Stargate: The Ark of Truth – which hits stores on Tuesday – is the direct-to-DVD wrap-up of a number of loose ends that were left unresolved in the series finale of Stargate SG-1. Although Stargate Command was pretty sure they had managed to destroy the actual Ori, there no resolution regarding the evil ascended beings’ religious hierarchy – the Doci and the Priors [and being pretty sure isn’t the same thing as knowing…] – not to mention Adria.
You know you’re in the peculiar world of Stargate when an enemy attack is heralded by Col. Cameron Mitchell [Ben Browder] in the following manner, “Hey, kids! Guess what? We’re under fire!” Ah, yes. Stargate. It’s good to be back.
The Ark of Truth opens on a scene a million years in the past, where ancestors of the Ascended decide not to use something called The Ark of Truth to save their world from the Ori. From there, we cut to Dakara, where Teal’c [Christopher Judge], Vala Mal Doran [Claudia Black] and Daniel Jackson [Michael Shanks] are seeking a weapon that, legend has it, will “persuade” followers of the Ori that they are not gods at all.
When the artefact they find turns out not to have that effect, they are forced to kill a Prior, thereby persuading Vala’s estranged husband, Tomin [Tim Guinee] to surrender to them. From him they learn that there is a full scale assault headed their way. This makes finding the Ark even more important.
Although I’ve never seen the term applied to Stargate, it really is an SF dramedy. The overall saga is pretty dramatic, but the show’s creative team has always applied a veneer of humor to even the most dramatic episodes [and, conversely, an underpinning of drama to the most comedic episodes].
With Stargate: The Ark of Truth, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the look of the piece. S:TAT was shot on 35mm film and, as a result, has a richer, warmer feel to it. As triple-threat man Robert C. Cooper [writer/director/producer] notes in the commentary, even the depth of field is different [HD tends to remain crisp and clear throughout, while with film anything that is specifically being focused upon will be a bit fuzzy]. In The Ark of Truth, this difference in depth of field has the effect of giving shots more scope.
One of the benefits of doing the DTV movie is that it has a bigger budget and longer shooting schedule – now they can do helicopter shots, crane shots and take the time to do little things that add more depth to the piece [shots that would’ve been cut from an episode for time can be indulged here in order to add texture as in a scene with the Doci, Julian sands, walking down a corridor on his way to torture Jackson].
Add to the mix some truly panoramic shots [see: helicopter] and the kind of intimate shots that are one of the show’s strengths and the result is a movie that is beautiful to look at. Toss in a number of pop culture references [you’ll recognize the Star Trek and Raiders of the Lost Ark references when you see them – though they aren’t the only ones in the movie] and you have a very entertaining ninety-seven minutes.
Then, take a reappearance of one of the show’s best arch-enemies – as a result of idiotic interference from the oversight committee – and add the return of Vala’s half-Ori daughter, Adria [Morena Baccarin] and you have enough cool elements to build a truly satisfactory finale to the Ori arc. Some fans may find the multiple endings to be tacked on, but I found them to be quite charming [I loved the multiple endings of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to be charming, too, so you can probably figure out where you’ll stand on the Ark of Truth endings from that…].
Features include an Audio Commentary [Robert C. Cooper, Christopher Judge and Peter Woeste] that is mostly about how The Ark of Truth is different from a regular SG-1 episode; Stargate SG-1: The Road taken [may be watched as a prologue for those who haven’t watched the show’s ninth and tenth seasons]; The Ark of Truth: Stargate at Comic-Con [could be subtitled, Christopher Judge is Crazy!], and the Uncovering the Ark of Truth featurette.
Stargate: The Ark of Truth – B+
Features – A
Final Grade: A-