On Stargate

I cannot possibly talk about the TV series, Stargate SG-1, without talking about the film that helped spawn the series. I don’t like the film as much as the series, but it isn’t a horrible film, either. According to Roger Ebert:

“Stargate” is the kind of movie where a soldier can be transported to “the other side of the known universe” in a whirlpool of bizarre special effects, step into a temple on an alien planet, and say, “What a rush!” It is also the kind of movie where the sun god Ra, who has harnessed the ability to traverse the universe at the speed of light, still needs slaves to build his pyramids. And where the local equivalent of a Nubian princess is sent into the chamber of the Earth visitors, to pleasure them. Don’t tell me there aren’t any coincidences. The movie “Ed Wood,” about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for “Stargate.” The movie opens with the title “Egypt, 1928.” (Other titles say “Present Day” and “Military Installation, Creek Mountain, Colorado” – the latter, of course, with rum-dummy-dum military music.) Scientists uncover a mysterious archeological find. Flash forward to the Present Day, where Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader), looking uncannily like John Lennon, explains his theories to experts who walk out after about two sentences.

Jackson, who is considered a crackpot, is obviously the man the U.S. government would choose to translate the hieroglyphics on the secret find of that 1928 expedition – a giant circle of carved stone which is a stargate, left behind by the builders of the pyramids. And, of course, Jackson and Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) are the guys to walk through the gate, leading a squad of soldiers with automatic weapons.

The journey through time and space is done with the technique, but not the style, of a similar journey in “2001.” On the other side, the Earth visitors find a desert planet ruled by the god Ra, who is played by Jaye Davidson, previously known for embodying the secret of “The Crying Game.” Here, dressed like a cross between a pharaoh and a Vegas showgirl, he rules a curious society in which spaceships use pyramids as landing pads, but the citizens live like desert nomads from “Lawrence of Arabia.” His voice is distorted by a synthesizer so that it drops several octaves and sounds like an elevator recording with a cold.

Let’s say a stargate was discovered, allowing instantaneous travel across the universe and opening onto a planet that could be inhabited by humans. What would the appropriate response be? Awe? Ambition? Curiosity? Not at all. Col. O’Neil’s orders: “Track down signs of any possible danger. If I find any, blow up the stargate.” The movie is so lacking in any sense of wonder that it hurtles us from one end of the universe to the other, only to end in a gunfight between the good guys and the bad guys while the colonel’s bomb ticks down. (Like all movie bombs, it comes equipped with a bright red digital readout device that displays the countdown while beeping.) “Stargate” is like a film school exercise. Assignment: Conceive of the weirdest plot you can think of, and reduce it as quickly as possible to action movie cliches. If possible, include sun god Ra, and make sure something gets blowed up real good.






Originally, the film was intended to be an independent, as according to the moviefone article, “Why They’re Remaking ‘Stargate’ Instead of Making Sequels“:

“We did the original ‘Stargate’ as an independent movie. It was a surprise success,” he said.

“When the film came out, it was a hit and spawned TV shows. Of all the projects I’ve ever done, ‘Stargate’ is the only one from the beginning intended to be a trilogy. We always wanted to do parts two and three, but the thinking was they didn’t want to do anything other than the TV series.”

The new film Stargate trilogy, has been green-lit, according to the CinemaBlend article, “New Stargate Trilogy Moving Forward With Roland Emmerich Attached To Direct“:

Blockbuster director Roland Emmerich first floated the idea of launching a new Stargate trilogy all the way back in September of last year, but it is only now that it appears the project is actually moving forward. News has arrived that Warner Bros. and MGM have struck a deal that will see the relaunch of the sci-fi franchise.

The news of his deal comes to us via The Hollywood Reporter which adds that Roland Emmerich is attached to direct, though they don’t mention if he will be helming all three movies or just the first one. Dean Devlin, who who has been working with Emmerich as a producer since the first Stargate in the mid-90s, is on-board as well. The trade report doesn’t mention who is taking care of the script, or what the new movie will actually be about.

So how is Emmerich planning on approaching this new version of Stargate? Is it a sequel? Is it a reboot? According to the director himself, it’s a bit of a mix of both. Talking about his pitch last year, Emmerich described the project as a sequel that is also a reboot that will unfold in three parts. Obviously that doesn’t give us much to go on, but it sounds like we don’t have to worry about recasting characters from the original.

The original Stargate, which came out in 1994, told the story of a group of scientists who discovered an interstellar transportation device in Egypt. The movie starred Kurt Russell and James Spader and was a huge hit, making $196 million worldwide. While a feature never produced any theatrical sequels, it did lead to the creation of multiple television shows – both live-action and animated – as well as a video game. The most recent show, Stargate Universe, began in 2009 but it was cancelled after its second season in 2011.

When the Stargate reboot is actually going to get going is a question without an answer at this point. Roland Emmerich is currently working on the historical drama Stonewall, and he is also getting set to bring back the Independence Day franchise. So while we know more Stargate is coming, it’s probably not happening any time soon.



6 thoughts on “On Stargate

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