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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.93%
Worth A Look31.19%
Average: 24.77%
Pretty Bad: 8.26%
Total Crap: 23.85%

5 reviews, 79 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"The movie that launched a horde of boring TV shows"
4 stars

Today, when one thinks of director Roland Emmerich, images of flaming cities, hysterical acting, ubiquitous marketing, and paper-thin plots spring immediately to mind. Back in 1994, Emmerich was only in the process of building his name, creating movies such as “Moon 44” and “Universal Soldier” -- minor league genre scrappers that showed more technical prowess and entertainment value than anyone was expecting. Then came “Stargate,” a film financed outside of the Hollywood system and saddled with ill-fitting blockbuster aspirations for a feature with very little pre-release buzz or sellable premise. Ending up a sleeper hit of the autumn season, “Stargate” overcame the odds because, well, it’s a delightful, exciting, distinct adventure film crafted by Emmerich with what would be his very last of welcome tentative touches.

Daniel Jackson (James Spader), a gauche Egyptologist, has been summoned to a secret military base for reasons not immediatley made clear. Casually deciphering hieroglyphic codes top minds have been unable to crack, Jackson is allowed access to the Stargate, a massive circular structure able to access vast reaches of the galaxy via wormholes, if dialed correctly. Teamed up with gruff Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) and a small band of grunts, Jackson passes through the Stargate, arriving on a strange planet ruled by the merciless god, Ra (Jaye Davidson). Endearing himself to the local slaves, Jackson seeks to comprehend this intriguing new land, finding a native (Mili Avital) willing to assist his efforts. However, O’Neil has his orders, ready to blow the planet to pieces once the Stargate is reopened to prevent Ra’s wrath from reaching Earth.

Stewed in the juices of classic ‘80’s sci-fi thrill rides and, to a certain homemade extent, “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Stargate” is such a completely oddball film at first glance. Here, James Spader is hired to be one of the heroes, gender-bending Jaye Davidson is the epitome of evil, and the spastic blend of lasers and pyramids takes some time to adjust to. I prefer to see the material as a unique thumbprint for Emmerich and his partner-in-crime, producer/writer Dean Devlin. Made just before the massively successful “Independence Day” started to bend their antennae, “Stargate” runs on a full tank of gallant enthusiasm, showcasing two hungry Hollywood dreamers allowed to make an epic with a semi-epic budget. Emmerich and Devil weren’t going to blow this rare opportunity. The flop sweat courses through the film’s veins.

“Stargate,” with its contrast between classic Egyptian iconography and “Star Wars” high adventure, is quite an ingenious bit of hokum. Cleverly written as a thick-skulled summer movie, the film is fully aware of itself, looking to gift the viewer a rollicking experience of explosions, extreme alien encounters, and sun-caked melodrama, using the polar opposite cinematic postures of Spader (stealing the film with his nerdy idiosyncrasy) and Russell to wonderful effect. It’s a story of heroes and villains, with Emmerich using the alien landscape superbly, not only through stunning cinematography, but also to develop an enticing haze of mystery around Ra, who deploys vibrating energy bursts to torture his enemies, controlling the land through illiteracy and an army of boomstick-wielding warriors. The Crayola-outlined characters help the filmmakers attain cartwheeling Saturday-matinee standards, where “Stargate” is most comfortable and effective.

However, as colorfully illustrated a world as it is, Emmerich and Devlin don’t milk the possibilities with an expected forcefulness. Once secure in alien territory, it’s not all gun fights and scripted sass. The filmmakers pull back some to incorporate the community of slaves, giving Jackson a love interest and O’Neil a payoff to his domestic misery. Scenes of bonding and community acceptance slow the film down some, keeping matters from the blazing fun of the desert or inside Ra’s perilous pyramids. The subplots have a purpose, just not a tempo.

