Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stargate (Part 1): The Movie - Review #1

Let me start off by saying Kurt Russell is no Richard Dean Anderson. ;) In all honesty, the original Stargate motion picture was not what caught my attention and lured me to the Stargate franchise. It was the sarcastic wit and humor of Colonel O’Neill in SG-1, and the charisma between that SG-1 team that first won me over. I didn’t grow an attachment to anyone in the original Stargate movie. Okay, I take that back, James Spader did an awesome job as Dr. Daniel Jackson and thus was the only character in the film that I felt any connection to.

The movie starts off showing Ra arriving on earth and presumably capturing a human boy. The movie jumps to 1928 Egypt where Professor Langford and his daughter, Catherine, at the dig site during the uncovering of the physical Stargate. The movie then jumps to modern day with Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) giving a lecture. His audience soon disappears as he shares his view that the Egyptians did not build the pyramids. Little does he know that Catherine Langford is present and has being following up on him. She gives him travel plans and tells him this is his chance to prove his research. Having just lost his apartment, he has nothing to lose.

Colonel Jack O’neil is introduced when officials arrive at his home to bring him out of retirement. We see the distress and sadness in his home and learn of his son’s accidental death while playing with Colonel O’Neil’s gun. Langford, Jackson and O’Neil all meet up at a secured military base where Jackson figures out in days what the research team has been working on for two years. He recognizes that the symbols on the Stargate’s cover stone are constellations and act as coordinates for another planet. Jackson quickly volunteers to go on the mission by stating he is sure he will be able to get them home.

While dialing the gate to send a probe through, I felt my spooky sense kick in. Yes, I am very sensitive to movies and am known to have an increased heart rate during any movie or scene that I consider chilling or unearthly. I remember being in the theater watching the first trip through the stargate. What a ride! For that time the effects were great and during those seconds of twisting and turning, I was extremely eager to see what was waiting for them on the other side. This scene is my favorite in the movie because it gave me that unknown extraterrestrial feel, which made me excited and fearful at the same time. Later on, I was pleased to see this wormhole journey carried over into the series.

Once on the planet, you immediately feel sorry for Dr. Jackson. It was like watching a nerd being picked on by the football team in high school, as the military off-world team yelled at him and even threw his bag, resulting in his books being scattered in the sand. All this because they do not understand that he cannot automatically dial the gate back to earth. He tries explaining that he needs to look around for any markings that will help him figure out the coordinates, but this falls upon deaf ears. The tone soon changes when Dr. Jackson goes to pet a local domesticated beast, gets his foot tangled in the animal’s reigns and goes for an unexpected drag through the desert. Don’t worry, O’Neil and a couple other team members are close behind and they all end up on a dune overlooking the local humans mining for mineral.

Introductions go surprisingly smooth since Dr. Jackson is wearing a necklace Catherine Langford lent him that she found on the dig site when she was a small girl. The necklace is inscribed with Ra’s symbol and the people of the distant planet think that their God, Ra, sent them. While visiting with the villagers, they learn that Ra has outlawed reading and writing in fear that the people of this world will rise up against him. During the evening Daniel spends some time with Sha’uri, and unknowingly becomes married to her. She takes him to where their history is written on the walls of caves and teaches him to speak the language. Being a linguist, he catches on quickly. It is here that we learn Ra is portrayed as an actual alien. The human host’s body is possessed by Ra, an average looking grey alien that we all are used to seeing in Area 51 type photos. Ra is the last of his kind and chooses a human host because the human body is easy for him to repair. This is a notable difference between the movie and the Stargate series. This obviously was changed later on with the SG-1 series where Ra and the other false gods are easiest described as evil parasitic snakes called the Goa’uld.

Upon returning to the rest of their team at the Pyramid, they find that Ra has returned and has killed or captured their team members. Ra’s men then kill more team members as they enter the pyramid and capture O’Neil and Jackson. This is also where Ra confronts them with the bomb that Jack O’Neil brought to the planet to detonate in case there is any threat to earth. Ra tells Dr. Jackson that he has to kill his teammates in front of the villagers to prove that Ra is their true god.

Meanwhile, the children of the village see the battle between Ra and Colonel O’Neil’s team and return to the village to spread the news, only to see that Ra has attacked the village. Sha’uri tells the children their history and why they no longer can continue on as slaves. An uprising is formed and during the assembled called together by Ra, where Dr. Jackson is suppose to kill O’Neil and his team, the villagers fight back and save the day. In my experience, the most remembered scene in the movie takes place during this battle. Just about every time I mention this movie to someone, they bring up the scene where one of the local boys is killed while running down the pyramid’s inclined plane.

When Ra realizes he has lost control over the people of this world, he tries to flee. Unfortunately for him, O’Neil and Jackson are able to send transfer the bomb is Ra’s ship seconds before it explodes.

Unlike the TV series, I didn't become attached to Colonel Jack O’Neil’s character. He was rough, and not just around the edges. The few times we were able to see a closer look at him, we saw the pain that he is still experiencing from his son’s death. He didn’t mind letting a child in the village try out smoking for the first time and even gave the boy his lighter as a gift, but as soon as the boy reach out to handle his gun, O’Neil’s fear exploded and scared the boy away. By the end of the movie, there was a sense that O’Neil had softened a little – just a tiny bit. Okay, who am I kidding?

Besides the threat of Ra being eliminated, the end was left wide open. With Dr. Jackson choosing to stay on the planet and live with his new wife it seemed he had finally found a place where he fit in and belonged. How does Dr. Jackson’s life unfold on the planet? The film ended with the rest of the team walking through the stargate headed for home. What happens back on earth? What does O’Neil tell the military about the planet they visited and their trip? Maybe frequent visits between the two planets are in store? If you’ve seen this movie and for some reason have never started watching the TV series, be sure to start watching Stargate SG-1 to see how the story continues and unfolds during ten seasons of awesomeness.

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