Bit disappointing really. More of a double TV episode than a feature film. But with a budget of only $7 million I guess you can’t have everything.
This ‘movie’ was designed to wrap up the Ori story line left in limbo when the series was canned. I guess it did that, but I found my self laughing out loud at the silliness of some scenes.
Now, I realise that many people would be laughing from start to finish. So I’m talking as one reasonably well versed in the Stargate universe. A place where you learn to ignore some things in order to appreciate the story. Like, for instance, the way humanoids from another galaxy speak with north American accents and seem to understand idiomatic English. Etc. etc.
Silly bits included the pointless and clumsy use of the replicators. It just seemed like a way of compensating for lack of substance in the main story and an excuse to shoot at bad aliens with automatic weapons. The way the replicators got loose to wreak their havoc? Sorry, never going to happen. The takeover of bad guy Marrick by a replicator to become a terminator look alike? Seemed inconsistent with the replicator story line and just silly.
And Teal’c’s epic journey? What’s with that? Teal’c, having been shot in the back and left for dead, revives (that’s OK, he always does that) and completes a rescue journey through forest and over snowy mountains. Just a series of dramatic shots of him walking, jaw set with Jaffa determination. It should probably have taken him a week. But he knocks it off in what seems like a few hours – with a big hole blasted in his back. Ok, that got healed by the free-lance ascended being towards the end, but it didn’t quite work for me. Teal’c is a character with so much more potential.
In any case, it was nice to see the gang in action but I guess I’m nostalgic for the Goa’uld old days when O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) was in charge. Good times, good humour, good drama, cutting edge special effects and a chemistry that I don’t think has been matched since.
Interesting story though. Replete, as usual, with themes of religion, power, ethics and technology. And for me it’s those motifs that make the show more than an often ignored sci-fi series with a cult following.
From its inception, the Stargate story has been woven around various earth mythologies. These are found to have basis in various alien races bent on the domination of their particular galaxy and any others within reach. The ‘stargates’ allow virtually instantaneous intergalactic travel via ‘wormholes’. And, yes, there are fleets of spaceships as well. SG-1 defends the earth against the evil schemes of these alien aggressors acquiring allies (there are good guys out there) and technology along the way. It’s jolly good fun that can get you thinking about things.
The ethics of such warfare is an underlying theme explored as SG-1 essentially resorts to genocide to destroy the Goa’uld, the replicators, and the Ori.
In this film, the Ark of Truth is a weapon that brainwashes people into believing any ‘true’ proposition its creators program into it. This has special significance in the Ori arc as these ascended beings derive power from the worship of their followers. But the power of belief in and of itself is clearly a theme being explored here.
The Ark is sought after by SG-1 as its current programming convinces its targets that the Ori are not gods. This will give SG-1 the edge it needs to prevent the Ori ‘crusade’ to conquer and forcibly convert galaxies and dominate the universe etc. etc.
As the film starts we witness a debate which has taken place millions of years before (in a galaxy far away). The Alterans, aka ‘the Ancients’ similarly threatened by the Ori have developed a weapon, the Ark of Truth. They discuss its use to in light of the Ori threat. Both races are human rather than ‘ascended’ at this point, so one assumes the Ori have a god complex or the power of the Ark would seem irrelevant.
Alteran 1 (leader): “We cannot hide our ways any longer”
Alteran 2 (Ark creator) “nor should we”
Alteran 1: “The Ori have amassed armies and moved to destroy us. Everything we believe, all we are is an affront to them. They will stop at nothing to destroy every last shred of evidence that opposes their fanaticism.”
Alteran 3: “We have no choice, we have tried to argue reason…”
Alteran 1: “We can fight, use what we know to oppose them.”
Alteran 3: “But we are so few compared to them…”
Alteran 2: “The ark can change everything”
Alteran 3: “Is forced indoctrination really the answer? You would deny the Ori the very essence of self. It is no different than the murder they propose.”
Alteran 1: “The only moral way to change someone’s mind, make them see the truth, as you put it, is to present evidence.”
Alteran 3 (key speech): “We believe in the systematic understanding of the physical world through observation and experimentation, through argument and debate, but most of all freedom of will. I will not compromise the fundamental tenets of my devotion in order to preserve it.”
(Alteran 2 looks a bit cheesed off)
Alteran 1: “We acknowledge the incredible potential of the technology of the Ark…”
Alteran 3: “And the danger such power presents…”
Alteran 1: “It will not be used as a weapon against the Ori. The debate on the issue is closed.”
They leave their planet mistakenly assuming the Ark is destroyed.
The film is cleverly ambiguous in the way it presents the philosophical debates around warfare. On the one hand they seem to be applauding the moral stand of the Alterans and on the other pointing up its ultimate failure to combat evil, preserve truth and freedom. It is a debate that director/writer Rob Cooper notes is very current.
SG-1 find the Ark, use it and beat the ‘bad guys’ and propagate the other mythology of the series – North America as false-god killers preserving freedom not only on our planet but across the galaxies. However, are they entirely happy about the way things went? Is this a justification of the use of force in order to liberate? Does the end justify the means?
In a closing scene which mirrors the opening debate, Daniel Jackson, team archaeologist and linguistics expert, talks with Major General Landry leader of Stargate command about the Ark:
Jackson: “I know I was the one who found it. I’m not entirely happy that we were forced to use it either but I think it was better than the alternative”
Landry: “No one disagrees with you…”
Jackson: “But it is a very dangerous piece of technology to keep lying around”
Landry: “It’s out of my hands Dr Jackson.”
Jackson: “OK let’s say someone does figure out how to re-program it, or worse let’s say it does fall into the wrong hands. It could be the most powerful weapon we have ever come across.”
Landry: “I’m well aware of the risk, so is the IOA. for now the Ark is being studied at Area 51. That’s all I know. I’m sorry Dr Jackson, I’ve done all I can do.”
Scary place that Area 51. But hey, “forced to use it”!! What?! They were hell bent on finding it for the express purpose of using it! They tried to use it at every possible juncture! And “the wrong hands”! Translation: any hands other than ours.
Interestingly, Daniel Jackson began the series as the idealist scientist opposed to any form of violence or coercion. And while the writers clearly want to preserve something of this old Jackson, his non-violent stance collapsed as the series progressed. There ain’t no place in the USAF for pacifists. Especially when the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance. Force is okay when the enemy is clearly ‘evil’.
Is the ark a metaphor for the power of narrative? The persuasiveness of story? Maybe the writers were aware of the irony, but it is the power of belief is in focus here, especially ‘religious’ belief. It is possibly “the most powerful weapon we have ever come across” says Jackson. It would have to be the ultimate way of ‘imposing your truth’ upon someone else! Anything that can influence and change belief can change the person, the course of battle and of the course of history. It is indeed a powerful weapon.
The power of belief was so strong that a brain washing device was needed in order to ‘free’ those who were captive to the lie and achieve victory. ‘Presenting evidence’ was not enough to break the power of this false religion. In the end, one form of brainwashing was a justifiable weapon against to combat another. So reads the story.
Serious stuff at a time when religious ideologies are a dominating feature of global politics and economics. I thought this was just a fun sci-fi flick.
Anyhow, I haven’t given up on Stargate (and will give Continuum a try) and neither have they apparently. A new TV series – Stargate Universe – is currently in production as well as another SG-1 movie scheduled to begin filming later this year.