The movie that started it all
The most peculiar thing about Stargate the movie is that it seems to be an unintentional George Lucas Throwback. At least I assume it's unintentional that this 1994 feature looks and feels like it was made in the '70s or so. The illusion is really only broken by the actors in it and the (by current standards) primitive CGI effects. The Jack O'Neil of the film's reputation for being unlike his television counterpart is well deserved. In contrast to Richard Dean Anderson's laid-back portrayal, Kurt Russell's character is aloof and distant with a Jerkass Facade hiding his grief over his son's death. As though in deliberate counterpoint, James Spader's Daniel Jackson is nearly identical to the character Michael Shanks would later play on SG-1, especially in the earlier seasons. Even the physical resemblance between the actors is striking. As the Big Bad, Jaye Davidson is either an inspired or absurd casting choice. Or both. The cast beyond this doesn't really matter. The names of the rest of the men in the squad might just as well be interchangeable for all the personality they have. The movie is at its best in the first act which plays like a quirkier version of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind with an Ancient Egyptian vibe. James Spader owns the movie in these scenes, which brings us to perhaps the biggest problem from a screenwriting point of view. Essentially, Daniel Jackson's character arc is concluded the moment he steps through the gate. When he gets the Call To Adventure, he's promised it will give him the chance to prove his theories are right. He succeeds in the first thirty minutes of the movie, so what's left for him to spend the next ninety minutes doing? Not much other than hanging out with his Shallow Love Interest. Once we get to the other side, things go downhill as every meeting-the-natives cliché is played absolutely straight, right down to the local cuisine tasting like chicken. The movie picks up a bit when Ra shows up. In particular, his technology, which can only be described as Ancient Egypt Punk, is imaginative and visually interesting. Still, this film would be unremarkable if not for the television franchise it spawned. Ultimately, it provides a worthy distraction, but it's no masterpiece even within the escapist genre.