The film that spawned numerous series and direct-to-video movies is now celebrating its fifteenth anniversary…and if you picked up the previous Blu-ray from Lionsgate for this film then you’re about be sorely disappointed in having to double dip so soon. You may be confused by my word choice there…”having to.” Surely there’s a choice? Well…quite frankly if you enjoyed the film enough to pick it up and own it, then you’re going to want to upgrade to the new 15th Anniversary Edition. It’s just that good.
Stargate, the film that spawned three television series, two movies and a galaxy of fans, celebrates its 15th anniversary with a special edition Blu-ray Disc! The film, written and directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), boasts a critically-acclaimed ensemble cast that includes three-time Emmy® winner James Spader, Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominee Kurt Russell and two-time Academy Award® nominee Djimon Hounsou. The Stargate: 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Disc contains both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film – for the first time on Blu-ray – in newly remastered 1080P High Definition 16 x 9 Widescreen with English 7.1 DTS-MA Audio and four hours of mind-blowing special features including three new featurettes, a never-before-seen gag reel, an interactive trivia track and more!
Count me as one of the suckers who bought the first Blu-ray release. Lionsgate just dropped the price to the point it was so cheap I had no choice—I enjoyed the film when I was younger and while I never got into the TV series, it was still something I liked to add to my collection. Yet even though I’d bought it almost a year ago…I never watched it. So another edition of this film was literally manufactured, printed up, and sent to my house before I so much as popped that first release into my player. But this new release arriving ultimately led me to have to decide which version to keep so I popped them out to compare and…hoo boy. I’ll discuss the 15th Anniversary goodies more in a bit but…yeah. This is a solid release from Lionsgate.
But enough about the double dipping nature that this release has forced fans into. The most important thing is if this film still holds up to viewings after all of these years and…yeah, I’d have to say it does. Granted I’ve seen the TV series more often in recent years than I have this film, but I really was impressed by the film, overall. It manages to keep an exciting and original sci-fi situation, decent special effects (some of it is a bit dated…like the “domesticated” animal that James Spader encounters early on in the film) and solid fun acting. On top of that the films score, composed by David Arnold, still holds up and is really one of the key elements of the film, I think. It was reused (or at least it’s core elements were used) in the series theme so it will sound familiar to many even if you’ve never seen this film; Stargate has been on so many years now you’re bound to have come across it while channel surfing, regardless if you knew what you were watching.
There’s a lot to enjoy about this film, particularly in the extended cut which adds some new sequences to the film. Not much, mind you; its runtime is only a few minutes over the standard theatrical version (both editions are included on this Blu-ray, unlike the original Blu-ray which boasted only the extended version) but it’s enough to add some extra depth to the film. It pushes it over the two hour mark as well, but when all is said and done most good sci-fi films breach that run time so it’s not a drawback in any way.
Strictly speaking the film doesn’t hold up well in all regards; it does look dated visually, even for something that takes place in a pseudo future/past scenario. It also has some occasionally hokey acting; but at the same time I don’t know if it’s actually bad or something that was completely intentional. I mean when you cast Kurt Russell in something you should expect a bit of cheese…but, again, it’s something that works within the context of this film.
Overall if you haven’t seen it then you should definitely check it out. Lord knows it repeats enough on basic cable these days, so feel free to check it out that way. Or just pick up this new edition which, as I’ll spill in a few paragraphs, is really solid presentation all around. In any case, the films Recommended.
Original release? A reflective foil insert. The new release? Not so much. Although it does have a reflective foil/embossed o-ring to slip over the outside, most people I know will be chucking this in a box in the corner of the room. Inside the packaging you won’t find any inserts and disc art is basically the cover art to the old release…just with a blue hue. Actually it kind of looks like the Close Encounters of the Third Kind cover, to be honest. Menus are different between the discs as well; the original was kind of cheesy but the new one employs the ribbon navigation that most new Lionsgate titles have. Overall it’s a nice package to present the film in.
The old transfer was a bright and grainy MPEG-2 transfer that, to be honest, didn’t look all that bad. Some compression here and there, but overall it wasn’t a completely horrible outing. Well that’s what I thought until I saw the new AVC transfer, anyway. The new transfer sports a slightly different aspect ratio (2.40:1 vs. 2.35:1) and a completely new transfer. I had chosen a specific sequence in the original release to compare to the new one and I was just…stunned by how different they were. The scene in question occurs about an hour and nine minutes into the extended cut and has Spader’s character talking with Mili Avital’s. The original transfer was bathed in warm light that literally lit the entire scene. The new transfer? Not so much. The scene is much darker around the edges with the light focused only in the center of the frame. I haven’t seen such a drastic change in color and tone in a film in a long time and I have to say I’m not entirely against it here. On top of the color levels being changed, the whole transfer just looks a whole lot better; less grain, more detail and just a really, really fantastic clarity to the whole thing.
Audio is also a whole other beast, although not quite in such the same fashion. The original release boasted a DD5.1 EX track while this new one blasts the room in a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix. Granted the film still is a bit old and the upgrade isn’t as drastic as the video, but it’s still a definite upgrade. Stronger bass, more frequency in the surrounds and a fantastic level of clarity in the center channels all make this a track worth upgrading to.
Extras? Well the old release made it look like there was a lot, but in reality there was only a commentary by Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin. While that again returns for this new release, the full list is a lot more impressive this time around:
• New – “Deciphering the Gate: Concepts and Casting” featurette
• New – “ Opening the Gate: The Making of the Movie” featurette
• New – “Passing Through the Gate: The Legacy” – featurette
• New – never-before-seen Gag Reel
• New – “Master of the Stargate” Interactive Trivia Challenge
• New – BonusViewTM Picture-in-Picture “Stargate Ultimate Knowledge”
• “Is There a Stargate?” featurette
• “The Making-of Stargate” documentary
• Audio commentary with Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin
As you can see there’s a bit of older content here, but there’s also six new goodies packed exclusively onto the release. Impressive? Very. And they’re all pretty solid pieces too, as it gives a proper retrospective look onto the film as well as the series and other films that it spawned. Needless to say if you’re a fan of the series then you’ll want this new Blu-ray release.
Brilliant new A/V transfer, a healthy dosage of new extras, and both editions of the film? This is easily a release that’s worth the double dip. Highly Recommended.
Stargate – 15th Anniversary Edition arrives on Blu-ray on October 27th.