Stargate (1994): A rewatch review

StargateOriginalMovieCoverI distinctly remember watching this movie (nearly 20 years ago!) and loving it. I had a crush on James Spader, thought Kurt Russell was totally kickarse and the whole Egyptology/gods/aliens plot was exactly the sort of thing I loved (and still do).

In the past year, I’ve mainlined all 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1 and all 5 seasons of Stargate: Atlantis. The mythology that was created for the series, that of the Goa’uld alien race, the Asgard and the Atlantian ancients, as well as the stargate itself, is something I know quite well. So when I sat down to rewatch the original film, it was with some trepidation.

I am pleased to say that it stands up well against my memory.

The movie opens on a dig in Egypt in the 1940s, where an Egyptologist finds something buried in the sands – a giant ring surrounded by hieroglyphs. Years later his daughter Catherine offers the academically ridiculed Dr Daniel Jackson (James Spader) the chance to translate the stones found with the gate. He is able to do so and over the next few weeks works out they relate to star constellations. Colonel Jack O’Neill (Kurt Russell) is tasked with leading a team through the stargate, taking Jackson with him in order to “dial” back home. Once through the gate, Jackson realises they have no coordinate for “home” and can’t return. On the planet, they find a race of human slaves to Ra, an alien creature posing as an Egyptian god in order to enslave the population.

Trouble, of course, ensues. There is the difficulty in communicating with the people of Abydos. There is conflict between science and military. And there is the main problem of dealing with aliens and their technology.

I was pleased to see that much of what was in the series stemmed from the movie. O’Neill’s grief over his son’s accidental death. Jackson’s relationship with Catherine. The effects when they travel through the stargate (including the sounds). Michael Shanks did such an excellent job of being Daniel Jackson, it was a little eerie seeing how much he took from Spader’s characterisation. There are a few differences. Sha’re has a different name (Sha’uri), the mythology is a bit different, and the Goa’uld aren’t mentioned, but that hardly detracts from the film.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the Stargate franchise, I would highly recommend watching the original film. For me, Stargate is well-paced, entertaining and a definite sci fi classic.

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