Wednesday 25 October 2023

Movie Review: Stargate (1994)

Genre: Science Fiction Adventure
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors
Running Time: 121 minutes

Synopsis: In 1928, a mysterious gate is discovered at an Egyptian archeological site. In the present, archeologist and linguist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is summoned by Dr. Catherine Langford (Viveca Lindfors) to a secret research facility where he deciphers the gate's ancient activation symbols. Daniel is joined by Colonel Jack O'Neil (Kurt Russell) and a group of marines as they pass through the gate and travel through space. They emerge at a distant desert planet where an ancient civilization is enslaved by the ruthless Ra (Jaye Davidson).

What Works Well: The opening act conveys a sense of mystery and exploration, and the two main characters carry initial promise: Spader's misunderstood scientist is a frumpled mess, while Russell's military man is grieving the accidental death of his child. The visuals are pristine, and David Arnold's music adds suitable flourish.

What Does Not Work As Well: Neither the science nor the fiction work well. The objectives of the traverse-the-gate mission are barely explained, and once the group arrives at the dusty planet, the narrative defaults to a trite save-the-locals-with-assault-rifles theme. A romance is slapped on and of course the Colonel finds a reason to live. Dr. Langford checks out entirely, while the evil Ra, having conquered space, time, and entire planets, somehow has trouble disposing of a small and lightly-armed group.  

Conclusion: An intriguing premise is lost in the desert of simplistic exposition.

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