Audio commentary - Director/Co-Writer Roland Emmerich and Producer/Co-Writer Dean Devlin
Featurette - Making of
Behind the scenes footage - featurette
Filmographies - Roland Emmerich; Kurt Russell; James Spader; Jaye Davidson; Mili Avital; David Arnold; Dean Devlin
Stargate: Ultimate Edition
R4 . COLOR . 119 mins .
Universal . PAL
Hair so sharp he had to register it as a deadly weapon.
The Stargate is an ancient device which is able to open a wormhole to another identical device anywhere in the universe. In 1928 a Stargate is uncovered in the desert of Egypt and is taken by the U.S. government and not heard of again. Over 70 years later Archaeologist Dr Daniel Jackson (James Spader) who has some radical and unpopular ideas on the origin of the ancient Egyptian pyramids is invited by the U.S. Government to examine the device.
Dr Jackson discovers that the true nature of the device is interstellar travel and he is joined by a team of Special Forces men, led by Col. Jack O’Neal (Kurt Russell) and sent through the Stargate to investigate what lies on the other side.
Their journey through the Stargate has them arriving on a planet inhabited by stone-age humans who worship and are elslaved by the sun god, Ra. Daniel, Jack and the rest of the team are befriended by the locals but when Ra shows up in his gigantic Pyramid spaceship all hell breaks lose.
Mmmmmmm, giant donut.
Our heroes are forced to fight for their lives to save their new primitive friends and ultimately Earth, from destruction at the hands of the powerful and technologically advanced alien.
I wonder if the producers of Stargate would have ever dreamed (or dreaded?) of the success it has enjoyed? The movie itself was met with mediocre enthusiasm when it was first released but later went on to become somewhat of a cult classic eventually inspiring a spin-off T.V. series (Stargate: SG-1) currently in its 8th Season and a spin-off to the spin off (Stargate: Atlantis) also now in production and being met with critical acclaim. The movie now seems to be enjoying a long overdue resurgence.
With the release of Stargate: Ultimate Edition we are given the opportunity to view this movie as it has never been seen before, in fact in the case of Region 4, we’ve never seen it before on DVD at all. In this edition we are given 2 versions, the original Theatrical release and the new Directors Cut, including 9 minutes of additional footage with a commentary track. Also included is a disappointingly small collection of extras which will leave the legion of fans just wanting more (and perhaps a chance for the release of the “Really Ultimate: We Mean it this time, Edition”).
Someone needs to tell these guys, red eyes are scary, not blue.
I can honestly say that the video presentation on these discs is simply phenomenal. On more than one occasion I found myself going back to a scene to view it again, just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. The colours are vibrant and life like, shadows are dark without losing detail, grain is mostly nonexistent and the general picture is sharp and crisp.
As good as the video transfer is, it is not without a few minor problems, colours can appear oversaturated in a very small number of scenes, flesh tones occasionally look a little washed out and aliasing is present in a few places. These small faults are only visible because the remainder of the vision is so awesome so a few minor blemishes on an otherwise perfect transfer can be forgiven.
The layer change is at 70:19, mid scene and mid dialog, my DVD player usually handles layer changes really well, but this one has a small noticeable pause, not the best choice of location.
At about the 90 minute mark there was a small glitch which caused the vision to skip slightly, hopefully this problem is confined to the test pressing we were given for review purposes.
The menu system on both discs is mildly animated but very stylish and Stargate themed, it is 16:9 enhanced and features 5.1 sounds, which is a rarity in menu systems.
It's a vertical swimming pool, what's all the fuss about?
The main feature soundtrack is available in DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital 5.1 while the commentary track is available only in 2.0.
The higher bit rate on the DTS track pays dividends with a crisper and more defined sound. If your equipment is capable of DTS playback it is definitely the option of choice.
Top marks on all counts here, the subwoofer gets a thorough workout, the bass is throaty and deep. Dialog is crystal clear, even when other elements like explosions or gunfire conspire to overwhelm it. The surround channels give a clear indication of directional sound as bullets wiz by your head and death gliders fly menacingly above you.
The musical score is also well mixed into the action and gets a real lift from the DTS soundtrack.
The extras in this edition are split across 2 discs:
2 Versions Of The Film - Director's Cut And Original Theatrical Release
The Directors Cut features 8 minutes of extra footage, mostly taken up with further exploration of the alien known as Ra. At the beginning of the movie we are shown a scene in 8000B.C. involving the kidnapping of the human who is to become Ra, this scene is later repeated and therefore seems a bit redundant. The bulk of the remainder of the extra footage shows Danial Jackson exploring Ra’s mothership and discovering the aliens healing sarcophagus, not exactly riveting, or story altering stuff. This is no Aliens: Special Edition or Blade Runner: Directors Cut.
This grab just looks cool.
Only available on the first disc with the Directors Cut Director/Co-Writer Roland Emmerich and Producer/Co-Writer Dean Devlin discuss various aspects of the movie, paying particular attention to the additional scenes added to the Theatrical release. While informative, Emmerich and Devlin are not the most exciting pair to listen to, a commentary by the cast would surely have livened things up, at least a little.
Behind The Scenes Of The Film
Shown at 4:3 in 2 channel sound, and running for 26 minutes this featurette gives us cast and crew interviews with the usual behind the scenes footage of sets and studios. Unfortunately the soundtrack of this featurette sounds like it was recorded by an untrained monkey, almost to the point of being unwatchable.
Well presented but static storyboard, I personally prefer the storyboard segments that are shown side by side with the eventual live action or animatics, however we don’t get that here.
A series of photos taken from the movie and behind the scenes featuring colour, black & white, Props/Sets and design sketches.
27 minutes featurette which includes more cast and crew interviews with more focus on characters and story than “Behind the Scenes” did.
Filmographies of Roland Emmerich; Kurt Russell; James Spader; Jaye Davidson; Mili Avital; David Arnold; Dean Devlin, static presentation of each persons past achievements, nothing groundbreaking here.
Unfortunately the lack of extras in this set is a disappointment, particularly considering this is supposed to be the “ultimate” edition, surely there is more material available out there than the usual storyboard and ‘making of’ stock? How about an actor commentary, further deleted scenes, gag reel? Check the vault guys!
I was a little surprised to learn that this edition is the first one available to Region 4 viewers but most fans of the movie would have already acquired one of the numerous Region 1 or 2 versions well before now.
Without going into an in-depth feature review it’s pretty safe to say that if you don’t already own a copy of this movie on DVD then the Region 4 version would be your best option, if you already own one of the other versions, it would certainly pay to do some further research before investing in a new copy.
Despite the disappointment over the extras, this edition of Stargate is still a winner. Full credit must go to the publishers for including both versions of the movie in this package and also for the amazing transfer quality and brilliant DTS soundtrack.
10 years wasn’t so long to wait, was it? Stargate: Ultimate Edition is a worthy addition to any sci-fi DVD collection.