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Can A Movie Reboot Save Stargate?

Monday - September 16, 2013
Category: OPINION | Tags: ,

It was 1994 when Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s Stargate finally hit the big screen. It was an ambitious science fiction film with a modest budget (just $55 million), and it wasn’t a summer blockbuster by any means. But for an off-season, October release, Stargate did remarkably well with its $71 million gross domestic earnings and nearly $200 million worldwide.

The team’s production studio had found third-party financiers, and signed over the rights to MGM only after the film had been made — reportedly to secure a wide distribution in the U.S.  Along with that deal went the pair’s rights to the intellectual property, and in the years following MGM would opt for making a TV series for Showtime — Stargate SG-1 — instead of letting Devlin and Emmerich move forward with their intended sequels.

Until now.

Flash forward to 2013, and Stargate is off the air after three television series and a hugely successful, 14-year run.  The production team at The Bridge Studios in Vancouver have moved out and on to other things. MGM has passed through the fires of bankruptcy and is under new management.  And Devlin and Emmerich are back at MGM’s Los Angeles offices to pitch their trilogy once again — or, rather, a “reboot” of the Stargate concept for the big screen.

So is this the best thing for Stargate?  And is it the only way for Stargate to make a comeback?

Reckoning (SG-1 816) - Jack and Jacob

For many fans, the TV incarnation simply is Stargate. (From “Reckoning”)

Now this is just my opinion, as someone who has been following Stargate from the beginning — nearly 20 years now.  And I recognize that for millions of other Stargate fans around the world … well, “your mileage may vary,” as they say.  So I hope you’ll consider what I have to say, and then sound off in the comments section below.

I think the feature film reboot could be a very, very good thing for Stargate.  It’s not the version of Stargate that I want the most right now, but it’s the version that has the best chance of bringing the franchise back to life.

There are two things you have to know about me to understand why I’m looking at the potential reboot trilogy this way. First, I’m what you might call a grim realist.  I understand a little bit about the way that the film and television industry works, and I know what it takes for studios to get behind a project and put up the cash to get it made.

It has next to nothing to do with satisfying a vocal online fan base (which usually makes up a tiny fraction of viewers or ticket holders).

It has next to nothing to do with fulfilling “promises” made by past regimes of executives (who lost their jobs, it might be argued, as a result of their mismanagement of a bankrupt studio).

And it certainly has nothing to do with the creative need to tie up loose plot threads or resolve cliffhangers.

It has everything to do with the latest pitch’s potential profitability.  For a company with shareholders, like MGM, that’s doubly true.

No, if the writers of Stargate SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe were the ones holding the purse strings and calling the shots, they would go in for all of those other reasons.  But Stargate is no longer in their control; it’s in the hands of executives who only know that (a) Stargate has a strong fan base, (b) Stargate has made MGM a lot of money over the years, but (c) Stargate on television seems to have been run into the ground and cancelled by its broadcaster due to steadily decreasing viewership over a 6-year period.

What was once MGM’s most lucrative franchise second only to James Bond is now consigned to the vast archive of past generations (think the Raiders of the Lost Ark ending).

Gauntlet (SGU 220) - Observation Deck

Destiny sails away on its mission. (From “Gauntlet”)

That, I think, is the studio’s point of view on the franchise circa 2013.  That means that the odds of MGM bringing back any of those three series and their casts, of tying up their storylines, even of making a one-off DVD movie, is hovering somewhere around zero.

Is that what I want? NO. I want to know the rest of the SGU story. I want SG-1 and Atlantis back in the form of reasonably-budgeted movies every couple of years.  But that ain’t going to happen.  I’m a grim realist about it all.

So Stargate either reinvents itself, or goes away for good.

Second, you need to know that I am a “franchise fan.”  There are different ways to love a multi-show, multi-media franchise like Stargate, you see.  I understand that my way is not everyone’s way. And that’s cool.  Many people aren’t fans of the concept so much as they are fans of SG-1, or Atlantis, or Universe, of Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks, Joe Flanigan and Torri Higginson, of the characters and villains and great one-liners that have made up the fabric of those 14 years.  If those shows are never coming back, some fans will stick with their DVDs and won’t come back, either.  And that’s totally fine.

I, however, am first a fan of the Stargate concept.  I’m very interested in anything that takes place in this universe, making use of gate travel to explore other worlds, meet alien species and displaced human cultures, and get into trouble along the way.  So the idea of a big-budget, big-screen trilogy of Stargate movies is incredibly exciting to me.

Not because I don’t want SG-1, or Atlantis, or Universe back.

Not because I’m even all that big a fan of Devlin and Emmerich’s other work.

