Stargate (1994) / Sci Fi-Action

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Running time: 121 min.

Cast: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Mili Avital, Alexis Cruz, John Diehl
Director: Roland Emmerich
Screenplay: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich

Review published March 18, 1999

During a burial dig early in the 20th century, a stargate is found but the technology didn't exist to understand the complicated mechanism. Fast forward to the 1990s, and experiments have begun again, this time enlisting the services of Dr. Daniel Jackson (Spader, Wolf), a professor of Ancient Egypt who believes that man could not possible have been responsible for the civilization which existed over 5000 years ago. The stargate is operated which is a gateway to another world on the other end of the galaxy. Jackson and a troop of soldiers are sent there to investigate and find a civilization similar to that found in Ancient Egypt.

A highly intriguing but incredibly flawed action/adventure film that bases its story on the notion that Ancient Egypt was created by an alien named Ra, who took over the body of a young boy and developed the culture of that region. The film's strengths stem from the fascinating ideas of the story, a gorgeous score by David Arnold (Independence Day, Tomorrow Never Dies), sumptuous cinematography courtesy of Karl Walter Lindenlaub (The Jackal, The Haunting), and sensational art design and special effects.

All of these efforts are nearly undone by comic book-style writing, with hokey one-dimensional characters and cliché after cliché in the plot. Russell (Tombstone, Big Trouble in Little China) is terrific in a subtle performance as the Colonel, but Spader is terrible playing the world's dumbest professor.

How much you enjoy this film will depend on how forgiving you are in overlooking the shallow characters and nonsensical motivations in the plot. Both brilliant and dumb, both impressive and disappointing, credit screenwriters Emmerich (Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow) and Devlin for having wonderful ideas despite the lack of talent to follow through with the execution. Time to hire a real screenwriter, guys.

Qwipster's rating:

©1999 Vince Leo