Stargate hit theaters back in 1994 and it has managed to craft one of the most dominant legacies in all of science-fiction. The movie spawned three spinoff shows and continues to be praised by its many fans worldwide. However, the original film certainly came under the pressures and limitations of both its era and its budget. Co-creator Dean Devlin recently spoke about his feelings towards the original movie and he hit on a point about what he would like to do differently if given the opportunity to revisit the first Stargate.
In a recent interview with Dial the Gate, Devlin spoke about some of the issues he and director Roland Emmerich faced when they were making the original Stargate. He hit on a very specific bit of criticism in regards to how they achieved certain effects and how it affected the scale of what they were hoping to achieve. “As big as it was, I think we would have made it bigger,” said Deviln. “I think we would have made the cities bigger, I think we would have done more set extension. I think things like that, just to give it more lush.”
Devlin is talking about the struggles the first Stargate had to overcome due to its effects budget and the limitations of special effects at the time. One of those actually led to a humorous anecdote about how they were able to achieve a large scale of extras. “When you saw all the extras lined up, most of those were sticks with costumes on,” revealed Devlin. It will be very fun to revisit the original movie and try to notice which of the extras might actually be nothing but sticks with costumes on them.
But this actually describes how Devlin would approach Stargate if he and Roland Emmerich made it today. The two of them ended up becoming infamous for making gargantuan effects films like Independence Day and the Godzilla remake from 1998. They also became known for pushing the limitations of practical and digital effects in the ’90s. In fact, Stargate was utilizing CG effects that were quite new at the time when it came to the helmet effects seen on the Horus and Anubis guards. If given the opportunity, it sounds like Devlin would rather lean even more on digital effects today if he had a chance to do Stargate over again.
That certainly sounds like a similar approach that George Lucas took when he did The Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition. Would we ever see a similar approach applied to the original Stargate? The 1994 film has actually become mostly downgraded in importance as far as the Stargate fandom/property is concerned. The focus seems to be more on the television series canon and characters. And to be fair, the original movie has not been the most strongly received in the mainstream either. The idea that a “Special Edition” of the movie could ever happen is highly unlikely.
Still, it would be interesting to see what Stargate could look like with an increase in digital effects and budget. The reported budget for the original film was $55 million which was quite sizable at the time. For reference, mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park (which released a year early) cost $63 million. If we adjust for inflation, the budget for the original movie would work out to around $96 million today. Considering that most big-budget genre movies easily top $200 million today – as an extreme example, Avengers: Endgame cost $356 million – it is worth seeing how the Stargate movie was limited in being as big as it wanted to be.
However, part of that tactile charm is what has endeared the movie to so many fans. Stargate props are still collector’s items and the first film has actually aged better thanks to its more practical elements. Overloading the movie with digital effects might actually have caused it to lose some of the potency behind its legacy. As much as it would always be nice to go back to a movie and improve on supposed flaws, a movie has to be a product of its time and the conditions it was available to it.
We will have to see if anything could ever happen with the original Stargate and what the series holds for the future. Some former actors from the television series are reuniting on another project, so maybe things could be stirring behind the scenes. And would Dean Devlin be involved in any substantial way? If so, it sounds like he would want things to be even bigger and bolder.