Let me just get this out of the way. I love this movie. I loved
it when it first came out back in 1994, and I love it just as
much today. I loved it on Laserdisc, and I loved it on DVD. And
yes, there have been what many may call "way too many"
versions of this movie out for consumption, but hey, I say keep
trying till you get it right. Well, thankfully, I believe Artisan
Entertainment has finally hit the nail on the head this time.
Sometimes it just takes a couple, or three, or four, or five
times to get it right.
Now I know there are people out there who didn't quite take to
the movie like I did. Many didn't fall for the seemingly
"out-there" sci-fi plot, or didn't appreciate the
directing execution of the film, and I respect that. But for me,
the movie had just about everything I want in a sci-fi action
movie; good acting, a great plot, (although borrowed from many
earlier sci-fi stories and theories) great special effects for
the time, amazing camera work, and strong characters. What can I
say? This is my kind of movie.
The plot revolves around two main characters, a hard-edged
retired military colonel played by Kurt Russell, and a somewhat
nerdy Egyptologist played perfectly by James Spader. We mainly
follow Spader, who in the beginning loses his job for presenting
theories that seem more like science fiction than professional
science. He soon gets brought into a top-secret military project
to unveil the capabilities of an ancient Egyptian Stargate. Our
two stars join a team of military Special Forces to survey the
other side of the Stargate and safely return home. Naturally,
things don't go according to plan.
I like this movie because it's kind of a cross between Indiana
Jones and Star Wars. It's definitely a sci-fi story, but there's
enough mystery and discovery in it to keep the viewer interested
for the whole movie. Like all great movies, its beginning is much
more captivating then its ending. But I guess if I could figure
out how to do it better, I'd be making millions in Hollywood
right now. Writer/director Roland Emmerich went to great lengths
to carefully build the characters in the opening 30 minutes of
the film. Your mind really appreciates this method of subtle
character development, as apposed to the "ram it in your
face" reality of most high-dollar blockbuster movies
nowadays. But like Isac Newton said, what goes up must come down.
And as the action really starts to get rolling, we break from the
slow, intelligent film direction, to overly familiar plot lines
and clichéd action sequences. But like I said before, I still
We've already seen many different variations of this movie, so
I'm sure you all want to know, what makes this one so special?
Well, for starters, you get two versions of the movie presented
each on its own disc. You get the original "Theatrical
Release", and the "Director's Cut." Nothing new I
know, but it's still nice to have them together in one set. You
also get some new special features that weren't available on DVD
or Laserdisc before. But the real difference is in the way it
looks and sounds. I can honestly say, this is the best Stargate
has ever looked on your TV set. And I guarantee it's the best it
has ever sounded, period.
Video: Stargate - Ultimate Edition is
presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, but unlike the previous editions
of Stargate, this time it's anamorphic. Yippee! This
results in a noticeable improvement in picture quality. The video
is cleaner, crisper and looks much better than it ever has
before. Colors are vivid and punchy, and contrast is comfortably
strong. Blacks look true as can be, and flesh tones seem fairly
accurate. There are spots, dirt and lines present throughout the
movie, and although it is noticeable to people not looking for
it, it doesn't pull you out of the feature. Some scenes
definitely look cleaner than others. This is evident in the newer
scenes added to the "Directors Cut" edition. Perhaps
these sections of the source material weren't cared for as well
as the original movie shots. This is too bad, but maybe I'm just
Audio: Now we're getting to the good stuff. Not
only do we get a new Dolby Digital-EX 5.1 surround audio track,
but we also get an absolutely phenomenal DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete
surround audio track as well. Both audio tracks are amazing, but
it's the DTS track that simply blows you away with its fuller
sound, broader coverage of the sound spectrum, and earth shaking
bass. Now my poor little rear center surround speaker rarely gets
a chance to shine, even with new 6.1 encoded movies, but this
time it got quite a workout. The rear surround channel was used
often and effectively, and really gave me that 360-degree
surround feeling. All of the surrounds are used extensively, and separate the sound effects through all seven speakers
fantastically. This is one of the finest sounding DVD's I've ever
heard, and in many respects, can hold its own to Star Wars
Episode II. Now for a movie that was made back in 1994, that's
saying a lot, folks.
Extras: For a two-disc set, you might be
expecting more special features than what is given here. But
actually, I was pretty satisfied with the amount of extras, and
didn't really feel like I needed more. If I had to choose though,
I'd wish for some more indebt actor interviews and perspectives.
But overall, this is a decent collection of special features.
The Making of Stargate featurette: This is a
23-minute featurette that briefly goes through each of the main
points in the production of Stargate. Things such as,
the enormous sets that were constructed, the extremely hot and
torturous desert locations that were used, and the various tricks
and special effects that had to be conceived and created in order
to make this movie look the way it did. This featurette was very
informative and gave me a great behind-the-scenes look at the
making of Stargate. I do wish it would have been longer,
and slightly more indebt though.
Is There a Stargate featurette: This was a
pleasant surprise. This featurette is mainly an 11-minute
interview with Erich Von Daniken, the author of "Chariots of
the Gods," a controversial book that supports the theory
that extraterrestrials have visited our planet in the past. I
thought this feature was extremely fascinating, but just
too short. I really wanted it to go on longer and get more
involved in the details of the evidence, and theories that
Daniken has uncovered. This is an intriguing addition, and I'm
glad it was included on this release.
Trailer gallery: Here you'll find two movie
trailers; the Theatrical Trailer, and the International Trailer.
Frankly I thought the Theatrical Trailer went on way too long and
gave away too much of the plot, whereas the International Trailer
was much cleaner and exposed less of the vital plot points.
Cast & Crew files: Here you'll find a ton of
information about the cast and crew in the form of text you can
Production notes: This is a lengthy, scrollable
menu of text that gives the viewer interesting facts on the
production of Stargate. Here you'll learn things such as
how director Roland Emmerich came up with the idea for the movie,
and that this movie had a budget of 55 million dollars.
Director Commentary: This is an audio commentary
by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin. This
commentary is only offered on the Director's Cut version, and is
a carryover from the previous Laserdisc release. The two give a
very informative commentary, and really give the viewer a good
idea of the difficult tasks that had to be overcome in order to
create this film.
Hopefully this will be the last Stargate DVD to ever be
released. Although, I might have to bang my head against the wall
a few times to restrain myself from buying a Superbit version, if
it ever comes out. But let me reassure you that this is without a
doubt the greatest version of Stargate ever released,
and is a must-have for anyone who considers themselves a sci-fi
fan. Even if you're debating upgrading your current copy, it's
definitely worth it for the video improvements and DTS audio
track alone. And with current street prices well below $20, it's
simply a no-brainer. Highly Recommended