Stars: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Leon Rippy, John Diehl. Written by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Rated PG-13 for violence.

Sometimes I must wait to see a particular film until after it has been released to the general public. Although I refrain from reading other critics reviews, during these times I often pick up on the buzz, be it positive, negative or inconclusive, surrounding a movie. It would be very easy at this crucial point just to go along with the general consensus. This is especially true if the buzz is negative because typically it's easier to pick apart a movie than to praise it. But I never allow myself to be swayed (at least I hope I never do) because, after all, even a majority opinion is still just an opinion and what any one person thinks is just as valid.

The point I'm getting at, as if you didn't see it coming, is that I thoroughly enjoyed the film "Stargate", despite the buzz that said I most likely wouldn't. I found it to be thought-provoking entertainment, complete with a compelling storyline and first-rate special effects. Although marketed as heavy science-fiction along the lines of "Star Wars", and although the film's opening scenes are reminiscent of an "Indiana Jones" adventure, "Stargate" is really a quieter, gentler film about the triumphs of the human spirit.

The story starts off in 1928 with the discovery of a large round tablet buried near the pyramids in Egypt. The tablet contains hieroglyphics describing a stargate, as well as some as yet indecipherable symbols. Said stargate is found nearby, although its purpose and usage are not discovered for decades.

Enter Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader). Daniel is a scientist who has insisted for years that the pyramids were not built by ancient Egyptians, although he doesn't have a theory as to their origin. He is recruited by the military to study the tablet and decipher the strange symbols that are the key to opening the stargate. After much fruitless work, Daniel is inspired to believe that the symbols are not words, after all, but representations of constellations. This discovery gives the military the information they need to activate the stargate.

After a probe establishes that the stargate leads to a world in a distant galaxy, Dr. Jackson makes the trek through the portal accompanied by a small band of soldiers commanded by Colonel Jonathan "Jack" O'Neil (Kurt Russell). It is only after they have all made the journey to the distant planet that Daniel informs them that he doesn't have all the information required to get them back but that this information should be located nearby. It just so happens that on this new planet their exists a duplicate of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The similarities don't stop there, however.

A race of humans inhabits the planet; a race that worships the Egyptian sun god Ra (Jaye Davidson) and which speaks a variation of a language on earth. The people there are slaves to the merciless Ra, but see Colonel O'Neil and the rest as allies.

"Stargate" has to it as a sense of wonder and awe that many films aspire to but few achieve. It is based on a clever premise, which is all the more intriguing when the science- fiction aspects of the production are down-played. A sweeping musical score by Dave Arnold enriches the experience.

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