In-detail: Following the decidedly average Stargate: The Ark of Truth, I wasn’t really holding out too much hope for the second movie. It sounded tagged-on, perhaps even somewhat unnecessary.
I was wrong.
Stargate: Continuum might well be unnecessary, and even unrelated to the Ark of Truth and anything Ori-related, but it is very, very good.
Clocking in at around 1 hour and 30 minutes, the movie deals with SG-1 becoming trapped in an alternate timeline; one fabricated by Baal as a last-ditch attempt to control Earth and the universe. It’s the perfect setting for plenty of cameos, lots of action and some nice, fun settings.
In other words, it would have been exceedingly easy to screw up in some way. This has been what Stargate producers have done best over the last three or four years: take great ideas and half-fulfil them. Not here. Continuum hits the mark. Why? Well, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the use of character. The producers choose to focus on SG-1 (Mitchell, Carter, Jackson, Teal’c and Vala) and Baal. They are the integral characters to the story. I was relieved to see the writer’s also resisted the temptation to try and use this to develop Mitchell and Vala excessively. Sure, they both get nice character moments, but so does everyone. They’re treated like team members, rather than the new guys who need air-time.
The others are dealt with in relation to their importance during their time in the show. O’Neill’s role is prominent, yet the writers didn’t try to overplay it. They didn’t go, “O’Neill’s back, let’s make the movie around Richard Dean Anderson’s undeniable talent and make it seem forced”. Perhaps the strongest aspect of RDA’s appearance is that it seems completely natural. He’s there long enough to make an impact, not long enough to seem forced or contrived. Full marks on that.
The focus on SG-1 also drives the plot. In a story with so many potential distractions, it’s great to be able to keep track of the team and follow them rather than try and delve into countless backstories. SG-1 provide the focus, and simply put, it works. As a result, casual fans and die-hards should enjoy this movie.
The production is excellent as well. Some of the sets are fantastic, including the USS Achilles and Baal’s time chamber. The use of real-settings such as the Air Force Hanger and the Arctic shoot provide for some really expensive looking shots. You can tell money was put into this movie, and it tells far more than in Ark of Truth. The Goa’uld fleet visuals are great, as are the F16/Glider/MiG fight sequences. Some of the effects are a little suspect (the city and the pyramid at the beginning) and leaves you to wonder why the inconsistency in effects standards on Stargate? Some are excellent, others are a little dodgy; often within minutes of each other.
It was great to see all the Stargate alumni on screen once more. Apophis, Major Davis, Kronos, Yu, Hammond, President Hayes… it feels like a real celebration of the last eleven years of Stargate SG-1. I must confess, I found it very difficult watching Don S. Davis’s performance of General Hammond, given his recent passing. Rest in peace, Don. You are a star.
The plot is magnificent, in my opinion. A little bit of everything. You have the pace and the fun of an action thriller, coupled with some great character moments (O’Neill’s fury at Daniel suggesting his son had committed suicide being one, or Daniel accepting he’s going to lose a leg as another). You’ve got the cleverness of a great science-fiction plot, weaving time-travel together with an established villain who, above all, has very believable motive. The whole jaunt may be a little unrealistic, and time-scales sped up for the sake of entertainment, but hell: this is what SG-1 always excelled at. It’s a perfect representation of the best of the show. Sure, it’s a little silly – but it’s fun, and above all, it’s good.
Standout performances? Hard to say. Cliff Simon was fantastic as Baal, so I’d have to say he would possibly get my vote. There was a nice balance of serious/humorous for Richard Dean Anderson, but he simply wasn’t in it enough for his undeniable talent to really echo around the movie. Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks all performed solidly, particularly Ben. Mitchell felt like a character who had been there from the beginning, gelling perfectly, even in scenes with O’Neill. Strong work from the Farscape man. I felt a little underwhelmed by Christopher Judge and Claudia Black, but the script wasn’t really a showcase for either of them, so it’s perhaps unfair to be too critical.
As with Ark of Truth, the music sounded great, really complimenting what was seen on screen. It sounded excellent, and was once again great to hear the original Stargate anthem make an appearance. If there were any critique, it would be that when Apophis was first revealed, the dramatic clichÃ©d reveal music was a bit over the top. But I’m nitpicking as usual.
Perhaps most interestingly about Continuum: when the movie ended, I felt fulfilled. If this is all the Stargate we’re ever going to get, I feel okay about that. Some people wanted something bigger, more epic. I simply don’t feel that could’ve been achieved withou t losing some of the integrity of the entertainment. This was a celebration of ten years, and a good one at that. It succeeds. It provides homage and it entertains. There could be more movies (talk of a third revolving around the character of Jack O’Neill is floating around the interweb – hurry, he’s putting on weight fast!). Should that come to pass, I would like it to finish. An O’Neill bookend would be welcome in my mind, but let’s not run this into the ground. It’s ready to end. Continuum would end it with dignity – one final hurrah that it is clear was enjoyed by all – cast and crew.
Grade: 88% (A)