Because it’s Stargate. And it’s the best damn chance of ever seeing any Stargate again.

Stargate the Movie - Jack and Daniel

Going back to the beginning may be the franchise’s best hope for moving forward. (From “Stargate” the Movie)

The Stargate franchise is at a crossroads. The shows that we love are over — but we’ll always have them, on DVD and Blu-ray, to love. We’ll always have each other to talk to and to relive old memories, whether online or at conventions around the world.  But at this crossroads, the Stargate concept either becomes something new or it dies.

One of my favorite shows of the 1990s was Babylon 5. Creator J. Michael Straczynski tried the DVD movie route a few years ago with The Lost Tales, but it went no where. JMS recently made a comment that I haven’t been able to get out of my head: he said that, because the show isn’t airing in repeats anywhere (at least in the U.S.), it can’t draw any new fans. A handful of people may find it in the DVD bargain bin, or while cruising Netflix or Hulu, or on a recommendation from a friend — sure.  But since it’s not very “discoverable” its fan base is simply going to grow older and shrink through attrition. And Warner Bros. has little motivation to ever make anything B5-related again … unless the fans demand it.

The same is true for any property, including Stargate.  The more attention it draws, and the more people who join its fan base, the more likely it is that more and more stuff will get made.  Movies. New TV shows. Comics. Video games.  Toys. All those things you think Stargate needs more of — well, it first needs the viewership to justify it.

Not to the MGM who made SG-1 and rode the wave of Stargate‘s international success for more than a decade.  Not the MGM that cashed the cheques that the current fan base already wrote.  No, we’re talking about the new MGM for whom Stargate looks, on paper, less like a sure-thing and more like a potential liability.

That’s not an MGM that owes us anything. It’s an MGM that needs to be convinced that Stargate can be a major property again.

The Bottom Line: A rebooted film trilogy, helmed by established names and given a significant budget, would be a huge injection of life into Stargate‘s dying embers.  It won’t be the same as SG-1, Atlantis, or SGU, no.  But it will be Stargate, and it will bring millions of new people into the broader world of our fandom.

That way, in 10 years, we’ll be watching new Stargate, anticipating the next TV series, playing the video games, hunting for the toys, and grabbing tickets to the next convention … and not just remembering how fun it all was while it lasted.

Read more about Devlin and Emmerich’s hopes for a new Stargate trilogy — which has NOT yet been given the go-ahead by MGM — here.

Darren created GateWorld in 1999, and today is the owner and managing editor. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. (More)

COMMENTS (91):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • darren, you just broke my heart. i AM one of those fans that love the characters as much, if not more, than the actual idea of stargate.

    i didn’t like the movie. i enjoyed it, but when they went through the gate and it looked like just an every day desert, i lost some interest. i found the movie ‘alright’… so when i found out a new series was going to be made based on that movie, i was meh.

    and then i tried it (because it was on before or after my then favorite show), and was very quickly brought into it. by the 4th episode of the series, every aspect of what i loved about the series and characters was already set.

    so the idea of continuing stargate, but without the characters i love, the storylines i love, the mythology i love… it’ll just be a knock-off of stargate for me. a definite downgrade!

    joe mallozzi’s idea is to have another stargate series, but incorporating new (characters, storylines, etc) with older characters guest spots. it’s the best of both worlds, still respecting the mythology, but adding new and invigorating aspects.

    i, personally, did not like sgu. i gave it a 10 episode try, but i didn’t like the characters, and found it was a lot of style over substance. i’ve been told it got better, but i didn’t care. so for me, sgu wasn’t an evolution of stargate, but just a try at another flavor that just didn’t pan out.

    but in no means, does that mean that the tv franchise of stargate is dried up and not worth exploring.

    bring in some new writers if need be, but… i don’t believe that the tv franchise was run into the ground… i think the writers bit off too much to chew (at the same time), and…

    i think, with the right writers, with producers that love and respect the tv version of stargate, it can be brought back and SUCCEED.

    mgm, give the tv franchise another chance!

  • How can someone be a “franchise fan”? Just slap a “Stargate” name on something and it’s supposed to be good?

    I absolutely loathed and hate-watched Stargate Universe for a season and half because I hated the characters and didn’t care a bit whether they lived or died (I started to come around towards the end of the show).

    What difference does it make if the characters and plot of a story invoke no emotional connection to the viewer? If they’re going to produce a bunch of crappy movies with no connection to anything that has been done previously and with a completely different tone, etc., what’s the point? Let the franchise stay dead instead of treating it as another moneymaking venture like Star Wars.

  • A reboot is the lazy way forward.

