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Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Film.

Film (1994). Le Studio Canal+ (US) Centropolis Film in association with Carolco. Executive producer Mario Kassar. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by Dean Devlin & Emmerich. Cast includes Mili Avital, Alexis Cruz, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Kurt Russell and James Spader. 121 minutes. Colour.

Entertaining, spectacular, big-budget ($55 million, 1900 extras) Science-Fantasy epic, designed to appeal to a similar audience to those of Steven Spielberg's first three Indiana Jones movies. The unlikely plot, harking back to pulp fiction of the 1930s and kids' movie serials of the 1940s, has a prologue showing a huge metallic ring, inscribed with strange symbols, dug up by archaeologists in Egypt near the pyramids in 1928. In the present day a young, clever Egyptologist Daniel Jackson (well played by Spader) is hired to translate the symbology, and is amazed to find himself part of a US military project. The ring turns out to be a Stargate, a matter transmitter, connected to another planet in another galaxy. The von Däniken style explanation is that Earth's Egyptian civilization and technology were instigated by an alien, an immoral energy form capable of inhabiting other bodies, masquerading on our Earth as the sun god Ra, but now long gone. A military party, led by Colonel Jack O'Neil (Russell), along with the Egyptologist, goes through the stargate, finds another planet, Abydos, with an Ancient Egyptian style of civilization and three moons. The inhabitants there (humans) are in thrall to the sinister Ra (played with androgynous beauty by Jaye Davidson) who occupies something between a spacecraft and a pyramid, and is surrounded by seemingly superhuman god figures dressed as Anubis, Osiris and so on. The best half of the film is the first, with a series of very well contrived riddles to be unravelled, and much tension built up. After that, a comparatively routine series of adventures takes place with some friction between the intellectual "dweeb" Jackson and the tough but emotional colonel: the quasi-Egyptians are incited to revolt, and the malicious Ra is dealt with. The special effects are very well done (visual effects Kit West, production design Holger Gross, digital effects Jeffrey A Okun, Egyptian god designs and creature effects Patrick Tatopoulos). This is a much better film than Emmerich and Devlin's previous sf collaboration, Universal Soldier (1992), though it has no intellectual pretensions and seems pitched at a rather young audience. [PN]


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