Blu-Ray Review: Stargate: 15th Anniversary Edition

In preparing for this review, I spoke with a lot of people regarding the Stargate brand.  I was disheartened to discover that almost everybody seemed to associate Stargate with the multiple television spinoffs, and not the epic film that started the entire franchise.  At least everyone can rediscover the original with this fantastic Blu-Ray, recently released by Studio Canal and Lionsgate in recognition of the movie’s fifteenth anniversary.

Described by director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) as “Lawrence of Arabia on another planet,” Stargate was epic, blockbuster filmmaking.  I remember going to the theater opening weekend and being blown away at the sheer scope of what I was seeing.  Emmerich and his writing partner Dean Devlin presented a situation where wormholes leading to the “other side of the known galaxy” tied into Egyptian culture, including the mystery of the pyramids.  Being a science-fiction fan who was semi-obsessed with all things Egyptian, I was thrilled with the ideas being presented.

The action was intense, the sets and special effects were huge and mind-blowing (for the time), the story was compelling, and the characters were memorable. This was what going to the movies was all about.  Going back and watching the film again, it completely holds up.  I remembered a lot of the set pieces and action sequences, but I was surprised at how solid the character work is.  James Spader is completely believable as a nerdy Egyptian linguist, and Kurt Russell brings the perfect level of intensity to his role as a military leader…with a secret.

In watching the extras on this Blu-Ray, it’s easy to see what attracted them to the project.  Everybody involved in the bringing this world to life comes across as very passionate about the material.  It’s obvious that they were attempting something huge and that this was not simply about getting a paycheck.  The features showcase the torturous shooting conditions that everyone had to endure, including temperatures in the 120’s.  Yet despite these hardships, they were all in top form, knowing that they were creating something special. 

The picture on this set is so stunning that I was noticing details I had never seen before.  Patrick Tatopoulos, the special effects master who designed most of the iconic images in the film, did a brilliant job of utilizing Egyptian motifs in a completely unique way.  I have always admired his work on the film, but it really shines on this set.  His designs help to carry the picture, and the extras emphasize what an asset to the production he really was.  It is fascinating to watch his process, and to get a closer look at the finished results.

Most of the extras are of the standard making-of variety.  Incorporating new and old footage, these documentaries really demonstrate what an amazing film this is.  All aspects of the film are explored, ranging from specific sequences to the long-term societal impact.  There is even a section addressing the popularity of the Stargate television shows (I have never seen them).  The only real misfire on the disc is a silly little segment about some random guy who travels the world trying to prove aliens have visited Earth.  I don’t know why they felt the need to include this; they had more than enough material already.

This Blu-Ray contains the original theatrical cut, as well as the Unrated extended version.  There are some nice extra moments on the extended cut, but they’re not entirely necessary.  They would probably have worked better as deleted scenes you could watch independently of the film.  There is also a picture-in-picture trivia track, a commentary from Devlin and Emmerich, and a “gag reel” that is actually a pretty funny single-take short film showing everybody goofing off on set.  Overall, I love this release.  It reminds me exactly why I loved this film as a teenager, and I really hope that it helps more people to discover one of the best science-fiction films of the nineties.

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