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Stargate (1994).

August 8, 2008

(Note: It’s hiatus time again. The Movie Spot will return with new content in the last week of August.)

The Scoop:
When a movie is especially good or especially bad, that makes it easy to review. When it’s merely average, it becomes a tougher dragon to slay. And beyond that, there are the films that are really, really average — vigorously non-descript in a way that seems intentionally designed not to make an impression.

And then there’s “Stargate.”

Nothing stands out about this movie. Every aspect is competent, but not particularly praiseworthy or blame-worthy. The script tries to give a new twist to the age-old theories that the Egyptian pyramids were built by ancient aliens, but even that is swallowed whole by the all-consuming blandness of the production. If it wasn’t for the fact that it spawned the highly successful (and generally better) television series “Stargate: SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis,” there would be nothing memorable about this film at all.

So what can you say about this movie? The script, by producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich, finds Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (played by Mr. Bland himself, James Spader) discovering an alien teleportation device that sends him, Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) and a small strike force to a distant planet ruled by the androgynous Ra (Jaye Davidson).

All the familiar hallmarks that would turn up in later Devlin/Emmerich productions — like “Independence Day” (1996) and “Godzilla” (1998) — are here, but they don’t manage to distinguish themselves like they did in those later films. True, the imagery and effects have a way of staying with you, but you can get that from just one viewing of a trailer — you don’t need to actually sit down and watch the whole movie. The rest is just eye candy.

Best Bit:
There is none, unless you like bland.

Side Note:
As one of the last pre-CGI sci-fi effects films, Devlin and Emmerich had to do their crowd scenes the old fashioned way — with actual bodies instead of cloning actors in the computer. However, the production’s tight budget made it too expensive to hire extras, so mannequins were used instead.

Companion Viewing:
“The Fifth Element” (1997), “Stargate: SG-1” and “Stargate: Atlantis.”

“Stargate” toys!

Take a Look:
Dr. Jackson takes his first trip through the Stargate:

Dr. Jackson drops some knowledge (and backstory):

A clip compilation:

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