Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Stargate: Continuum" (2008)

Starring Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping and Daniel Shanks
Written by Brad Wright
Directed by Martin Wood
Not Rated - Violence, language
Running Time: 94 Minutes

The members of SG-1, Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell (Ben Browder), Lt. Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), Teal'c (Christopher Judge), Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black) are invited to the homeworld of their allies the Tok'Ra to witness the execution of the alien warlord Ba'al (Cliff Simon).  While there, Ba'al boasts of a failsafe plan that will mean the end of SG-1 and the planet Earth.

Soon enough, people and buildings on the Tok'Ra world begin to disappear into thin air.  Determine to escape, Mitchell, Carter and Jackson dial the Stargate back to Earth, but when they arrive they find that time itself has been altered. In this alternate timeline, Colonel Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) finds the three surviving members lost in the arctic and brings them back to the United States where they discover that Daniel is a discredited wackjob of an archaeologist, Mitchell shouldn't exist at all, and Carter's double was killed in a space shuttle accident years earlier.

Unwilling to risk changing the timeline once more, the military separates the three and sets them up with new lives and identities in different parts of the country.  But a year later, Ba'al reappears with a massive fleet of alien ships in orbit of Earth.  With the alternate versions of Teal'c and Vala as his servants, he plans to conquer the planet and split up its territories among the other Goa'uld System Lords.  But having been warned by SG-1, the President (William Devane) knows Ba'al's promises of peace are lies.  He sends Mitchell, Carter and Jackson on a mission to retrieve a powerful weapon capable of defending the Earth from Ba'al before it's too late.  But SG-1 knows that the only way to save Earth is to revert the timeline back to how things are supposed to be, which may prove impossible.

"Continuum" is a pretty massive step up from "The Ark of Truth" which felt messy and suffered from the late arrival of a bloated and unnecessary subplot.  Here, things are streamlined some since the film has only the one plot of these characters stuck in an alternate timeline.  It doesn't divert from that, nor introduce any new concepts late in the game that derail the proceedings.

The script is also better in general, with some very nice moments for all the characters involved and some more impressive action sequences than we got in "The Ark of Truth."  Seeing SG-1 settling into their new lives in the alternate timeline is pretty interesting, as is getting to see some familiar characters in new situations or bringing back faces from earlier in the series (Don S. Davis makes a welcome cameo as General George Hammond, the character he played on the show for the first seven seasons).

Most of the action in the film is confined to the first and third acts, with the middle of the picture given over entirely to showing the alternate timeline and our heroes' predicament in it, as well as building up toward Ba'al's invasion of Earth.  The standout action sequence is a nighttime dogfight in the skies over Russia between US and Russian fighter jets and Ba'al's Goa'uld Death Gliders.  It's a short sequence, but well made and thrilling.  From there the action returns to the fairly standard Stargate tropes of people standing around firing weapons at each other.  It's all very enjoyable, but if you've seen the TV series, then you're not seeing anything here you haven't before.

"Continuum" is better than "The Ark of Truth" and works better as a standalone feature for people who haven't seen the show, but it's still no great art.  It's fun, a decent direct to video sci-fi action picture featuring familiar, comfortable characters from a familiar, comfortable franchise.