I'm a big fan of cult television series, especially of the science fiction ilk. I grew up with the original Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I'm fond of such shows as The X-Files and the fantastic revision of Battlestar Galactica.
I have to start this review by confessing, however, that I've never seen an episode of either Stargate series on the Sci-Fi Channel. I did see the original Stargate film in college and liked it - but that was a long time ago. It's not that I've avoided the show, it's just that there's only so much time one can spend watching things. I say all of this in these two paragraphs because I want to emphasize that I'm very sympathetic to cult shows and the fans who love them.
With all of that in mind, I approached Stargate: Ark of Truth with some genuine curiosity. I've always wanted to check out the show, and it seemed like this movie would be a nice 90 minute taste of the series. Having watched it, I hate having to admit that I just don't get it. This movie is kind of dumb. The acting is over-the-top and action sequences look derivative of other shows and seem about 1980s TV quality at times - especially a stage-bound battle at the start of the movie that certainly doesn't reel the audience in.
Stargate: Ark of Truth has the option to play the movie with a prelude. This prelude is about 9 minutes long and apparently highlights important scenes from the Stargate SG-1 television series that sets up the events of the movie. As someone who has never seen an episode of this cult program on Sci-Fi Channel, I appreciated the idea of having something that gets me caught up to speed. Unfortunately, this hastily cobbled together overview is confusing in itself and perhaps better serves as a refresher for Stargate SG-1 fans. MGM would have been better suited developing an optional narrated prelude for Stargate SG-1 novices, similar in vein to the lengthy introduction in the extended cut of David Lynch's Dune.
I tried to follow along with the plot, but there's a lot of threads - starting with an ethnically-diverse group of people who apparently lived in a Star Wars-ish time and place (the opening shot of the film has a subtitle that reads "Millions of years ago, in a distant galaxy. . .") debating something that the evil Ori don't like. It's an Ark - the Ark of Truth of this movie's subtitle. We then move to "the ruins of Dakara - present day" (thanks, subtitles) and are introduced to some of our main characters like Dr. Daniel Jackson and some others as they pettily bicker over their current predicament. By about the 10 minute mark of the film, I was frustrated since I could tell these were characters in a long-running franchise, but I frankly didn't care much for them and wasn't given a proper introduction to them. There's stuff about the magician Merlin and these bad folks called the Ori, and lots of uninspiring and bland spaceship-ish sets replete with the ever-present corridors and some rather silly-looking characters (even by sci-fi standards).
Perhaps it's best if I just say that non-Stargate fans are going to be lost, I suspect, as to the story's impact. I'll leave it at that.
The advanced screener copy I received to review had a 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment logo pop up frequently, and I don't feel comfortable rating the image quality based upon what I was given.
Audio options include an English 5.1 Dolby Surround track, a French Dolby Surround track, and a Spanish Dolby Surround Track. I listened to the English track and found it to be adequate: serviceable but hardly remarkable or dynamic. Not helping things was that the track was easily at least a second off the action on the film. Though, like the video, I suspect it's because of the screener copy and not representative of the final product. Therefore, I won't be rating the audio either.
Subtitles are also available in English and Spanish.
When the disc is played, trailers automatically begin for Stargate SG-1: The Final Season, Stargate: Continuum (well, this is more of a teaser), Stargate: Worlds (a video game), and War Games: The Dead Code. These trailers are not linked in the main menu, but the Special Features option includes additional trailers for Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem and In the Name of the King.
More significant features include an option to play the movie with a prelude that swiftly covers the history of Stargate SG-1, at least its most recent season or seasons. I discussed this feature more in-depth in the review of the movie itself.
The Ark of Truth: Stargate at Comic-Con has a panel discussion with several of the cast and producers of the series fielding questions from a packed and enthusiastic crowd at Comic-Con. This runs nearly 20 minutes.
Uncovering the Ark of Truth is a typical behind-the-scenes featurette. At about 30 minutes, it's a little longer than usual and fairly in-depth.
Finally, there's an audio commentary with writer, director, and producer Robert C. Cooper, Actor Christopher Judge, and Director of Photography Peter Woeste. I've been listening to it while I write this review and their discussion seems cordial and lively.
I love cult science fiction television, but I've never seen an episode of either Stargate series. Stargate: Ark of Truth apparently isn't the place to start. I'm willing to concede that fans conversant in the Stargate series may get more out of this than non-fans, so I'll go with a 2 star rating and a Rent It suggestion.