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Extra Blu-Ray Pick Of The Week: Stargate

by Norm De Palma

This 1994 camp classic may not necessarily be Palm d’Or material, but its over-the-top visuals, intriguing plot, and cinematic clichés make for what is ultimately an entertaining sci-fi treat.

Roland Emmerich’s 1994 action sci-fi film received mixed reviews when it was released. The Movie Maestro noted that some audiences praised its B-movie aesthetics, while others pointed out its heavy use of Hollywood clichés. It's impressive for such polarizing work, though, as it made $196 million globally, inspired a TV spin-off and even garnered a cult following. Plus, excerpts of Emmerich's interviews were previously shared by Punch Drunk Movies when the director revealed that he is planning to reboot the Stargate franchise.

The movie's plot comes straight from the '90s Hollywood rulebook. It follows Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader), who was called by the U.S. military to investigate an ancient site. Jackson discovers that the ruin is actually a stargate – a wormhole to another planet. He meets Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), and together they enter the stargate with a band of soldiers. In this other world, they meet ancient-looking humans overseen by an alien 'god’ named Ra.

The film has a bit of romance and a ton of gunfights and explosions. There are also comical moments and even some mild eroticism. In short, it's an action packed movie. Not that we expect anything different from Emmerich, who has already made a name in the business for impressive films. Prior to Stargate, his films include Hollywood-Monster (1987), Moon 44 (1990), and Universal Soldier (1992).

Stargate’s greatest appeal lies in its feel-good, tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre. The experience is comparable to watching Indiana Jones, or anything that makes you suspend your disbelief. It scratches the same itch that made shows like Ancient Aliens popular. Who wouldn’t be intrigued or curious about shape-shifting aliens posing as ancient gods? Or a bespectacled nerd obsessed with ancient history and a flaky secret government program? It’s ridiculous and hilarious, all at the same time.

Its campy elements also increase the film’s entertainment value. The lack of realism and the cartoon-ish characters add a certain element of escapism to the equation. Viewers today can also find pleasure in the '90s clichés, which are steeped in nostalgia.

Finally, the film’s theme is the last contributing factor to why it's so enjoyable. After all, people are still fascinated with ancient Egyptian myths and culture, as various facets of this bygone society remain alive today, in the form of construction methods and polytheistic beliefs. Such is their impact that artists of all kinds have also created different works inspired by the ancient civilization. Aside from movies and TV shows like the ones mentioned earlier, gaming is another modern medium where the same incorporations are prevalent. One is example is how ancient Egyptian myths and culture are recurring themes in the games on Slingo with titles like Temple of Isis, Treasures of the Pyramids, and Crown of Egypt featuring different aspects of their civilization. These games use familiar imagery such as pharaohs, obelisks, and hieroglyphs. The popular strategy franchise from Sid Meier, Civilization, also focuses heavily on Egypt, and the player can start out as a pharaoh building an empire. Similar landscapes and characters are, in fact, the core elements of Stargate. The filmmakers just took things into overdrive by adding spaceships, cool explosions, and exotic women.

It doesn’t hurt to indulge in mindless entertainment every now and then. In this regard, Stargate perfectly delivers.

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