Matters pick up considerably for the grand finale, where Jackson and O’Neil hope to outwit Ra and keep Earth safe from a possible second visit. It’s a wild capper on a dynamite sci-fi odyssey. Back in 1994, “Stargate” was a huge question mark, leaving it a rare opportunity to impress without suffocating expectation. The film has matured wonderfully, sustaining as a curious genre exercise in blockbuster yearn marked by surprising buoyancy, madly entertaining performances, and a fertile cinematic imagination behind the camera not yet corrupted by massive box office success.

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originally posted: 11/07/09 01:13:21
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User Comments

6/28/20 morris campbell good special effects but boring as hell 1 stars
2/06/14 Charles Tatum Just as cheesy as most of Emmerich's films 2 stars
7/29/10 Soni Much, much better than reviews say it is. 5 stars
5/29/09 xx- A nerd and some military fuck go to blow up some transsexual fag. WTF! 1 stars
5/07/09 true AWESOME! Little wonder it inspired a series. 5 stars
12/17/08 Man Out 6 Bucks Christofascism and gladiatorial sparring ruled by dull bureaucrats: A Caligula sequel 1 stars
4/27/08 Totir Alexandru Thanks to this movie I became a real Stargate fan. And I'm glad for this. 5 stars
1/01/08 Virgil Awful review, Scott, were you even paying attention? "Alien dog guys"? 3 stars
7/08/07 al smith solid sci fi.ryan arthur what a bell end 4 stars
4/17/07 Stevo The good: I laughed a lot. The bad: this isn't a comedy. stay the fuck away. 1 stars
3/22/07 45326 "bald weird guy"? ... this review is worth pennies. 4 stars
7/30/06 Ronin The colors provide nice atmosphere. Anyway not bad. 3 stars
5/31/06 Bryan McAllister love this movie..the series is even better 5 stars
3/10/06 Dk Its pretty good actually 4 stars
1/06/06 JM Synth So much wasted potential! The dull movie that spawned the neverending TV series 2 stars
8/13/05 ES Kurt Russell saves another almost terrible movie 3 stars
6/07/05 JD great idea but, movie a bit dissapointing, still worth seein once at least. 3 stars
5/15/05 Indrid Cold Feels exactly like a solid Sci-Fi channel movie. 3 stars
2/22/05 Captain Craig Good Sci-Fi for its time. 4 stars
2/03/05 Nick The show is better but the movie has better Jaffa in it. 4 stars
11/10/04 Westwood Incredible....Incredible... 5 stars
7/24/04 Valerie The movie is ok, but the TV series based on the movie, Stargate SG-1, is SUPERB! 3 stars
6/21/04 Rock Hound Ra! Ra! Ra! for the ancient Egyptians and their magical doughnuts! Exciting is not the word 2 stars
6/16/04 franknutz great movie see the directors cut and tv show 5 stars
6/05/04 alien assassin It may be silly, but it's nowhere near as bad as "Battlefield Earth" or "Waterworld" !!! 4 stars
4/27/04 Travis One of the best Sci-fi movies ever. Great plot, who else could have built the pyramids? 5 stars
1/19/04 jmsynth Don't know why I hate Stargate so much but I do. SG1 is even worse! 1 stars
12/06/03 john very boring sci fi movie - 1 stars
11/27/03 John if I can't sleep at night I put in this film and I'm snoring under the covers in 10 seconds 1 stars
8/05/03 I Would You don't feel any empathy for the lead characters, in fact I was rooting for Ra. 3 stars
7/25/03 Spunky001 An overall good sci fi movie for a family with young children 4 stars
7/01/03 francis So the millions years old alien is a petty, vindictive, spoilt brat! Right! 2 stars
4/23/03 R.W. Welch Nice premise but they didn't know what to do with it. 2 stars
3/12/03 The carpen excellent 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Good start, familiar follow-through with guns a'blazin! Spader is only real asset. 2 stars
