Stargate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While generally positive, the transfer wasn’t as consistent as I’d like.
Sharpness appeared good most of the time, though some parts of the film gave off a flat, muted look. This meant a lack of expected detail in more than a few shots. They rarely became genuinely soft or fuzzy, but they failed to deliver the level of accuracy that they should. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Source flaws also occurred infrequently. I noticed a minor blotch here and a tiny speck there, but that was about it. I did think parts of the flick looked unusually grainy given the movie’s vintage and photographic style.
Colors appeared positive. Stargate presented a fairly golden hue that matched its desert setting, and the tones came across as vivid and distinct. Black levels looked deep and solid, and shadows detail was good. Again, the minor haziness caused a little lack of definition, but not to a significant degree. The handful of issues kept this one at “B-” level.
I felt much more pleased with the DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio of Stargate. 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. Speech always remained intelligible and clear; the lines lacked edginess or notable concerns. Music came across as full and lively. Effects were accurate and distinct, and they packed a serious punch. Bass response came across as deep and tight. Overall, the soundtrack of Stargate was consistently terrific.
In terms of extras, this “15th Anniversary Edition” of Stargate mixes old and new components. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.
The disc includes both the film’s theatrical cut along with an unrated director’s cut. The former runs two hours, 47 seconds, while the latter goes for two hours, nine minutes and 36 seconds. That’s a moderately substantial amount of extra footage, but I don’t think it notably alters the film. Both provide virtually the same impact and impression.
Along with the extended cut, we find an audio commentary from director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. This marked the third commentary I 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 remarks 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.
However, Emmerich remains moderately incoherent at times, and too many gaps mar this piece. In addition, the track falters after the first act or so; the pair become less compelling as the film progresses. 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.
Next 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.
The Making of Stargate: Creating a Whole New World goes for 23-minutes and 31-seconds. 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 Kurt 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 fluffy 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.
Three components show up under Stargate: History Made (22:30). We find “Deciphering the Gate: Concepts and Casting” (7:50), “Opening the Gate: The Making of Stargate” (10:11) and “Passing Through the Gate: The Legacy” (4:29). During “Made”, we hear from Devlin, Emmerich, Tatopoulos, Egyptology consultant Stuart Tyson Smith, fans Craig Owen, Frank Gerney and Eric Hindes, and actors Erick Avanti and Mili Avital. The shows look at the film’s origins and development, cast and performances, locations and effects, visual and set design, the use of the Egyptian language, and the movie’s success/legacy.
All of the comments come from modern interviews, which is good and bad. The negative comes from the absence of so many participants; in particular, it’s too bad Spader and Russell fail to appear. Nonetheless, I’m glad we have retrospective comments and we’re not just stuck with info from 1994. I especially like Avanti’s remarks about dealing with language challenges, “History Made” is a little scattershot, but it has some good info.
A new “picture in picture” feature accompanies the Extended Cut. Stargate Ultimate Knowledge provides info from Emmerich, Spader, Russell, Devlin, Avital, Von Daniken, Tsoukalos, Gross, Okun, Scholl, actor Alexis Cruz and a few unnamed crewmembers. (Actually, the program names no one, but I recognized the ones I mentioned because they appeared elsewhere on this disc.) We get notes about cast, characters and performances, storyboarding, historical elements, set design and creation, various effects, location challenges, costumes and a few other areas.
When done well, these running “Picture in Picture” features can add a lot to our appreciation of a film’s creation; they act like visual commentaries, so they can bring a lot to the table. When they’re not particularly well-executed, though, they can be tiresome and tedious; as is the case with audio commentaries, it’s a chore to sit through a whole movie for sporadic nuggets of information.
The Stargate PiP feature falls somewhere between those two poles. It has enough going for it to make it acceptably useful, but it’s nowhere near as good as the best programs of this sort. We only find 25 short segments spread across 129 minutes of movie, so the PiP doesn’t fill time on a consistent basis.
In addition, the material itself is only moderately compelling. We get some decent soundbites and shots from the set, but I don’t think we learn much that doesn’t appear elsewhere. Stargate diehards will probably enjoy it, but I doubt it’ll do much for more casual fans.
For a new game, we get Master of the Stargate: Interactive Trivia Challenge. You can play short or long versions of the game. “Master” played along with the movie, although the flick appeared in a small box, so it wasn’t very watchable. Also, the game’s interface seemed pretty clunky. I like to try out all the extras on the discs I review, but “Master” is so user-unfriendly that I bailed pretty quickly. It’s too slow and frustrating to be fun.