It is now common place for successful television shows to be given an outing on the big screen. Everything from The Inbetweeners to On the Buses have seen their small screen characters taking on the silver screen, all with varying quality. Rarer to find however is feature films that have forgone a sequel and instead moved the narrative onto television. The most successful of these films is Stargate, which spawned a series of shows (Stargate SG1, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: Universe) that became one of the longest lasting consecutively aired television shows of all time.
Linguistics expert and Egyptian archaeologist Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is brought in to try and decrypt an ancient set of stone tablets for the military. The tablets reveal a sequence that will open an ancient ˜Stargate’ that links Earth with a planet on the other side of the known Universe. Accompanied by a group of special ops marines, lead by Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) Jackson ventures through the portal and is transported to an alien world that shares some similarities with ancient Egypt. He then has limited time to translate the symbols in order to get the team home before the ˜God’ Ra hunts them down in order to reclaim the stargate and get through to Earth.
Directed by event movie expert Roland Emmerich, Stargate follows on from the moderate success he had with Universal Soldier and proved a box office hit almost quadrupling it’s budget of $55m and is probably his breakthrough film. Drawing on Egyptian mythology, Stargate tries to combine the epic swords and sandals genre with science fiction and was the first part in a planned trilogy of films, but instead was adapted into a highly successful television series.
As bog standard, run-of-the-mill, by-the-book science fiction adventure films revolving around ancient Egyptian mythology go, Stargate is one of the better ones. It ticks along at a decent enough pace, never threatening to become too exciting. It’s filled with a John Williams-eque (it’s actually David Arnold) score and a really interesting set and costume design that separate it from the low-budget films that it’s concept might be more at home with.
The cast of Stargate do an admirable job in their limited roles, with Spader the standout as the wide-eyed Jackson, so desperate for adventure that he risks the lives of the marines by venturing into the stargate without knowledge of how to get home. Russell is clearly on autopilot as the tough-as-nails colonel with a tragic past. The characters are somewhat two-dimensional, but entertaining enough. It must be said that the characterisation is handled in such a haphazard manner that audiences really should not have been shocked when Emmerich’s later films had all the depth of a puddle.
Still for all the positives and negatives surrounding the film, Stargate‘s enduring legacy came 3 years after its initial release with the advent of the television show which has lasted for over a decade and has become one of the most successful science fiction franchises of all time.