Reviews

Stargate: The Ark of Truth

Justin Dimos

Not since Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling has a single account been so influential to our modern theological crisis of faith.


Stargate: The Ark of Truth

Director: Robert C. Cooper
Cast: Michael Shanks, Ben Brower, Amanda Tapping
Distributor: MGM
MPAA rating: Unrated
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-03-11

Hell if bowing to the Ori or burning at the stake leaves us humans many options for the future. But these ascended beings don't mess around. Nor do they leave straggling free thinkers behind to poison the minds of their devout followers. Should doubt be allowed to fester and rebellions mount as they have in previous generations, these bloodthirsty bullies aren't above showing you the light with incurable plagues or bombarding your quaint village with energy blasts from their indestructible spaceships.

News flash, people of Earth. Any religion that demands blind obedience through fear mongering and terrorist tactics should be considered seriously suspect, and so the Ori saga outlined in the new sci-fi feature Stargate: The Ark of Truth foretells.

Turns out these powerhouse oppressors don't ascend their followers as their religion Origin promises. Instead, the Ori sap power from the lower plains as each human chants their name, and what kind of ascended being wants to share their dominion with the new kid on the block? Not these, that's for sure. Now wise to the millions of unbelievers living in the Milky Way galaxy, ripe and begging to be converted, the Ori launch a full scare holy crusade that could spell the end of scientific advancement and freedom of choice everywhere.

Imagine countless blind clerics called priors, heads scarred from some major cerebral redecorating, dressed in monkish robes that hearken back to the dark ages, pounding on their trusty bible, preaching Origin or hellfire for those who refuse to follow the path, yielding wizardly staff that enhance their telekinetic abilities ten fold, commanding legions of armored warriors, all bent on the total domination of the Milky Way galaxy in the name of the Ori. Scary, eh?

Our only hope lays in an elite team of explorers designated SG-1 and a former Ori general Tomin (Tim Guinee) unearthing a mysterious ancient ark that has the power to brainwash the Origin followers into believing that the Ori are false gods. Crippled, low on juice, only then will the last of these dangerous ascended being meet their bitter end.

Compliments of MGM, the entire Stargate: SG-1 cast is back in action, and among them is Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson), Ben Brower (Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell), Amanda Tapping (Lt. Col. Samantha Carter), Christopher Judge (Teal'c), and Claudia Black (Vala Mal Doran). New faces to look for in other movies include: Currie Graham as Merrick, an IOA spy, and Morena Baccarin as Adria, the last of the ascended Ori.

Of course only a Stargate fan who followed the last two seasons of the "longest running sci-fi series on television" Stargate: SG-1 will grasp all the dramatic nuances of this cinematic jewel. But that doesn't mean only enthusiasts will enjoy this epic battle over independence. Among the special features is an amazing montage called Stargate SG-1: The Road Taken -- Prelude to Stargate: The Ark of Truth, which weaves together the basic Ori movement in less than ten minutes. And if you're looking for a laugh to cut the philosophy and tension of the movie, don't forget to check out the extra Stargate at Comic-Con, where diehard fanatics ask the actors personal questions and even indulge in some tasteless sci-fi raps.

Still, what's the big whoop about Stargate: The Ark of Truth apart from the television series? Sure, the fans will cream over yet another pesky replicator infestation of the earth ship Odyssey as well as the cameos by legends such as Julian Sands and Sarah Strange, but what can the connoisseur of science fiction and mythology learn from this stellar flick?

Long story short, this space narrative that began "millions of years ago, in a distant galaxy ... " is a superb portrait of the classic quest for the ever-illusive religious artifact, not unlike King Arthur's search for the holy grail, another myth from which the Stargate franchise borrows, by the way. Hunting for the artifact that could finally defeat the Ori once and for all, this contemporary chronicle not only adapts ancient earth lore to explore the metaphysical questions of modern belief, but also serves as an evolutionary window in to the concept of the human condition.

Consider the ancient Greeks and how literature developed over the centuries. Erecting temples to various gods and subscribing to a polytheist worldview, these early thinkers first focused their epics on the battles and manifestations of omnipotent beings such as Zeus and Athena. Only later did the tales shift to encompass the legendary half-gods such as Hercules. Then, realizing their freedom and perhaps somewhat tired of including the gods in all plights, the Greek stage tragedies, like Oedipus Rex and Antigone, were developed to finally give human suffering and heroism a spotlight in the world.

Now, set in the modern era when scientific advancement is the new truth and the divine dominance of old has reached its twilight, Stargate: The Ark of Truth brings to life the true significance mankind's perseverance just like the ancient Greeks did with the tragedies, as false gods are toppled by the sheer force of our enduring human spirit. Our spaceship is called the Odyssey for crying out loud. Talk about symbolism. Talk about universal maxims.

Rest assured this movie succeeds on a practical level, too. With a heart wrenching musical score by Joel Goldsmith and a mammoth production value allowing for beautiful medieval sets and wardrobe armaments, Stargate: The Ark of Truth activates the imagination and elevates science fiction drama to new heights.

Not since Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling has a single account been so influential to our modern theological crisis of faith. Space may be the final frontier, but this interplanetary gateway opens new realms of human significance that are as pragmatic as they are redeeming. As a former Alterian says at the beginning of the movie:

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.

A pitch perfect mixture of human suffering in the face of religious zealots and dazzling space action that sets new standards in cinema, Stargate: The Ark of Truth is a must-see for anyone who has pondered the future of civilization and the liberation of the mind.

8
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