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Stargate (1994)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

My liking for Stargate reflects my affinity for science fiction. Although this movie is a very good film and was a hit at the box office, it may not be in the same league with, for instance, Gattaca, Matrix or Fahrenheit 451 as an individualist classic. However, it can play in the same league with Logan’s Run and Starman, although for perhaps different reasons.

Stargate was directed by Roland Emmerich (The Patriot) and stars Kurt Russell (Escape from L.A.) as Col. 'Jack' O'Neil , a father grieving the loss of his son, and James Spader (The Pentagon Papers (2003)) as Dr. Daniel Jackson, a controversial linguist who is down and out at the beginning of the film. Dr. Jackson is recruited by Catherine Langford, PhD (Viveca Lindfors) to help solve a mystery discovered at an archeological dig led by her father decades earlier. Col. O’Neil is recalled to duty to lead the military end of the same investigation.

Dr. Jackson arrives at a highly secured installation where a research team is stumped in attempting to interpret the hieroglyphs inscribed on a set of rocks. When Jackson cracks the problem, almost instantly, he is shown an artifact that was also discovered at the same site. The action “takes off” as he also has found the key to making that artifact, the Stargate (not “Door to Heaven” – as the team had earlier translated), operate.

After a probe is sent through the Stargate (to “the other end of the known universe”), the “brass” in the person of Gen. West (Leon Rippy) decides that a team should go through the Stargate to discover what lies beyond the portal at the other end. Since they know what it is and how to make it work, they infer that it could work both ways: whatever is on the other end could come to Earth. After Jackson asserts he can translate similar messages on the other end in order to enable a return trip, he is added to the exploratory team.

Once a journey through the Stargate is made, they discover a desert world on the other end. There, Jackson says he requires similar rock inscriptions to translate, which do not appear to be near the other portal, to come up with the settings for the return trip. (The team really should have understood this beforehand, however, they are resentful upon finding it out.) Through a series of mishaps Jackson brings the exploration team into contact with some relatively primitive natives on the desert planet. After seeing Jackson wearing an amulet which Catherine Langford had found as a young girl at the archeological dig and given to Jackson to carry for luck on the journey, the natives treat the team as messengers of the gods.

The native’s “god” has a real presence in their world and he is not pleased when the exploratory team is discovered. He visits his displeasure on both the natives and the team. However, the team has brought an understanding of reading, writing and firearms to the natives, who also discover their “gods” are less than omnipotent. Once they have all this dangerous knowledge, the ingredients for rebellion are in place.

Stargate seems to be based, at least in part, on theories which Erich Von Daniken popularized in his book: Chariots of the Gods. However, among the reasons I like it are: it demonstrates that people everywhere want to be free and when they are given the opportunity, they will pursue their freedom. Literacy and bearing arms are two ways in which people acquire the independence which seems to be a prerequisite to striving for liberty. Although some of Stargate’s science may be weak (e.g. how did that 20th century probe send back messages to Earth in minutes from the other side of the known universe), it is a fun film and demonstrates the universal human desire for freedom. If you are a science fiction fan, give Stargate a watch. I expect you’ll find much to enjoy.

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