Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were the dynamic duo of the 1990’s, between blockbusters like Universal Soldier, Godzilla and Independence Day. They always envisioned Stargate as being part one of a trilogy, but the other two films have never been made. It’s a total popcorn film, unafraid of its own silliness, a movie that Roger Ebert selected as one of his least favorite movies of all time.
Daniel Jackson (James Spader playing a good guy, which is way out of character) is a linguist and Egyptologist who is invited by Catherine Langford (Viveca Lindfors, A Bell from Hell, Creepshow) to help translate the Giza cover stones that her father found in 1928. Soon, he’s taken to an Air Force base where Special Operations Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell!) oversees the project.
Daniel is able to translate the hieroglyphs in no time at all, showing how they’re really coordinates for a stargate. They use his translations to open the gate, which creates a gateway to Abydos, a planet across the galaxy where Ra (Jaye Davison from The Crying Game) and his soldiers rule a human-like race of people. Ra has enslaved these humans, forcing them to mine resources for him.
Meanwhile, the army troops that have passed through the gate meet up with a tribe led by Kasuf, who presents Daniel with the gift of his daughter Sha’uri. The commander becomes friends with Skaara, as he reminds him of his son who accidentally shot himself with the soldier’s service weapon. Soon, they come into conflict with Ra, who has set himself up as a god, and his soldiers like Anubis and Horus (a very early role for Djimon Hounsou). Of course, goodness wins out and the humans — other than Spader — all return home.
Alexis Cruz (Skaara) and Erick Avari (Kasuf) would go on to reprise their roles in the TV series, Stargate SG-1. If you have Comet TV, there are all manner of Stargate spin-offs to watch, like Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis.
Stargate is one of those big dumb 90’s movies they just don’t make these days. It’s packed with effects, costumes and huge crowds of people (and some mannequins, which were cheaper than extras). None of it really makes any sense, but it has plenty of explosions and fight scenes, which is all you really need.