The writing/directing/producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich have
drawn a lot of flack in certain circles, mostly for "what they did to
Godzilla" (which is really nothing compared to what Toho continues to do to
Godzilla, but that's a whole other ball game). Thanks to that bit of flack,
sci-fi fans seem to have rejected their works entirely, which is a damn
shame when you consider this movie, one of "D&E's" earliest works.
If you have Showtime, you know the basics of Stargate . But just in case you
don't... read the Synopsis.
(note: parts of this review were snipped, as they are repeated from the synopsis)
Emerging from the gate, the team finds a planet with three moons, endless
deserts and (surprise) an exact replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza. After
much walking, the team also discovers a race of human slaves speaking a
language Jackson can't even being to make sense of.
After all this, who's surprised when a god or two shows up? I'm certainly
not. So when a titanic pyramid-shaped vessel lands in the desert, bringing
with it the true builders of the Stargate , I can only smile. You see,
according to this movie, the Egyptian belief system(s), and ancient Egyptian
culture in general, is a result of the Egyptian enslavement by a
technologically advanced alien intelligence. The intelligence possessed a
human body (Jaye Davidson's body, to be exact) and appointed itself ruler of
all Egypt, using the Stargate as a quick slave labor transportation system.
The people, being smart, bowed before this alien, worshiping him as Ra, the
Not a bad idea as sci-fi pictures go. As Captain Kirk once pointed out,
anyone can look like a god, as long as you show off your cool gadgets to a
primitive people. And while Stargate isn't very archeologically sound (if
aliens had come to Earth in Egypt's infancy I fully believe they'd still be
here) it'll at least give you a fun ride for two hours.
For one thing, there are all the pretty pictures to stare at. With high
production values and great cinematography (thank you Karl Walter
Lindenlaub) the makers of Stargate were able to create a sweeping,
epic-sized desert planet, something that hasn't been done right since Dune
(and wasn't done right even then, really). From the squalor of the slave's
city to the high grandeur of Ra's bedroom, everything is intricate and well
made. Add to that Emmerich's camera taking broad, sweeping shots of all this
and you've got a damn pretty movie.
Emmerich knows how to direct an action scene, and there's plenty of those to
be had. But Stargate isn't the "bang bang, shoot shoot" level of
Independence Day. ID4 was a modern Earth vs. The Flying Saucers . Stargate
has no direct cinematic ancestor and, as such, is probably the most original
movie to come out of the Centropolis studios.
It's certainly one of the best acted. Here, James Spader showing here why
he's the most underrated star in Hollywood today. His Dr. Jackson could have been
odious comic relief in any other hands, but in his Jackson comes across as
surprisingly...human. He's a college professor for Christ's sake. He has no idea
what to make of the situation he's fallen into. So he goes through most of the
movie with a wide-eyed wonder that I'm sure I'd feel myself. Until the God's
show up. Then he looks pretty afraid. I would be, too.
Kurt Russell, on the other hand, brings in a subdued, brooding performance.
Colonel O'Neil has suffered a major loss in his recent past and it hasn't
helped his self-esteem that much. While this element of his character
could've been hyped to infinity, Stargate plays it low down, letting it hang
in the background. It's a good approach. I was beginning to think subtle
character traits had gone the way of the pyramid.
And then there were the villains, including Jaye Davidson of The Crying Game .
While Ra isn't the heftiest in terms of character, he does have some
cool toys to play with. Davidson walks through the movie with his nose in
the sky, as befits a Sun God. Having the alien-Ra take a human form could be taken
as a trick to curtail the FX budget, but Davidson makes things
enjoyable. And glowing eyes can improve any performance in my book.
I only wish that a few more Gods had dropped by. After seeing Horus, Anubis
and Ra (actually, the headdress he wears is usually associated with Amon,
but then, in some Egyptian cosmologies, Amon and Ra are the same god, hence: Amon Ra)
I would've loved to see Khepri, Set and Petesuchos show up.
It's not accurate, it's not very deep, but (like all of the movies
Centropolis Entertainment makes) it is a fun time if you don't expect Oscar
caliber stuff. Action filled and slickly polished, Stargate has no illusions
about what it is: a cool, light sci-fi movie. If you want history, watch PBS.
If you want Egyptian religion, read a book. Or, heck, you can join one. But if you want
sci-fi for the sake of sci-fi, watch this movie.