a faster-than-light wormhole to another galaxy. There, a small colony of humans whose ancestors were abducted from Egypt 10,000 years ago live as slaves to an alien who calls himself Ra. The Great White Saviors show up and save the day, showing the locals that their “gods” are mortal, and blowing up Ra and his pyramid ship with a failsafe nuke.

There’s a bit where Ra’s jackal-helmeted warriors sneak around and make mincemeat out of the redshirts left behind to guard the way home. Our son thought this scene was very frightening. He otherwise enjoyed the fighting and the shootouts. This is a very simple film without nuance or surprises, so it’s natural that kids would enjoy it. Everything here was done better once Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner got involved a couple of years later and made it into a TV show.

Not a lot better, mind you. It takes a long time to find its feet. More on that soon.

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