15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION [BLU-RAY]
Stargate 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] (1994)
Actors: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Alexis Cruz, Viveca Lindfors,
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin
Producers: Dean Devlin, Joel B. Michaels, Mario Kassar, Oliver
Eberle, Peter Winther
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled,
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Lions Gate
DVD Release Date: October 27, 2009
Run Time: 130 minutes
when one thinks of director Roland Emmerich, images of flaming cities,
hysterical acting, ubiquitous marketing, and paper-thin plots spring
immediately to mind. Back in 1994, Emmerich was only in the process of
building his name, creating movies such as Moon 44
and Universal Soldier - minor league genre
scrappers that showed more technical prowess and entertainment value than
anyone was expecting.
Then came Stargate, a
film financed outside of the Hollywood system and saddled with ill-fitting
blockbuster aspirations for a feature with very little pre-release buzz or
sellable premise. Ending up a sleeper hit of the autumn season, Stargate
overcame the odds because, well, it's a delightful, exciting, distinct
adventure film crafted by Emmerich with what would be his very last of
welcome tentative touches.
Daniel Jackson (James Spader), a gauche Egyptologist, has
been summoned to a secret military base for reasons not immediately made
clear. Casually deciphering hieroglyphic codes top minds have been unable to
crack, Jackson is allowed access to the Stargate, a massive circular
structure able to access vast reaches of the galaxy via wormholes, if dialed
correctly. Teamed up with gruff Colonel Jack O'Neil (Kurt Russell) and a
small band of grunts, Jackson passes through the Stargate, arriving on a
strange planet ruled by the merciless god, Ra (Jaye Davidson). Endearing
himself to the local slaves, Jackson seeks to comprehend this intriguing new
land, finding a native (Mili Avital) willing to assist his efforts. However,
O'Neil has his orders, ready to blow the planet to pieces once the Stargate
is reopened to prevent Ra's wrath from reaching Earth.
Stewed in the juices of classic 1980s sci-fi thrill rides
and, to a certain homemade extent, Lawrence of Arabia, Stargate
is such a completely oddball film at first glance. Here, James Spader is
hired to be one of the heroes, gender-bending Jaye Davidson is the epitome
of evil, and the spastic blend of lasers and pyramids takes some time to
adjust to. I prefer to see the material as a unique thumbprint for Emmerich
and his partner-in-crime, producer/writer Dean Devlin. Made just before the
massively successful Independence Day started to bend their antennae,
Stargate runs on a full tank of gallant enthusiasm, showcasing two
hungry Hollywood dreamers allowed to make an epic with a semi-epic budget.
Emmerich and Devlin weren't going to blow this rare opportunity. The flop
sweat courses through the film's veins.
Stargate, with its contrast between classic
Egyptian iconography and Star Wars high adventure, is quite an ingenious bit
of hokum. Cleverly written as a thick-skulled summer movie, the film is
fully aware of itself, looking to gift the viewer a rollicking experience of
explosions, extreme alien encounters, and sun-caked melodrama, using the
polar opposite cinematic postures of Spader (stealing the film with his
nerdy idiosyncrasy) and Russell to wonderful effect. It's a story of heroes
and villains, with Emmerich using the alien landscape superbly, not only
through stunning cinematography, but also to develop an enticing haze of
mystery around Ra, who deploys vibrating energy bursts to torture his
enemies, controlling the land through illiteracy and an army of boomstick-wielding
warriors. The Crayola-outlined characters help the filmmakers attain
cart-wheeling Saturday-matinee standards, where Stargate is most
comfortable and effective.
However, as colorfully illustrated a world as it is,
Emmerich and Devlin don't milk the possibilities with an expected
forcefulness. Once secure in alien territory, it's not all gun fights and
scripted sass. The filmmakers pull back some to incorporate the community of
slaves, giving Jackson a love interest and O'Neil a payoff to his domestic
misery. Scenes of bonding and community acceptance slow the film down some,
keeping matters from the blazing fun of the desert or inside Ra's perilous
pyramids. The subplots have a purpose, just not a tempo.
