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DVD Review:
Stargate: Ultimate Edition
By Brian Jacks


The film Stargate has had a long road traveled on DVD. Its first release was a “flipper,” meaning after viewing half the film you’d have to flip it to continue watching. A bit later was the “Director’s Cut,” an edition that finally contained the film on a single side, and also added an additional nine minutes or so, a short featurette, and a director’s commentary. Unfortunately, though, the video quality was quite sub-par, resulting in horrid colors, substantial edge enhancement, and a troll that leapt from the screen and ripped open your throat. That fans have been desperately awaiting a re-release shouldn’t surprise anyone. Well, Artisan finally heard the prayers and has released Stargate: Ultimate Edition, a new two-disc set that is nothing short of phenomenal.

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A minor hit that has since achieved a significant cult following, Stargate opens in the early 20th Century where an archeological dig has uncovered an ancient Egyptian artifact. Professor Daniel Jackson (James Spader), an unappreciated genius, is brought in to decipher the hieroglyphs that ring the mysterious device, now referred to as the “Stargate.” After Jackson cracks the key and opens the gate, he joins a military reconnaissance squad led by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) as they stroll through the portal to explore the other side. Once there they uncover a horrifying secret connection between ancient Egypt and this alien world, and must battle an evil Sun God to protect the human race.

What else is there to say? While sufficiently panned by knowitall critics, Stargate is a pretty darn good action/adventure movie with some downright incredible special effects and one of the best film scores of any science fiction flick. It tends to drag out a little long in the middle (and whenever French Stewart is onscreen), but the overall concept moves the film along briskly enough to keep its audience’s interest. The inclusion of many hundreds of extras and remarkable sets remain notable even after almost ten years later, and the story’s sheer originality continues to keep Stargate at the top of the heap for countless fans.

The Ultimate Edition contains two versions of the film, with the theatrical cut and director’s cut each on a separate disc. As previously mentioned, the director’s cut tacks on nine minutes of additional footage, dealing principally with fossils of the alien guards being found at the original dig site.

When all’s said and done, Stargate remains a fun, entertaining sci-fi film deserving of any acclaim that comes its way.

Delivered in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, both of Stargate: Ultimate Edition’s film cuts are of comparable quality – which is to say absolutely superb. As touched on above, the previous DVD transfers were pretty dismal, with a dark resonance enveloping the entire movie, and nasty compression artifacts popping up like chipmonks. While not overly terrible, it hampered the viewing of a film that relied heavily on special effects, and which deserved a lot better. Well, thankfully the sins of the past have been washed away. The Ultimate Edition features a simply breathtaking transfer with sharp, vivid colors and almost completely barren of offensive edge enhancement. The film is bright and captivating again, highlighted by a few spectacular scenes such as the Stargate engaging and more than a few desert sequences. A few print errors, mostly burns, are noticeable in a few instances, but as an overwhelming whole Artisan done good with this one.

The quality of Stargate: Ultimate Edition is also extended to the audio front, with both 6.1 DTS ES and 5.1 Dolby Digital EX tracks. While both are powerful, it’s the DTS soundtrack that pushes ahead with deeper bass and a slightly more all-encompassing soundstage. A few scenes in particular highlight the excellence of the audio, most prominently passing through the Stargate, the sandstorm, and the multiple battle sequences. Additionally, the extremely memorable score by David Arnold caps off the quality of the audio tracks, making sure this isn’t a DVD you’ll easily forget.

On the supplement side of things, while there’s not a whole lot added from the previous releases, it’s still enough to be appreciated. Headlining the extras is the full-length commentary track with Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin. Carried over from the Special Edition (and before that from the Laserdisc release), it’s a fairly entertaining track that takes viewers through the process of the making of the film, and filled to the brim with interesting antidotes. Appearing only on the Director’s Cut, it’s well worth listening to.

Next up are two new featurettes filmed especially for the Ultimate Edition. “The Making of Stargate” is just that, a pretty straightforward look at the entire production aspect of the movie. Running almost 24-minutes, it looks at the sets, the casting, and the many special effects shots used, and how it all came together in a harsh desert environment. The other featurette, entitled “Is There a Stargate,” featurettes an 11-minute interview with Erich Von Daniken, the author of "Chariots of the Gods,” a book that claims aliens visited our planet. While it might not exactly change anyone’s mind, it’s certainly interesting, and actually pretty impressive that they had the guts to stick it on here.

Rounding out the extras are two trailers (domestic and international), cast and crew biographies, and many scrollable pages of production notes.

The Movie: B+. A true science fiction epic that’s only growing finer with age.

The Look: B+. A few print flaws remain, but the film has never looked better.

The Sound: A. Powerful use of all channels not only put you into the movie, but throw you right through the Stargate.

The Extras: B. While a bit light, the commentary track and two new featurettes are enough to satisfy most fans.

Overall: B+. Stargate: Ultimate Edition is one of the finest DVD releases to hit the sci-fi section. Pick it up.

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