Tomorrow sees the Blu-ray exclusive release of Stargate 15th Anniversary Edition. Is it worth buying yet another version of the movie? I’m not sure how it compares against the Ultimate Edition DVD or the first Blu-ray release (I never got those), but this is a great version to have…
First off, I’m taken by the beautiful cardboard slipcover the standard Blu-ray case is enclosed in. The image is similar in some respects to the cover of the Ultimate Edition, but with the addition of a Death Glider firing into the ground, and the whole thing is surrounded by a stargate, with a blue hue outside the central image and a really nice radial metallic sheen that appears to spin as you tilt it. About the only thing I could think of that would make it better is if they extended that to the stargate’s dialing ring itself, as if to give the illusion of it spinning. Internally, the Blu-ray case has the same front and back images as the slipcover, but without the metallic embellishments (and thus loses its luster…:) )
The disc itself is screen printed in a monochromatic blue hue, with n image of a stargate as seen from nearly directly above, with blue (of course) light passing through it. Doesn’t really have much to do with the movie though.
When you load it up, you must first sit through several promos that you can’t bypass completely (but you can skip each one in turn). These include promos for Planet Hulk, Hulk Vs., The Spirit, The Forbidden Kingdom, and Battle For Terra – If you want to see them later, you can find them in the “Also From Lionsgate” menu item. After that, you pass through a wormhole to arrive at the Abydos gate room, where the menu appears. A unique feature I have not seen yet – a Menu Effects menu where you can mute the sound of the menu, and a slider that I haven’t quite figured out yet…
For the feature, you are given two complete versions – the original theatrical version (remastered for the Blu-ray for 1080p video and DTS-HD 7.1 audio (a French DD track is also available – the package says 2.0, but I’m pretty sure the menu said 5.1), and the extended version which has a few extra/extended scenes added – the most notable of which is the very first scene showing the primitive boy approaching Ra’s spacecraft and would eventually become Ra’s new body. The rest are mostly extended scenes and dialog here and there.
There is also a full-length commentary track featuring Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich talking about the movie, but it wasn’t obvious how to access it since it does not appear under any of the menus. Instead, it is simply a second audio track on the extended feature.
For those unfamiliar with the movie itself, the plot involves a strange round object that is unearthed in Giza near the pyramids in 1928. Fast forward to the present, where the Air Force enlists the help of “kook” Egyptologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) to decipher the symbols on the object, where he discovers that they are not hieroglyphs as assumed by constellations – and that the six symbols on a cartouche found with it are a location in space – and the object is an ancient stargate that leads to another world! Jackson accompanies a team lead by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) to check out the other planet, and O’Neil specifically has a secret secondary mission – make sure no threat can make it back to Earth…
Given that the movie has spawned two successful TV series and a cartoon series, a third series has just started, you can see that the movie provided a fairly unique and interesting story that rolls in some of the more outlandish theories of the sources of the pyramids and Egyptian culture with a set of interesting characters. O’Neil is expecting it to be a one-way suicide mission, which is fine with him since he is already borderline suicidal over the death of his son. Jackson is the Egyptologist everyone laughs at for his “other worldly origin” theories, who discovers he is right anyways, but makes assumptions that threaten everyone’s ability to return home. Ra, despite looking young, has an imperial air about him (which if what I heard is true, may not necessarily have been acting on the part of Jaye Davidson…), and even Abydosians including Erick Avari and Alexis Cruz (the only two from the movie to appear in the series) trying to represent to language issues between them and the Earthlings was done well. I know a lot of people don’t consider it a great movie, I’ve always found it interesting and a fairly unique story.
The HD adaptation of the movie did not result in making the modeling and visual effects look like they were miniatures (as happened when the series began, and was fixed in the Children Of The Gods re-release by replacing with better CGI), but they kept their sense of scale. They didn’t need to redo any elements of the visual effects because it transferred so well. The overall video is still a bit grainy and perhaps not much improved over the earlier Blu-ray release, but it doesn’t look like a 15 year old movie either.
It was interesting to listen to the audio commentary. Often times when you get the production level people, they usually simply say “We did this here…”, without much thought about who they are talking to. Devlin and Emmerich know their audience, and the things they are interested in.
Among the special features are two somewhat unique ones…one is “Stargate Ultimate Knowledge” which is a BonusView pop-up video feature – while watching the extended version, video will pop up and show some of the behind the scenes shots – either related to the current scene, or the production staff talking about the movie in general. It is interesting, but it would be nice if you could dismiss it when you wanted to. The second is “Master Of The Stargate”, which is a trivia challenge for 1-4 players while watching the movie. Trivia questions will come up every minute or so, and you answer the question to earn “chevrons” to open gates, with the highest score winning at the end of the movie. Not all the questions are about Stargate though – some are general science questions, and not easy ones. The only drawback to this is the movie plays in a rather small insert compared to the full screen.
Other special features include:
Stargate: History Made – actually three small featurettes that can be watched as a whole.
Is There A Stargate? – A featurette on Erich Von Däniken, author of Chariot Of The Gods
Making Of Stargate – Behind the scenes
Gag Reel – not exactly bloopers and outtakes, but rather what you get when you have a lot of crewmen out in the 130 degree temperatures in the desert for far too long, and extra film…it was just, well, bizarre.
So, although there was a previous Blu-ray release (which was pretty much just a simple transfer), this version adds a lot more of what a Blu-ray can offer – a great transfer, more interactive features, and a lot of material on a single disc.