Stargate: Continuum

(This review first appeared on on August 12, 2008)

“Continuum” is an entertaining rollercoaster ride, ninety-eight minutes worth of neat plot twists and satisfying thrills. One reason is that Jack is back­—General Jack O’Neill, that is— as well as Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, Teal’c, Cameron Mitchell, Vala, and many other characters from the ten seasons of SG-1. Unlike the more solemn “Stargate: The Ark of Truth,” the first direct to DVD release from the Stargate team that served as a resolution to the series, this movie taps back into the action, camaraderie, and fun which originally endeared the show to viewers. Instead of the religious fanaticism of the Ori, the Goa’uld return as the super villains and once again threaten humanity’s existence. Throw into the mix a little time travel, scenes filmed in a real nuclear submarine on location above the Arctic Circle and another great score by Joel Goldsmith. It’s a good bet, as Bowder’s character, Cam Mitchell, says early in the movie, that “This is going to be cool.”

The film starts as SG-1 joins General O’Neill on the Tokra homeworld to witness an extraction ceremony that will destroy Ba’al, last of the Goa’uld System Lords. But is he the original Ba’al or just another clone? (Tip: if none of these references are clear, the rest of the movie won’t make much sense either. Do not pass go. Instead, go back and catch up on the previous seasons of SG-1, also available on DVD, before watching “Continuum.”) When people start vanishing into thin air, including two members of SG-1, the rest of team escapes though the Stargate only to find they’re stranded in an altered time. History they know it has been erased, the Stargate program doesn’t exist, and it’s a good bet the Goa’uld are on their way to conquer a now defenseless Earth.

Altered time lines are always fun in the hands of a good writer and executive producer/writer Brad Wright certainly fits that bill. The usual time paradoxes are neatly explained—in that typical don’t-take-it-too-seriously SG-1 way—and the familiar history of this fictional world gets ripped apart, then expertly remixed.  In “the Making of” featurette, director Martin Wood says that “the best parts of everything” from the series resurface in this film. Indeed they do, as Teal’c would say. “Continuum” can’t help but stir up the desire to watch past Stargate episodes or to watch this DVD again while listening to the audio commentary by Wood and Wright (both of whom do cameos in the film). The rest of the special features are equally as engaging, especially the featurette “Stargate Goes to the Arctic,” which chronicles the difficulties and wonders of filming on location above the Arctic Circle.

Another great pleasure is the many character driven scenes in which the SG-1 team learns to cope with life in the altered time line. Due to time restrictions for episodic TV, most of these would have been cut at the script stage or ended up as deleted scenes if filmed. Within the longer format, there’s some room to play with pacing, time to slow down before revving up the excitement; the well-knit script contains just enough of these quiet moments to contrast with the great action sequences.

Hopefully this will be just the second, not the last, of direct-to-DVD Stargate adventures. Wood says near the end of the commentary, “I’ll keep making them as long as they let me make them.” Maybe one will even hit the big screen in the future. For the record, May 2009 is the latest release date on the new Star Trek film; the original series started 42 years ago, proving good scifi premises never get old. At 14 years and counting from the original film, Stargate is just getting started.

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