Excitement travels the cosmos instantaneously in Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sci-fi classic Stargate - Ultimate Edition. This new two-disc set offers up both cuts of the film on their own discs offering the same solid video and excellent audio experience and all of the bonus features sure to appease Ra himself. With Lionsgate's domestic discs out of print, maybe one day we’ll get a 4K disc, but until then this is a slick set. Recommended
Sometimes all you need is a clever concept, a great cast, and a halfway decent budget to realize your vision. After the success of their slick actioner Universal Soldier, writer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich reteamed for the out-of-this-world science fiction adventure Stargate. A fun high-concept premise, state-of-the-art visual effects, and committed performances from a talented cast elevate this pulpy science fiction action flick spawning a long-lasting television franchise in the process.
Decades ago a bizarre object was found during a dig in Egypt. Ever since it’s remained classified under military-controlled study. Now down-on-his-luck egyptologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) has been requited to decipher a random assortment of Egyptian symbols unlike anything ever seen before. Little does he know his findings will change everything we know about human history and the future of mankind! The symbols open a Stargate through space allowing Jackson and a crack squad of soldiers led by Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) to travel across the known universe instantaneously. But when they’re trapped on the other side with no way to go home, they’ll face a deadly force unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.
A favorite when I was an almost teenager, Stargate has remained a go-to piece of pulpy science fiction entertainment. Like the reverse of Star Trek, the film would spawn a number of television series expanding the lore and mythos of the universe. These would vary in overall quality, but they were fun to dig through through the years. But it all started here. With a smart concept and skilled execution, Devlin and Emmerich hit the nail on the head. Not a perfect film, it’s pretty cheesy in places and there’s French Stewart playing a badass soldier, but it’s an earnest highly entertaining go-for-broke adventure.
Running at roughly seven minutes longer, the Extended Cut plays a little better than the Theatrical Cut. There are a few pieces of padding that aren’t necessary and the extended visuals of various character deaths are unnecessary, but overall it plays better. A couple scenes before they travel through the Stargate setup O’Neil’s caution and why the military had their heckles up about the operation lending to the suspense and sense of danger. The Theatrical Cut is still perfectly good, it’s a little leaner and more to the point, but again, some extra character depth and explanation gets lost in the tighter edit. A fun flick beginning to end, it’s a favorite I love to pull off my shelf every so often when I need a light, easy show to entertain me.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Via Vision opens a portal from Australia to the rest of the world for a new two-disc Ultimate Edition release of Stargate. Both the Theatrical and Extended Cut get their own Region Free BD-50 disc. The artwork indicates it’s Region B, but after testing on multiple setups without issue - the discs are Region Free. The discs are housed in a two-disc case with slick classic artwork slipcase. The discs load to static image main menus - bonus features are split between both discs.
Stargate Ultimate Edition arrives with what looks to be the same impressive transfer as we saw for Lionsgate’s 15th Anniversary disc - and the subsequent 20th anniversary reissue disc. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. While not as much fun as say seeing this fun flick hit 4K, it’s a presentation that still stands up beautifully and is a marked improvement over that crapular first Lionsgate Blu-ray from 2006. Details are strong allowing for fine lines and textures to come to life. Some of the CGI effects are still a bit soft and weightless compared to the rest of the film and there’s a quality shift for any optical processed shots, but it still looks good considering this master was issued almost 14 years ago. Black levels are in good shape with deep tones and nice shadows. Colors are bright and beautiful with healthy human skin tones. Comparing bitrates, this set gets a little bit of a boost since there isn’t any seamless branching architecture but it’s nominal and doesn’t really make much of an overall impact.
And like the video, both versions of Stargate rock out to excellent DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio tracks. Dialog clarity remains excellent. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without any issue and David Arnold’s action-packed romantic score has terrific impact. Imaging for these 7.1 tracks is damned impressive with a rich amount of surround presence fully engaging all channels. Very rarely does it ever feel like only the front/center channels are being utilized. Even a simple scene like Jackson going to get water for coffee offers up surround activity. Obviosuly action sequences see a much larger surround impact, but even when Ra's ship lands over the pyramid, the rumble in the subs and the wall-to-wall effects is great stuff. Levels are spot on without need for you to keep a thumb on the volume.
Bonus features for this release carry over everything that was offered on Lionsgate’s 15th Anniversary disc as well. You get multiple commentaries, featurettes, and a pretty great making-of documentary. There is a ton of content to dig through so if you haven’t ever seen the docs or heard the commentary, it’s worth the time. The Extended Cut disc also offers up the picture-in-picture track - while I wish all this material was left to its own devices and not part of watching the actual film, it's still worthwhile content.
Disc One - Theatrical Cut
Disc Two - Extended Cut
Stargate is a rip roaring adventure. With Kurt Russell delivering another iconic badass and James Spader once again proving to be a true chameleon of an actor, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s Egypt-themed sci-fi flick still holds up. Supposedly Devlin and Emmerich were eyeing a sequel movie or a reboot to the television series (or both? Details are a bit murky), we’re far from being done with this highly entertaining franchise. Via Vision out of Australia steps up to the plate to give fans a new release of Stargate. Including both cuts, there’s nothing really “new” in this set beyond each cut getting its own disc and more stylish packaging. Which is fine. The previous 15th and 20th anniversary discs have gone out of print stateside so folks who never got to pick this up can now easily add it to the collection. While there’s always a chance this film could get a 4K upgrade someday, this set is a great option until that day comes. Recommended