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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Stargate

Starring: Kurt Russell, James Spader
Director: Roland Emmerich
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: October 1994
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avital, Leon Rippy, John Diehl, Erick Avari, Carlos Lauchu

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Pedro Sena read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

According to many critics and movie aficionados, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich are the worst thing that happened to science fiction cinema in 1990s. This widespread animosity towards Devlin-Emmerich duo can be partially explained with the quality of their work in the past decade. However, the real reason for such animosity lies less in the quality of their movies and more in the massive hype that preceded them and ensured huge disappointments among their future audience. Taken by their own merit and without hype, those films can be seen not only as passable, but also sometimes a very good entertainment. One of such examples is STARGATE, 1994 science fiction spectacle by Roland Emmerich, often heralded "the best science fiction film since STAR WARS".

The plot of this film begins in Egypt 1928 when the group of Norwegian archaeologists digs out huge stone artefact with strange, indecipherable hieroglyphs. Many decades later, the artefact is in possession of US Air Force. Dr. Daniel Jackson (played by James Spader), young and unconventional Egyptologist, is called to decipher those hieroglyphs. To the utter surprise of everybody, he manages to decipher those symbols and finds that the artefact represents Stargate - trandimensional portal that leads to distant planet millions of light years away. US Air Force quickly assembles expedition led by Colonel Jonathan "Jack" O'Neill (played by Kurt Russell). This expedition enters Stargate and finds itself on the desert world, populated by primitive people that resemble ancient Egyptians and are ruled by god- likes aliens led by evil Ra (played by Jaye Davidson).

All those who succumbed to hype in 1994 and expected another masterpiece like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY have all the reasons to feel disappointed. STARGATE could hardly be seen as an example of creative geniuses at work. Director Emmerich and Dean Devlin (who co-wrote the script) had wonderful idea, as well as huge budget and numerous talents at their disposal. Despite all of that the best they could do was space opera filled with every possible cliche (including alien world modelled on Earth's deserts, something which is more expected in SF films with much lower budget) and numerous plot holes. However, all those flaws can be forgiven for one reason - unlike almost all the other SF films in 1990s, STARGATE can induce the sense of wonder among the audience. First part of the film manages to arouse viewers' curiosity with the promises of strange new worlds on the Other Side. Unlike most of the other science fiction films that use genre only as an excuse to make standard horrors, dramas or action films, STARGATE returns to the roots of science fiction - pure adventure and tales of wondrous lost cities, civilisations and continents. Resurrection of this more innocent, almost infantile yet purer approach to the science fiction is probably the most important legacy of STARGATE.

Lack of Devlin's and Emmerich's script-writing talents was fortunately compensated with the talents among cast and crew. James Spader is great as Lennon-like scientist, while Russell makes represents great contrast to him as no-nonsense military professional. Jaye Davidson, on the other hand, wasn't very convincing as evil alien, although he tried very hard to avoid typecasting after his memorable CRYING GAME role. Production design, costumes and special effects are superb and they all make the alien world very convincing. Musical soundtrack by David Arnold is very good and it features one of the rare 1990s film themes that managed to stick in popular memory.

Finally, STARGATE had flaws yet it managed to overcome them by being reincarnated in another medium. Being the basis for awarded television series is just another reason why this film shouldn't have the same reputation as its unjustifiably criticised creators.

Copyright 2000 Dragan Antulov

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