Stargate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I never saw any of the old non-anamorphic versions of Stargate but heard pretty negative comments about them. The new edition seemed pretty good, but a few concerns left it short of “A” level.
Sharpness looked excellent. The movie never betrayed any issues related to softness or fuzziness. Instead, the film consistently came across as tight and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but edge enhancement created some issues. Those haloes didn’t appear excessive, but they did pop up at times. Print flaws seemed more substantial. Although the flick didn’t come across as terribly dirty, I did notice occasional examples of speckles and grit, and some large blotches appeared when Jackson met the alien mastidge creature. The speckles showed up the most frequently, though all of the flaws largely subsided during the movie’s second half; they looked significantly more prominent in its first hour.
Colors generally appeared positive. Stargate presented a fairly golden hue that matched its desert setting, and the tones mostly came across as vivid and distinct. At times the colors seemed a bit dense, but those occasions occurred infrequently. Black levels looked deep and solid, but shadow detail appeared slightly murky at times. Low-light shots usually seemed acceptable, but a few of them came across as somewhat too opaque. Much of Stargate looked absolutely excellent, but the various flaws and other concerns lowered my grade to a “B”.
As for the audio of Stargate, the film’s soundtracks worked very well. This new edition of Stargate included both DTS ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital EX 5.1 mixes. Though the DTS version demonstrated some minor improvements over the Dolby affair, the two largely sounded identical. As such, I gave them both the same grades, though I felt the DTS track seemed slightly smoother with tighter bass.
The soundfield appeared quite active and involving. From the front channels, we received a good sense of setting and atmosphere. Music demonstrated nice stereo imaging, while effects seemed clearly delineated and appropriately placed. These elements meshed together well and showed smooth movement across the channels. As for the surrounds, they added a great deal of information to the package. The rear speakers contributed a lot of ambient material and kicked to life well during many action sequences. The trip through the stargate sounded fantastic, and the arrival of Ra also presented fine use of the discrete rear channels.
Audio quality also seemed good, though those elements didn’t quite live up to the stellar scope of the soundtrack. Speech always remained intelligible and clear, but dialogue came across as a little tinny at times. Music also came across as somewhat lackluster and didn’t consistently display the heft and range I expected. While the score sounded pretty good, it didn’t appear better than average. Effects were accurate and distinct, however, and they packed a serious punch. Bass response came across as deep and tight. Overall, the soundtracks of Stargate fell short of reference level, but they seemed very fine nonetheless.
This new “Ultimate Edition” of Stargate packs a mix of extras. DVD One features the director’s cut of the film along with an audio commentary from director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin. Both of them sat together for this running, screen-specific track. This marked the third commentary I’ve heard from Devlin and Emmerich. Their remarks for Independence Day earned them the animosity of many fans, since they provided a rather dull piece of work. Actually, I thought it was a decent track, but it suffered from too many gaps and a generally unenthusiastic tone.
Their commentary for The Patriot was worse. The pair proved chattier there, but that caused problems, especially since Emmerich came across as borderline incoherent much of the time. Devlin offered some good material, but Emmerich’s vocal tics made the piece almost unlistenable.
Emmerich’s language issues cause some concerns during Stargate as well; he often interjects “you know”, “like” and “kind of” into his statements, and this makes his statements sound confusing. Nonetheless, he appears better composed here than on The Patriot, and he actually manages to offer some decent information during Stargate. The pair interact well and give us a fair amount of useful facts. They cover topics such as sets, locations, working with the actors, effects, and story. Devlin also tries to make sure that we know what parts are new to the director’s cut. Emmerich remains moderately incoherent at times, and too many gaps mar this piece. In addition, the track falters after the first act or so, as the pair become less compelling. Devlin spends far too much time simply relating plot points, especially during the movie’s final act. While arguably the best commentary provided by Emmerich and Devlin, it remains fairly mediocre.
Also on DVD One we find a featurette entitled Is There a Stargate? This 12-minute and 10-second program concentrates on the work of Erich Von Daniken, author of Chariots of the Gods. We learn of the roots of his interest in potential ancient alien visitations as well as discussions of his theories. Interviews from Von Daniken and Legendary Times editor Giorgio Tsoukalos appear. Frankly, it all sounds like a crock to me, but the program offers a moderately interesting synopsis of these ideas. It never addresses the subject of the title, though, as it doesn’t talk about the possible existence of an actual stargate.
When we move to DVD Two, we locate the theatrical cut of Stargate. It receives the same treatment as DVD One’s director’s cut. That means the theatrical version boasts anamorphic enhancement as well as Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 audio. I appreciate the option of the original released version plus the director’s cut and I think this makes for a nice extra.
Next we get The Making of Stargate: Creating a Whole New World. This 23-minute and 31-second program mixes movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews. We hear from special creature effects designer Patrick Tatopoulos, conceptual designer Oliver Scholl, production designer Holger Gross, visual effects supervisor Jeff Okun, location manager Ken Fix, and actors Ken Russell and James Spader. If you’ve already listened to the audio commentary, you’ll know much of the material presented here. Many of the same facts pop up again, though a fair number of new details emerge, and the behind the scenes shots seem fun. Tatopoulos leads us through demonstrations of some practical effects, and other images offer nice insight into the work.
Unfortunately, “World” suffers from a rather puffy tone. For example, the narrator tells us the movie came out “at a time when special effects were still new”. No – the original King Kong came out at a time when special effects were still new, and this statement seems bizarre. In addition, the piece includes way too many movie clips. Some of these help illustrate information – such as the Spader puppet pulled by the dog-powered mastidge – but many appear gratuitous. “World” includes some decent information, but it could have been just as satisfying at a much shorter length.
A few minor extras finish Stargate. In the Trailer Gallery we get the movie’s standard US theatrical clip as well as an international ad; both are presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Cast and Crew Files provides entries for actors Kurt Russell, James Spader, Viveca Lindfors, Jaye Davidson, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avatal, Leon Rippy, John Diehl, French Stewart, and Djimon Hounsou plus director Roland Emmerich, producer Dean Devlin, cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub, production designer Holger Gross, and composer David Arnold. These biographies range from fairly detailed to pretty sparse, but they provide decent coverage for the most part.
More text shows up in the production notes area. It includes 19 screens of details about the flick, from its genesis through many technical aspects. A lot of this information appears elsewhere, but the “Notes” offer a nice general discussion of the flick. We find similar material within the DVD’s booklet along with a short welcoming note from Emmerich.
While I wouldn’t call Stargate a bad movie, it’s not one that holds up well over time. The flick has some fun moments but it suffers from erratic pacing and too many influences worn on its sleeve. The DVD offers inconsistent but generally positive image quality along with very fine sound and a decent set of supplements.
As with all reissued DVDs, I need to issue a few different recommendations. If you’ve not seen Stargate, I’d advise a rental. Despite my criticisms of the flick, it can offer some fun, especially on first viewing. For already-established fans of Stargate, the “Ultimate Edition” is the way to go. I never saw the two prior DVD releases, but I know this one is the first to offer an anamorphic image. Since I heard those older discs looked pretty bad, the UE seems like the easy winner in that category. Add to that the fact that it includes both the theatrical and director’s cuts plus a passable smattering of supplements and I’d definitely advise all Stargate lovers to grab the new package. Even if you already own one of the old ones, the new set merits the upgrade.