In order to discuss the many seasons of Stargate SG-1 as we will starting next month, it seemed appropriate to discuss the movie that gave birth to it, the 1994 hit movie, Stargate!
The plot: Doctor Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is brought in by a fellow archeologist peer to a secret military project to help solve some riddles involving ancient Egyptian scriptures. There he discovers a bigger secret: the hieroglyphs are part of a giant ring found in the desert decades ago, and may be a gateway to another galaxy. Enter morose colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), who leads an expeditionary team with Jackson through the gate, and find their way back to be wrought with complications. The big one is the aliens on the desert planet the gate drops them in that they have to save from another alien race (and responsible for all those pyramids we have as we find out), led by Ra (Jaye Davidson). And oh yeah, Dr. Jackson isn’t sure how to dial the gate back to Earth, so…they got problems.
I’m sure that Stargate has managed to be a modest success on its release and go on to an almost cult-like status afterwards was a bit of a surprise to director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin. Up to this point, the duo had worked on Universal Soldier (a decent success), and thanks to the success of Stargate, were able to go on to do their next movie, the mega-blockbuster Independence Day. Even though both creators weren’t involved with what would become several TV shows afterwards (although they are rumored to be involved in some Stargate-related project still in development), Stargate is still the origin point for what would come after. And as a movie itself, its one of the leaner, more entertaining romps the duo has been involved with.
It helps to have some solid performances from Russell and Spader anchoring the whole affair. And even as some of the more advanced CG effects haven’t held up (maybe I’m just a sucker for some effective model work), there’s clean straightforward characterization and some fun moments that make the movie a good watch. It ends with the tease of another trip through the Gate, but as mentioned earlier, I doubt it was the trip Devlin and Emmerich had in mind.
–So I watched both the original and extended cut of this movie, and really, the differences are more removing sections of longer scenes for a leaner running time. There is a longer version of the flashback explaining Ra’s first arrival on Earth that opens the movie, then a added piece about one of Ra’s people found at the Stargate excavation site.
–We do have to briefly discuss that this is one of those movies even people acting in it maybe didn’t want to do at first. Spader does a really good job here, but even he admits being in this movie was because of the paycheck. And Jaye Davidson tried to avoid the job by asking for an insane fee by his estimation, only to actually get it (and noteworthy because this and The Crying Game are the only movies he actually did).
–So yeah, you weren’t hallucinating when seeing Ra’s Horus-headed henchman: its none other than Djimon Hounsou (listed as “Djimon” here), long before getting attention for stuff like Amistad and recently Guardians of the Galaxy.
–So yeah, the barely clothed kids hanging around Ra were intentionally meant to be creepy, according to the commentary with Emmerich and Devlin.
–An example of how editing changes things: to help make Ra and his own more sinister, their voices were altered in post-production and the glowing eyes for Ra as well.
–Even when I first saw it until I saw it for this write-up, I still said, “Really? There just going to re-use that explosion that opens Star Trek VI for that climatic ship explosion, huh?”
–Fun addition I wished carried over from the extended cut to the original: O’Neil responding to Jackson’s claim he can decipher the gate is a far more terse: “He’s full of shit” than the theatrical version.
–Odd IMDb trivia: Devlin helped create a website to promote the movie, which was one of the first websites made exclusively for a movie. I remember when “movie websites” were a thing, just to remind myself how little that kind of thing exists now.
–This was composer David Arnold’s first big movie score, but not his last, working on Independence Day and the James Bond movies up to Quantum of Solace.
–“I suppose you don’t know what a ‘dweeb’ is where you’re from, do you?”
–“Say hello to King Tut, asshole!”
NEXT TIME: We really get the Stargate SG-1 minicaps going proper as Colonel O’Neil reunites with Dr. Jackson and meets new allies as Ra returns in the premiere episode “Children of The Gods”, and the new team deals with a Goa’uld possessing one of their own in “The Enemy Within”.