×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stargate

"Stargate" has one of those plots that naturally causes people to roll their eyes. Commercial prospects for this curiously unabsorbing yarn border on the dire.

With:
Col. Jack O'Neil - Kurt Russell Dr. Daniel Jackson - James Spader Ra - Jaye Davidson Catherine - Viveca Lindfors Skaara - Alexis Cruz Sha'uri - Mili Avital General W.O. West - Leon Rippy Lt. Kawalsky - John Diehl Kasuf - Erick Avari

“Stargate” has one of those plots that naturally causes people to roll their eyes. Commercial prospects for this curiously unabsorbing yarn border on the dire.

What this juvenile adventure has in spades is special effects and picturesque locations. What it lacks is an emotional link to make the Saturday afternoon he-man posturing palatable, or at least bearable. Its core appeal is to pre-teens, and considering its mammoth budget ($ 60 million-$ 70 million), half-price tickets won’t be enough to part the enveloping sea of red ink.

The setup occurs in Giza, Egypt, circa 1928. An archaeological expedition unearths a giant ring inscribed with hieroglyphs of unknown origin and meaning. We’re promptly propelled into the present, where Egyptologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is telling a learned, if disbelieving, crowd that the pyramids could not possibly have been built by man. Only one listener stays behind, offering him the job of translating an ancient stone lodged in a secret and remote military complex. It is, of course, the piece seen at the beginning. Never mind how it was transported across the ocean or its whereabouts for most of this century.

Popular on Variety

Suffice it to say that the symbols turn out to be a map rather than a language. The ring is a portal to another dimension — an entrance to the land of the true builders of one of the seven wonders. Are your eyes spinning yet?

Breaking the impenetrable code leads to a military probe commanded by former basket case Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell). Jackson tags along as interpreter and on the other side discovers something akin to “Lawrence of Arabia” outtakes with a pinch of “The Ten Commandments” and a dash of the “Star Wars” trilogy.

The inhabitants of this world are biblical-style slaves, the ruler a galactic hermaphrodite (Jaye Davidson). It’s all downhill from there. The oppressed workers, with the help of the soldiers and scientist, rise up to quell the evil oppressor. It’s pretty standard, predictable stuff.

Director Roland Emmerich pushes the obvious plot buttons, turns up the florid score and injects appropriate panoramas. It’s a textbook scenario that creaks with age and whose lack of originality cannot be obscured with visual craft.

Pic should be more visceral. But every time the story gets perilously close to an emotional moment, the focus shifts abruptly to some corny bit of action. O’Neil never truly confronts the dark past of a dead son, and Jackson’s budding relationship with a slave (Mili Avital) is chaste beyond belief.

The acting challenge is simply to keep a straight face and not look like a total imbecile. It’s arguable that anyone succeeds at the task.

And despite the ever-present, state-of-the-art technology, there’s hardly a single indelible image in the course of two hours. One walks away uncertain whether there is a film called “Stargate,” or if it was merely a dream composed of badly remembered movie cliches.

[A 126-min. Collector’s ed ition was released on homevideo in 1996.]

Stargate

Production: An MGM release of a Mario Kassar presentation of a Studio Canal Plus/Centropolis production in association with Carolco Pictures. Produced by Joel Michaels, Oliver Eberle, Dean Devlin. Executive producer, Kassar. Co-producer, Ute Emmerich. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Screenplay, Devlin, Roland Emmerich.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe, widescreen), Karl Walter Lindenlaub; editors, Michael Duthie, Derek Brechin; music, David Arnold; production design, Holger Gross; art direction, Peter Murton, Frank Bollinger; costume design, Joseph Porro; sound (Dolby), David Ronne; digital/visual effects supervisor, Jeffrey Okun; special creature effects, Patrick Tatopoulos; Egyptology consultant, Dr. Stuart Smith; assistant director, Steve Love; casting, April Webster. Reviewed at Avco Cinema, Westwood, Oct. 14, 1994. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 120 MIN.

With: Col. Jack O'Neil - Kurt Russell Dr. Daniel Jackson - James Spader Ra - Jaye Davidson Catherine - Viveca Lindfors Skaara - Alexis Cruz Sha'uri - Mili Avital General W.O. West - Leon Rippy Lt. Kawalsky - John Diehl Kasuf - Erick Avari

More Film

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    'Once Upon a Time,' 'Farewell,' 'Judy' Excluded From Writers Guild Awards

    The scripts for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” and Tom Edge’s “Judy” have been excluded from the Writers Guild of America Awards. Unlike other guilds, the WGA excludes as candidates any screenplays not produced under its jurisdiction or that of another guild. That’s because the WGA has the [...]

  • The Matrix Keanu Reeves Carrie Ann

    'The Flash' and 'The Matrix 4' Get Release Dates from Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has dated the fourth “The Matrix” movie and “The Flash” for summer openings in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and pulled “Akira” off the schedule. The studio announced Wednesday that “The Flash” would be released on July 1, 2022, while the untitled “Matrix” would open on May 21, 2021. “The Flash” will star Ezra Miller, [...]

  • Promising Young Woman trailer

    Carey Mulligan Gets Revenge in 'Promising Young Woman' Trailer

    Carey Mulligan is a vengeance-seeking, rape-culture-dismantling badass in the trailer for “Killing Eve” showrunner Emerald Fennell’s new film, “Promising Young Woman.” “Every week, I go to a club. I act like I’m too drunk to stand. And every week, a nice guy comes over to see if I’m okay,” Mulligan says coldly over a violinist’s [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Stephen King's 'The Dark Half' Movie Adaptation in the Works

    Stephen King’s horror novel “The Dark Half” is getting the movie treatment at MGM with “Her Smell” director Alex Ross Perry on board to helm. King wrote the book in 1989 about a novelist whose pseudonym comes to life as a murderous twin after his own pen name, Richard Bachman, was revealed. MGM first adapted [...]

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    Can 'Jumanji' Sequel Achieve Next-Level Box Office Success?

    “Jumanji: The Next Level” will seamlessly swing atop box office charts when it debuts in theaters on Friday. But the sequel will need to become another word-of-mouth hit for Sony if it hopes to entice moviegoers once “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” launches the following weekend. If history repeats itself, “Jumanji” and “Star Wars” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content