Stargate

The angel on my shoulder said: you can do a serious write up of this movie, because this is one of those movies that is very different post 9/11 than it was pre- 9/11. Stargate starts with the American military sending a small group of soldiers through a portal to another world, where they meet a small population of Egyptians that have been kidnapped from Earth to be slaves for an alien named Ra. The soldiers quickly ingratiate themselves to the slaves by giving them lighters and cigarettes, then it's only a day or two before the Americans have convinced these people who have been living in servitude since the pyramids were built that they need to fight back against their oppressors. In short order they wage a war against the evil army which has way more weapons, and through teamwork this ragtag group of freedom fighters explode Ra's flying pyramid as it's trying to hustle into outer space, ending his reign of terror. The compressed timeline isn't necessarily a problem for a movie which we all know has to wrap things up quickly, but it did remind me of the run up to the Iraq war, when the promise was that we would win the fight in a cake walk and then be greeted as liberators by the newly freed Iraqis. Stargate has overtones of imperial hubris that I didn't pick up on when I saw it in theaters but which are unmistakeable now, and there's a lot that can be said about that.

The devil on my shoulder said: you can do a funny write up of this movie, because all of Ra's henchmen wear mechanical helmets that make them look like the animal-human hybrids that ancient Egyptians used to worship as gods. There's one scene where bird headed soldiers fly bird shaped aircraft to strafe the slum where the slaves live, and it made me wonder: wait, do you have to have a bird helmet to be able to fly a plane on this world? Do the bird headed guys also ride camels in the same headgear, even though that's no longer thematically appropriate? Are there submarines in this world? If so, do the captains of the submarines have to wear crocodile helmets? We only get to explore a tiny fraction of this world near Ra's pyramid before the movie is over, so it's quite possible that there's a corner of that planet where guys in super fancy metal horse helmets are working in a stable shoveling shit, and if those guys exist I want to meet them.

I was going back and forth whether I wanted to focus my review on the text of the movie (which is knowingly goofy) or the subtext of the movie (which is a lot more complicated)... But then Kurt Russell made my decision for me. You see, the final battle begins when a small band of rebels sneaks through the front door of the pyramid wearing hoods that hide their faces, and when one of the dog-faced soldiers pulls back Russell's hood to see if he's an American invader or a slave who is legitimately delivering supplies Russell makes eye contact with him, winks, and then machine guns him in the crotch.

As Karl Marx said: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." If Stargate is going to be a movie that literally winks at the camera right before a barrage of bullets is fired at a barely contained ballsack then it cannot be reviewed seriously. It's just not fair to what this movie is to talk about it as a piece of political theater, even if it has implications in that direction.

So some more questions those helmets raise: would it be easier or harder to pull the old "knock out a guard and put on his uniform to sneak inside" trick with them? Because they totally hide your face, but the guards also don't wear shirts or pants, meaning that you would be sort of anonymous, but also pretty naked, which could be tricky. (Hope you don't have any tattoos, Kurt Russell.)

Are there helmets that aren't based on Egyptian gods? Like is there a seal helmeted guy in their arctic base? If so does his helmet freeze to his face like a tongue getting stuck on a street sign on a snowy night? How much does he hate being stationed in the gulag instead of in the desert?

Is it better to just imagine the answers to these questions or should I watch some of the television spin offs to see if they have any answers? This is actually the only one of my queries which I actually know the answer to. Yes, it is better to imagine this in my mind than to investigate it further. In my imagination the parts of Stargate's world we don't see in the movie are like a furry convention just more metallic, but I have a feeling that the TV shows are a little more war in the middle east-ish, with poles that fire laser blasts substituted for guns. The world I'm imagining isn't perfect, but God knows it's better than that.

Winner: Me

Stargate on IMDB