    I would much rather see new theatrical movies that acknowledge the past content and take it further (even without any returning characters) instead of restarting from the beginning. There’s not much from an effects stand point that “needs” to be redone. The original movie and the TV shows are still fairly impressive in that regard.

    There should be a mandatory 40 year ban on any reboot of a popular franchise.

  • I’m not a franchise fan (very much disliked what they did with SGU) but a huge fan of SGA, Sheppard and McKay in particular. Without them back, even if just in supporting roles, I have zero interest in seeing anything further from this concept. My DVD’s and Fanfic will have to be my happy place. (no fan of the Legacy books either)

  • Let me just add to my previous comment.

    I would prefer a TV show over a theatrical movie. A TV season is nearly always better than a theatrical movie from a story telling point of view. But if a theatrical movie is all the studio is interested in, let it integrate with the previous story lines. Don’t attempt a reboot.

  • So I agree with you a little bit, but mostly a lot. I think trying to do a sequel to (wrap things up) would be a financial mistake. It would limit the potential audience only to those who watched the show. However, attempting to do a reboot based solely on the movie would be a huge mistake. While the Stargate movie wasn’t a financial flop, there’s a reason no one was itching for Stagate II. The Stargate phenomenon didn’t take off until SG-1 struck it big. When I first saw, the Stargate movie, I thought it was “pretty good.” It was enough to intrigue me when I found out there was a TV show airing based on it. SG-1 flushed out the premise and took it to a whole new level.

    What would probaly be best for the franchise is something new based on Stargate as a complete work, but doesn’t rely on existing knowledge of Stargate. A reboot if it must be, but I don’t think that’s the only option. What ever it does, the creator needs to go back and take a long hard look at what worked before in Stargate, shake off the rest and start building from there.

  • himeros

    I don’t understand with all these negative vibes from so-called Stargate fans. You guys reject everything which aren’t another season of SG1/SGA. Keep up this attitude, and Stargate franchise will be DEAD FOREVER….

    I’m very excited about the new movie. Needless to say, a blockbuster movie will b much more enjoyable than tv series production. Reboot? Bring it on!

  • Darren, while I came to love the TV series, primarily SG-1 & Atlantis, I have to agree with you. MGM will look at what Paramount did with “Star Trek” and they want to do it, too. “Reboot” is what Hollywood is doing these days. Ask Spiderman. Sadly, I wish it was the TV version with the cast.

  • I wholeheartedly agree after considering reading this opinion article. Doctor Who has only had such phenomenal success through its various reincarnations. Star Trek has been the same way. So maybe we do need a reboot, and to stop living in the past. We all loved SG-1, Atlantis, and to some degree Universe. But they’re gone now and we have to look forward for future generations to become fans and to immerse themselves in the culture and history that is Stargate no matter its version. I just hope Jar Jar Abrams doesn’t get a hand in it. He’s already ruined Star Trek, I can’t fathom what he’ll do to Star Wars.

  • I pretty much entirely agree with the article. The franchise is dead right now: SG-1, Atlantis, and even Universe aren’t going to be coming back, so if a reboot is what it’ll take to get the gate spinning again, I’m all for it.

    Yeah, I hated Universe, so I’m not going to automatically love anything with a Stargate in it–the reboot could be really terrible for all I know, but I’d rather they make it than have the franchise disappear forever. After they learned what not to do with the franchise in SGU, there’s a great chance a reboot would make sure to go back to being a fun, action-filled adventure with likable characters. And that’s all I really need.

    Like I’m sure most of you agree, I think that Stargate belongs on TV and is best served in that format. Now, I think The Powers That Be know that the franchise has been successful on TV, too, so they’re probably going to make sure that the reboot’s story will allow for a new TV show to be made if the movie (or trilogy) does well enough. The possibility that it can return to TV is really what I’m most excited for, to be honest.

  • If not now, Stargate will be rebooted in some form sooner than later (possibly in the distant future when no one really remember the details of the original movies nor the TV shows) given that’s basically how Hollywood works.

    Ideally, I still hope that TPTB of the series can use Kickstarter or something to fund some DVD movies (basically have the fans prepaid for the new movie).

    Without that, I’m fine with a reboot, but perhaps Stargate need fresher eyes to successfully reboot it as a franchise. I don’t exactly have high hope for the proposed reboot from little of what I had read over the years about Emmerich’s original vision (basically he executed that in Independence Day).