12/30/02 JCC Starts well - the idea is excellent, but Ra seems unconvincing. SG1 adds 2 extra dimensions 4 stars
12/18/02 snowconehead not quite a good movie, but a great idea 4 stars
7/29/02 O Justo A great idea wrongly put together. 3 stars
7/23/02 snowconehead it was a good idea at the time 4 stars
7/12/02 KMG BORING. Jaye Davidson sucks ass....literally 1 stars
6/16/02 Patrick Riley Stargate is all style and no substance 2 stars
2/20/02 Xaver It's fun. Interesting premise. Good character development. 4 stars
1/23/02 Doug Very good. 4 stars
1/10/02 Andrew Carden Nothing At All, Excpet For A Boring and Tasteless Sci-Fi Flick. 1 stars
12/30/01 Cracked head A big yawn of sci-fi crap. Not the worst crap ever, but close enough. 1 stars
12/02/01 Tim Bennetts I dont think Kurt Russell enjoyed himself! 3 stars
9/18/01 Margo Davidson It very good, but absurd. Jaye-Ra-best! 4 stars
8/11/01 IP_Freely this movie sucks,,,nuff said 1 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk I enjoyed it. Kurt Russell is cool and James Spader finally surfaces in Hollywood again! 4 stars
8/06/01 badfish Awesome. 5 stars
8/02/01 TLsmooth I wish Stargate was real and eliminate Spader and Russell for the sake of mankind. 1 stars
7/30/01 Bob jones Fun, different, okay 4 stars
7/28/01 Steve Don't buy it, rent it. Worth watching, had some good ideas, didn't carry them out well. 3 stars
7/09/01 Caligula Danielle Ophelia good fucking direction my ass, this movie blows 1 stars
6/03/01 Thrillhouse TV series was better 3 stars
5/13/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Good direction, decent acting...STUPEFYINGLY boring... 3 stars
5/08/01 Gracy Lionheart Worth seeing once. Gets old quickly though. 3 stars
4/28/01 R.W. Welch Rambling sci-fi fantasy that feels like they're making it up as they go. 2 stars
4/25/01 Scott G. Very good science fiction movie. Definately worth seeing 5 stars
4/19/01 Taja The movie sucks, but Jaye Davidson rules! 1 stars
4/08/01 Jes 2 hour twilight zone... 2 stars
3/25/01 Monster W. Kung 7 years ago everybody was talking about this movie. One year later 2 people... IT SUCKS! 1 stars
2/01/01 jordan not horrible but definitely not good. just plain boring. 3 stars
12/28/00 Viking this was never intended to be a great film 4 stars
12/04/00 Cristopher Revilla i loved the scientific part, in overall the movie was good, if you're in the right mood 4 stars
3/13/00 Paradox Great movie, as long as you just watch and don't think about it too much. 4 stars
3/11/00 JonnyAngel egyptian aliens are neato 4 stars
3/11/00 bullit17 So maybe it WAS the Egypt buff in me. I still liked this movie. 4 stars
1/10/00 Will oh come on that was fun! 5 stars
1/08/00 Doug Paulsen awesome 5 stars
10/25/99 Lame-Oh Kurt Russell! What have you done! 1 stars
6/11/99 JDC Pretty typical of Devlin/Emmerich: copy other movies but make everything crappier 1 stars
5/27/99 GothamDK Good plot. Could have been so much better. Makes a decent cable series, though. 3 stars
1/29/99 Angus It's a good looking movie with alot of potential but it just falls short 4 stars
12/04/98 Shadow Raider TV series is better. That shocks you? Screw this crappy movie! 1 stars
11/14/98 Rageboy Loved this movie! But it ain't for all. Much better in context of the books. 5 stars
9/02/98 J-Guy watched it in highschool and got kicked out of class for sleeping. fuck this movie. 1 stars
8/30/98 Johny Emmerich and Devlin's first movie sucks. That surprises you? 1 stars
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  28-Oct-1994 (PG-13)

  06-Jan-1995 (PG)

  16-Feb-1995 (PG)

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