With my only previous full-on experience with the Stargate series being the previous DTV (Ark of Truth), I didn’t know what to expect from the latest Stargate DTV, Stargate: Continuum. While the previous film upped the stakes in major ways, as a casual observer of the series, Continuum seemed to feel more like an extended episode more than anything. Still, that only barely scrapes the surface of this hour and a forty minute film, which takes fans into a world unfamiliar to them in the series: a world without SG-1.
During an intergalactic hearing for a war criminal, Ba’al, team members of SG-1 begin to vanish into thin air without any explanation. When the majority of the attendees to the proceedings also begins to vanish, three remaining SG-1 members high-tail it back to the Stargate to travel back to Earth to find out what’s wrong. Once they arrive back, however, they find that not only is their destination not what they set it, but they also soon find out that the Earth they returned to is not the one they left due to time stream meddling done by Ba’al. The surviving members of the SG-1 team must find out Ba’al’s ultimate plan is to restore Earth back to its rightful state.
As previously mentioned, I’m not an avid Stargate viewer. There’s little doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t enjoy the show to pieces, I just never had the time to invest in a show that has run, and spun off, into a myriad of seasons that will take me awhile to catch up on. One of these days I’ll no doubt check it out, but for now I’ll have to make do with the DTVs, which I’ve found to be quite enjoyable. The only problem is that while the films make you feel comfortable as a newbie viewer, they still have a feeling of “if you’d seen the rest of this series, you’d appreciate this more.” I can fully comprehend and follow the plots to the films without any real hindrance, but there’s that nagging feeling in the back of my head that I’d be much more into it if I really understood the characters I was watching, as well as the histories they have with one another.
From an outsider’s perspective, if you aren’t a fan of SG-1, it’s going to take a lot to get you interested in Continuum. There’s really no jumping-in point for the film, it’s just a very simple and non-complex plot. Ok, so it’s not entirely confusion free, the plot involves time travel and that can always get hairy, but from a sci-fi standpoint, it’s a simple walk in the park. I just wonder why the producers of SG-1 aren’t taking the full advantage of these films; I know the budgets a bit on the weak side (as evidenced by the sometimes screwy looking CGI), but the majority of the film looked fine and on-par with the last DTV effort. I guess executing what are essentially longer episodes of the series is taking advantage of the format, but when given the opportunity to do feature length films, often the choice is to make something more epic in scope, not a simple time travel feature where everything returns to the same status quo as it was at the beginning of the film.
Despite its weak elements, there’s still plenty to enjoy about the film. The various throwbacks or references to characters that have since left the show make appearances and the chance to see some of the show favorites and regulars in situations that they’ve never been put in before is an interesting twist to observe. If anything, the generic plot of the film is made up by the characters that inhabit it, with a nice level of diversity and complexity woven throughout, offering up some new environments for fans to sink their teeth into.
Since I haven’t seen the series itself, the appearance of other characters from the show was a bit wasted on me, as was the appearance of a fruity cereal that apparently was a plot point of an earlier episode of the series involving a time loop. I can laugh at it now in retrospect, now that I know the history of it all, but as I was watching it, I was quite surprised to discover the little throwbacks that were sprinkled throughout the story. Not so many as I probably assume there were, but in any case, Continuum is certainly an effort by the creators of the shows to give fans more of what they enjoyed so much about the series.
I’ve enjoyed the Stargate DTV’s, but I honestly don’t feel that they’re going to rope in any new viewers that weren’t already curious about the series. There’s simply too much history behind the series to fully appreciate what the film is and while you will enjoy it on a superficial level, I doubt you’ll glean much from it overall unless you’re already a longstanding fan of the series. My interest is certainly piqued in the series by these DTVs alone and hopefully I can begin to watch the series at some point down the road.
Fox offers up Stargate Continuum in not only the DVD format as with the previous release, but also on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray edition arrives in standard casing with a reflective foil slipcover and inserts advertising other Fox Blu-ray titles as well as an insert for updating your player’s firmware. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, with the real plus on this set being the video and audio transfer. While the video, a 1080p 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer, isn’t something to show off the home theater with, it’s still a very strong transfer, with rich colors and a solid level of detail throughout. In particular I found the early snow sequences to be quite filled with detail, with one shot specifically standing out, where you could easily distinguish the texture of the snow. The audio is a fairly subtle 5.1 mix, offered in DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio, that can range from being a full pounding thrill fest to a quiet battle mix. The opening piece of the film with Ba’al’s arrival on the freighter ship shook the room, but the eventual sequences with the fighter jets in the third act of the film barely made a rumble. Although they were low in the bass area, the surrounds did kick in, offering up a nice feeling of submersion into the battle. Not enough to really write home about, but a solid mix nonetheless.
There is an array of extras to check out, all undoubtedly interesting to the Stargate fan (I was a bit bored by them, but I’m sure I’ll find it more interesting down the line). The first up is a commentary with Executive Producer/Writer Brad Wright an Director Martin Wood that is so incredibly technical, that my mind began to wonder. I’m not sure why they felt the need to discuss the special effects of the film so much, as there weren’t that many in here to warrant the intense focus that they were given. They talk very little about the film itself, which is a shame as I would’ve liked to hear more about why this plot was chosen to be the second DTV in lin. Oh well.
The rest of the extras are basic featurette material, none of which are in HD, starting with “The Making of Stargate Continuum” (22:35), a, you guessed it, making-of the film. This is a nice in-depth piece on the making of the film that offered up more like I expected from the commentary. The next extra, “Stargate Goes to the Arctic” (21:53), focuses on the locations used in the film and is curiously a bit too…repetitious with its talk about the locations. It’s cold, yes. Why are we spending twenty-two minutes on that? Yet another extra that will likely entice the fans more than the general viewer. Finally we have “The Layman’s Guide to Time Travel” (9:19), an extra that attempts to point out the science of time travel as shown in Continuum. Yes there’s a science to science-fiction, believe it or not. I think I may have enjoyed this extra more than the film itself; time travel is always a tricky element and whenever it’s explained in a movie, it always seems over-convoluted, but this extra boils it down nicely. Obviously the film couldn’t spend the nine minutes this extra did on explaining everything, so it was a nice little back-up to it all.
Overall Stargate: Continuum is a fine film and Blu-ray release, but is strictly for fans of the show. Newcomers will find little, if anything, of substance and will not be wowed by the films overly generic sci-fi plot.
Newcomers: Rent It.
Stargate: Continuum is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.