  • My questions is this, If it was such a ‘failure’ on tv why are they bringing it back? I would much prefer an atlantis continuation or sgu continuation or wrap-up. It’s like you have a car and you know the battery is bad. Well, we should replace the whole engine just to be sure. Why reinvent the wheel? So as fans we can either except nothing, or a completely different stargate which will be more comparable to the original movies but won’t even have the same actors from either. Not much of a choice if you ask me. Despite all this I will give it a chance, but I will predict right now it won’t do well or won’t do well enough. I really don’t get in a way the lazy writers just doing endless reboots of everything…

    I wish we could look at an alternate timeline where they let atlantis run a few more years and then did sgu, I think stargate would still be going strong.

  • I’d also like to say shows have been resurrected in one form or another in worse situations than this (as far as renewal chances), so to say it has zero chance of return, BS!: Arrested development, Firefly, Sliders, Red Dwarf, Star trek (the original and a good example of the neilsens not knowing what they’re talking about!), jericho, Family Guy, Futurama beg to differ!

  • First of all it’s great that you made this little article which sparks some interesting discussion.

    First of all, I call myself also a franchise fan, which means that I like the movie and the series, with the exception being SGU. Being a franchise fan I didn’t like it, because it felt OUT of the franchise, it didn’t feel connected to it enough, that’s why I dislike it and that’s why I dislike the idea of a reboot.

    Look at Star Trek. Abrams made hugely successful reboot movies (while they technically are sequels, they ARE reboots in many ways). And the long time Star Trek fans HATE it. Abrams took this gigantic franchise and twisted it in a way it doesn’t look like Star Trek anymore.

    And you trust Emmerich, whose current track record is…frightening, to do a better job, especially considering that he openly said he disliked the shows?

    Emmerich made the first movie, yes, but if you’re honest to yourself REALLY compare the first movie and the series and tell me what those two share. Staffweapons, gliders, a few characters. But what of the narrative structure? The wealth of races and background?

    There’s no Jaffa, no Tok’ra, no asgard, no goa’uld…that came all with the show.

    Another thing about the movie is the fact that it totally seals the fate of sg1 and sga.

    If the movie is a success the old canon will be buried forever, especially if they make a new show after the movie(s).

    If the movie will turn out bad it basically kills of the franchise and it will be ‘deader’ than it is even now.

    For me there’s not a real win situation here. I think the best we can expect is a good movie trilogy, that kills of our beloved canon. And then? We got only 3 new movies, was that worth it?

  • Darren

    @hansolo, I would love to be proven wrong on that count. How fantastic would it be if SGU or SGA came back, even if just for a Netflix season or a DVD movie. But on my analysis of the situation, I think with those shows you are comparing apples to batteries.

    Some of those shows were canceled by a broadcast network when they had ratings that a niche cable channel would kill for — then they were picked up to successful continuations by a niche cable channel (Sliders, Futurama, Arrested Development in a sense). That’s already happened to Stargate SG-1. Family Guy was resurrected on the wave of the TV-on-DVD phenomenon, because it was making FOX some serious bank.

    But I can’t think of any precedent for a franchise dipping below sustainable numbers on a niche cable channel and then finding life elsewhere. It’s a different formula. Firefly was axed when it had millions of viewers.

    Jericho may be the closest comparison, but CBS and Syfy are worlds apart. It’s tough to watch that network’s behavior (including what led to SGU‘s cancellation) and think an SGA or SGU revival has any hope there. If not there, then where?

    In the current television climate a one-season Netflix revival of SGU seems to be the only possible scenario — and we’re still talking very remote possibility. So, if the numbers theoretically could work, let’s turn our attention to the behind-the-scenes. MGM has the choice of producing another season of a low-rated show for Netflix and making a few million fans very, very happy … or the choice of making a big movie that could make hundreds of millions of dollars and bring millions more people back to the franchise.

  • Darren

    @Jaqarll: Would Emmerich’s reboot movie be any good? That’s a very good question. It’s also beyond the scope of what I’m on about in this article.

    Many fans are prejudging Emmerich and deciding that they’d rather have no Stargate than his Stargate. Fair enough. I, on the other hand, would rather have some Stargate and then judge it based on how it turns out. I might love it, like I loved 2009’s Star Trek. Or I may find it soulless and lacking in everything that made the franchise great, like I thought of 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

    But I’d rather see it and decide if I like it. (And yes, I loved the 1994 movie … and he managed to make that.)

  • I totally understand your point and before Into Darkness I think I would have agreed to everything you said in your nice article.

    The point I see is that with all the buzz around current high profile TV shows it seems rather random to reboot the Stargate franchise as a movie trilogy. I also really like the first movie, but when I think of it I really like it in combination with the show. If it was just that one movie I’d only consider it ok.

    My problem is: a new Stargate show is unlikely, yes, but NOT an impossibility.

    With the new trilogy it becomes a pure impossibility. If the movies are good for the masses (like with the new Treks) all coming stargate would be based around the new canon, whether we like that canon or not.

