Studio:MGM Year: 1997 Cast: Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Don S. Davis, Jay Acovone, Peter Williams, Alexis Cruz, Vaitiere Bandera Director: Mario Azzopardi Release Date: July 21, 2009 Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for television audiences) Run Time: 01h:32m:00s Genre(s): science fiction, television, adventure, action
"Unless we want to give ourselves a really bad reputation, I just think we should avoid shooting the first people we meet on a new planet." - Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks)
This updated version includes significant edits, improved effects and a brand-new score to deliver a better experience. If you're a casual viewer, however, I'd stick with the full seasons.
Movie Grade: B+
DVD Grade: B-
Stargate SG-1 aired for 10 seasons and is currently the longest-running sci-fi series in American television history. Premiering in 1997 with the two-hour pilot Children of the Gods, it built a devoted following and spawned two spin-offs. Twelve years later, Co-creator Brad Wright has returned to the beginning and delivered a žFinal CutÓ of the original episode. This updated version includes significant edits, improved effects and a brand-new score to deliver a better experience.
Directed by Roland Emmerich, the 1994 Stargate film received a mixed response from critics but drew a surprisingly large audience. Kurt Russell and James Spader starred as Colonel Jack O'Neill and Dr. Daniel Jackson in an ambitious story dominated by impressive visuals. There were some flat, hokey moments, but the adventure plot attracted many fans. The premise of a Stargate leading to another planet was unique and seemed perfect for a television series. Showtime commissioned Wright and Jonathan Glassner to adapt the movie into a weekly show. MacGyver's Richard Dean Anderson and the lesser-known Michael Shanks replaced Russell and Spader in the lead roles. The other stars were Amanda Tapping as Colonel Samantha Carter, Christopher Judge as Teal'c and Twin Peaks' Don S. Davis as General Hammond. This core group of likable actors would drive SG-1's success for a majority of its lengthy run.
In its original form, Children of the Gods effectively bridges the film with the series and uses some inventive plot devices to expand the scope. Anderson's a natural as O'Neill, and the other major stars show promising chemistry. But there were some awkward moments, particularly involving some key introductions and unsuccessful supporting roles. The visual effects were fine for 1997, but they paled in comparison to images seen in subsequent years. Finally, many scenes in the lair of the villainous Apophis (Peter Williams) cross into ridiculous territory. Considered as the first episode of an ongoing story, though, it's a worthy introduction to the characters and environment.
This žFinal CutÓ includes countless small changes that are barely noticeable, but there are some major edits. If you're concerned with spoilers regarding these updates, it might be worth skipping down to discussion of the extras. One surprising change is the complete re-recording of Judge's lines for Teal'c. His voice was less confident originally and differed from the tone of his series work. We also see more of Teal'c in this edit to make his change of heart more understandable. Another big change is the removal of some cringe-inducing lines from Tapping in Carter's first scene. It's an improved moment, but there's only so much you can do with awkward footage. This episode also offers the only nude scenes in the entire show, so their removal wasn't a major surprise.
The improved Stargate effects are a subtle change but pay huge dividends in enhancing its grandeur. Another plus is a second Death Glider during the final chase to craft a more exciting sequence. The only downside is the new pyramid shot, which moves too far into obvious CGI territory. Visual Effects Supervisor Michelle Comens deserves serious praise for creating plenty of great effects, even if there are a few missteps. And I can't say enough good things about Joel Goldsmith's new score, which is eons better than the original music.
This release just includes two extrasůa commentary with Anderson and Wright and the featurette Back to the Beginning. The discussion is mostly scene-specific and should interest viewers wanting to know more about the changes. Anderson keeps everything light, which makes for an enjoyable but not very informational track. The other piece gives a quick look at the edits via interviews with Wright and Comens. They provide interesting details, but this feature should have at least been twice as long. It's disappointing to not see extras chronicling the episode's production or at least interviews with the other cast members. This omission makes it harder for me to give a strong recommendation.
So is Children of the Gods: The Final Cut worth buying? The answer depends on your interest in Stargate SG-1. If you're a die-hard fan, buying this new version is a no-brainer. The changes are significant enough to warrant double-dipping. If you're a casual viewer, however, I'd stick with the full seasons. I appreciate this different look at an old favorite but think a rental is the best choice for many fans.