Reviewed on 2008 March 23
When I’d compare editions of movie review guides, I was struck by how over the years, some movies lost stars or popcorn buckets or whatever by their titles. I wondered about reviewers changing their minds, until I sat through Stargate a second time last night. The first time I watched it I was blown away; now I realize how silly this movie really is. Don’t get me wrong; that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a mix of space opera, fish-out-of-water, and an action flick, with a veneer of ancient Egypt holding the whole 128-minute thing together.
Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader, and it’s funny to see him playing a character that doesn’t have some kind of weird kink) is our fish-out-of-water here. He’s a clumsy but brilliant Egyptologist noted for his sweet tooth and inability to get his peers to listen to his more controversial hieroglyphic translations. He gets the attention of Catherine (Viveca Lindfors), the daughter of an archeologist who excavated a strange monolithic structure in Egypt in 1928. After seeing her daddy’s crew dig that thing out of the sand, nothing is too far-fetched for her.
She listens to Jackson’s theories, and is convinced he’s creative (or crazy) enough to get get the device to do… whatever it’s supposed to do. We’re not initially sure what the structure is for, but we can assume it’s something big, because the Air Force is scrabbling to make it function (and they have the same initial skepticism of Jackson). Apparently Catherine convinced some of the men that Dr. Jackson knows his stuff, because Colonel Jack O’Neill (Kurt Russell) shows up in case he succeeds.
The movie is definitely imaginative, with sets that range from how I envision ancient Giza, to stuff that resembles leftovers from a Sun Ra concert. (My favorite were the low-flying nuclear scarabs.) With a title like Stargate I’m not expecting anything rooted in reality, but this thing veered into ludicrous several times. It’s still fun and the pacing zips along. The acting is good, with Russell standing out as O’Neill (and even looking good in a crewcut while doing so). Spader plays good-hearted bookworm surprisingly well too.
Two chocolate morsels, and a Snickers® miniature.