DISC: This BD also includes the Extended Cut of the film, which runs
nine minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut. Introducing Ra and the remnants
of his power early on in the picture (along with little scraps of additional
material scattered throughout the film), the Extended Cut just doesn't hold
the same sense of mystery. However, it's nice to have both versions for easy
The VC-1 encoded image (2.40:1 aspect ratio) on the
Stargate BD is actually quite impressive. This is the best the film has
ever looked on a home entertainment format, recreating the theatrical
experience through the preservation of the film's luxurious cinematography -
a task previous image transfers found quite troubling. The film's sheen of
smoke and sun is maintained without much in the way of EE issues, permitting
penetrating colors and superb black levels, contributing to a darker, fuller
image. Detail is consistent, great with interior matters of life and death.
Skin tones look proper as well. Stargate was a never a clear, pop
worthy picture to begin with, and this BD preserves the special saturated
look of the film. It's a bold and welcome step up from earlier visual
The 7.1 DTS-HD sound mix is pretty extraordinary here,
with a deep bass boom prevalent from the opening credits, continuing on
throughout the feature presentation. Dialogue is easy to discern against the
intense sci-fi backdrop, but the rest of the mix is wonderfully active, with
surround activity top notch during outdoor and battle sequences. David
Arnold's brilliant score (seriously, one of the best of the 1990s) is handed
extraordinary life here, crisply and confidently joining the rest of the
elements when need be, or overpowering the experience when called upon.
Rich, deep, rumbly, and soaring, the mix elevates the viewing experience,
blasting through with dynamic range and power. A French 2.0 track is also
English SDH, English, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
A feature-length audio commentary with Roland Emmerich and
Dean Devlin is ported over from previous Stargate releases and provides a
splendid mix of hard facts and amusing mischief. Two charming guys who
clearly love their film, the pair submits an informational chat over the
Extended Cut only, providing insight for the new additions while basking in
the legacy of their first major moneymaker. It's well worth the time for
those who haven't already enjoyed it.
Stargate: History Made (22:30) collects three featurettes under one roof.
Spotlighting new interviews with select cast (sadly, no Spader or Russell)
and crew, the mini-documentary explores the creation of the film, from
concept to shooting, singling out the efforts of the special effects crew
and the Egyptology experts. The event ends with a discussion of franchise
fandom, which exploded with the arrival of the television spin-off.
Is There a Stargate? (12:11) attempts to merge historical
facts with sci-fi speculation. A bit of a reach, but an interesting
discussion regardless. Passionate interviews with experts help to sell the
The Making of Stargate (23:33) is a straightforward BTS
featurette, again tracing the film's path to the big screen. Produced for
earlier Stargate DVDs, the information here is repeated throughout
the BD experience.
Gag Reel (3:15) isn't so much flubs and giggles, but an
elaborately produced single-take summation of life on the hectic set of the
film. It's odd, and not really gag reel worthy, but still appealing.
Master of the Stargate is an interactive trivia game,
offered during the film. Up to four players can give this challenge a shot,
though the time between questions is maddening.
Picture-in-Picture Stargate Ultimate Knowledge is a trivia
track that runs during the movie, providing everything that needs to be
known about the film.
A terrific theatrical trailer is included.
WORTH IT? Matters pick up considerably for the
grand finale, where Jackson and O'Neil hope to outwit Ra and keep Earth safe
from a possible second visit. It's a wild capper on a dynamite sci-fi
odyssey. Back in 1994, Stargate was a huge question mark, leaving it
a rare opportunity to impress without suffocating expectation. The film has
matured wonderfully, sustaining as a curious genre exercise in blockbuster
yearn marked by surprising buoyancy, madly entertaining performances, and a
fertile cinematic imagination behind the camera not yet corrupted by massive
box office success.
- Brian Orndorf