In an era of sci-fi where traveling to distant worlds was predominantly accomplished through space ships, there was Stargate.
The stargate allows interplanetary travel through ring structures that allow anything to pass through wormholes to their destination. The film, which would turn to a franchise, was created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich.
The film is about an Air Force-led operation through the gate led by Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) with the guidance of Egyptologist and linguist Daniel Jackson (James Spader). Jackson deciphered the hieroglyphs allowing for gate travel and alludes to extraterrestrial involvement in providing the means.
When O’Neil’s unit arrives, the planet they travel to resemble Ancient Egypt. O’Neil bonds with a teenage boy, Skaara (Alexis Cruz) while Jackson takes to a local chieftain’s daughter, Sha’uri (Mili Avital). As the group take in the local hospitality, Jackson learns Ra (Jaye Davidson) is an alien who enslaved humans to extend his life.
As Ra’s forces mount an invasion, O’Neil’s forces try to fight them off and Jackson discovers not everything is all that it seems on both fronts as it becomes a race against time for survival.
While the initial reception to the film was mixed with a 48 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was enough of a success to start a TV adaptation in Stargate SG-1.
The film’s heart and soul is with Spader’s role as Daniel Jackson, who helps play the role of liberator and diplomat given his understanding of Ancient Egyptian culture. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Russell as O’Neil whose character I wish they fleshed out better. While O’Neil faced the tragedy of his son’s unintentional suicide and showed some recovering bonding with Skaara, Russell’s performance felt a little too wooden at times. The soldiers in the film were also nothing memorable.
Aside from the weak writing, the story and special effects provided enough action and depth to become standard popcorn fodder. It is a cult classic for thinking outside of the box, but it could have done so much more with its potential, which was eventually realized in the TV series.
Some notable appearances in the film include a pre-3rd Rock from the Sun French Stewart, Richard Kind, Djimon Honsou and Viveca Lindfors (in one of her last films), who played Dr. Catherine Langford, the civilian scientist who led the Stargate project and recruited Jackson for the expedition.