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Stargate is a fast-paced but empty fantasy ride

Stargate

Directed by Roland Emmerich.

Written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich.

Starring Kurt Russell, James Spader, and Jaye Davidson.

Loews Cheri.

By Mark P. Hurst
Features Staff

I know how this movie was made. I can picture the scenario: The writers were all sitting around a whiteboard throwing out plot ideas. "Nuclear bombs!", "Flying pyramids!", "Subtitles!", "Transvestites!" Suddenly the head writer stood up, an excited gleam in his eye. "I just got the wackiest idea," he announced. "Those are all fabulous ideas. Let's use all of them!" And so they did.

Stargate, directed by Roland Emmerich, is one of the strangest, most ill-conceived movies I have seen since, well, since the last time I paid good money for a pile of Hollywood hype. The previews looked cool (don't they always?) - a distant planet, lots of action, good special effects. The movie lived up to the previews on those counts, but I naively assumed that it would have some semblance of a plot to tie it all together. I was wrong.

Here's the rundown. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is an expert on ancient civilizations who is brought to Colorado to investigate a collection of artifacts which are being stored at a secret military base hidden inside a mountain. (And this is before the plot leaves planet Earth.) Anyway, Jackson figures out how to open a door to a distant planet by dialing the right number (conveniently, seven digits) on what is basically a huge rotary-dial phone from ancient Egypt.

The portal opens, and Jackson joins a bunch of Army grunts, with a brooding Kurt Russell as the officer in charge, in stepping to the other side. Now roll Return of the Jedi, except replace the Ewoks with sand-blown Egyptians, and replace the forest with a desert. The natives speak in an annoying foreign language that no viewer, no matter how diverse, will be able to understand: hence the subtitles. Listen, if I want to sit through subtitles, I'll go see a quality film. This ain't it.

For now, let's return to Jedi. The bad guys arrive, and it's just like the Empire, except Darth Vader turns out to be the guy from The Crying Game with lots of eye shadow. And he's riding in a flying pyramid. It's as if Ed Wood directed the Indiana Jones series. Anyway, swallow that and you're set for the rest of the movie: A typical Hollywood fight between the good guys and the evil empire.

But enough about the plot. Here are the juicy details, the superlatives of the movie. Most Disgusting Part: The numerous so-dumb-they're-cute scenes apparently equating the natives' ignorance with stupidity. Most Distinguishing Plot Point: Hard to believe, but the hero does not sleep with the heroine when she offers herself to him (not the first time, anyway). Most Cholesterol-Ridden Technology: The bad guy's elevator, which is apparently powered by a column of flying onion rings. Most Unrealistic Plot Point (tough choice!): Under pressure, Jackson explains that he can barely understand the planet's native tongue: Three minutes later, he's Hemingwaying his way through the language with phrases like "existentialism is evocative of the inner torment of our souls, no?"

Stargate wasn't the worst movie I have ever seen, just the most disjointed. The majority of the scenes simply do not make any meaningful contribution to the plot. Visually the scenes are appealing, but the script is another matter. You know you're in trouble when the most common phrase in a movie is "Hayaabujjububbashupah!"