    If it’s bad the franchise will be buried for the next decade, if not forever.

    One thing that really bugs me though is the question if something that long term can even stay good? Would new sg1 and sga movies still be good? CAN they be good after so many stories?

    I’d say yes and as proof that it’s possible I would direct to Enterprise. The first 2 seasons were ok, basically what you expect from the third spin off of a series. But with season 4 they made drastic changes concerning the guys handling it and Season 4 of Enterprise is among the best Star Trek seasons out there. It’s totally fresh, while picking up SO many issues and stories that belong to the series. It’s new, but totally canon.

  • Darren,

    I must say that comparisons with the Star Trek reboot aren’t really entirely appropriate; that does still take place in the same universe. It’s a parallel timeline, but it still does tie in on some level. Enterprise still happened in the ST 2009 universe. An Emmerich reboot of Stargate would overwrite our canon completely.

    I know you realise this stuff already, but it is really important to remember how different SG1 was to the original movie. Like Jaqarll says, the Jaffa, the Asgard, DHDs, GDOs, the Goa’uld themselves, the Tok’ra, the Ancients, Teal’c, Carter, pretty much everything about Stargate came from SG1. The movie had no mythology behind the gate. It was just a thing we dug up in Egypt that took us to a planet. Everything about it and its function came in the show. Any reboot of the universe of the original movie would not be a return to the Stargate universe. It’d be something else, reusing the name of the franchise we love, and making any continuation of the universe we love impossible forever. For comparison, do you think a continuation of the TNG-era Star Trek is likely right now, given the success of the Trek reboot? And like I said, that kind of is the same universe. This wouldn’t be. The canons are completely incompatible, which they’re not in Trek.

    I’m a franchise fan to some extent. I would watch anything new in the SG1/SGA/SGU canon, even a new show or film with new characters. Sure, I want my continuations of those shows, but I’ll settle for anything that just develops that canon. But Emmerich’s movies won’t do that, they’ll bury it, drive it into the obscurity JMS wants to rescue B5 from. It won’t make Stargate big. It’ll kill Stargate forever, and replace it with an action trilogy with no science fiction in it, that just happens to be called ‘Stargate’.

    As much as this piece is interesting, I’d really like to see something on Gateworld that celebrates the canon we love more. A new podcast on some of the unanswered mythology for example… what do we all think happened to the Free Jaffa Nation? The left over Priors and warriors from the Ori invasion? Or maybe some podcasts or articles on specific characters. What SG fans really need to do now is re-enforce our fandom and love for the SG1 canon. I’m worried that this article basically plays into the hands of those who’d like to take Stargate away from sci-fi fans, as has happened to Trek, but to a much greater extent than even that.

    Let’s not give up yet. Even if these movies do happen, I won’t stop pushing for more true Stargate, in any form that exists within this universe that we all know and love.

  • I would love to see a reboot, but as most people here have said, it has to be in the same universe as the show. That’s what making me sad with this reboot, it won’t have the same base.

    If they absolutely have to do something with stargate, call the movie something else and just use the stargate as a device in it and nothing more, it would be alright. Then he wouldn’t erase the series.

  • I agree totally with Darren’s assessment. I am into the concept, which presents infinite possibilities in its execution. I would be intrigued by a different approach to Stargate. A different approach is going to be required to draw in viewers and money. Without the potential of broad public interest nobody is going to touch the franchise with a ten-foot pole.

  • They aren’t talking about rebooting the franchise, they are talking about rebooting the movie. What we get will not have Jaffa, Gou’ald, Sam Carter, Atlantis, Ancients, Tok’Ra, or any of the things that the TV series have given us over the years

    We will get Jack O’Neil, Daniel Jackson, and the gate. Nothing else from the franchise that we all love and enjoy.

    Emerich has made it quite clear that he doesn’t hold the tv series as canon.

    Emerich wants to stand on the shoulders of the cast and crew that came after his movie to build his new franchise. If it weren’t for the TV series, dose anyone think they would be considering rebooting a movie that was barely a one hit wonder 20 years ago?

    The TV series made the franchise what it is, and to ignore that is very stupid on a staggering level.

    Move forward, not back. Build on what exists. Don’t alienate the fans that have kept the franchise going for years. Include them, cater to them, and attempt to get new fans onboard at the same time. It’s difficult, but possible.

    The Star Trek reboot has been mildly successful, but it won’t last. I am a life long Trek fan, but these new movies sit in some sort of gray zone for me; I both like them and don’t like them at the same time. Frankly, I would rather have seen the movie reboots fail so we could get a new TV series.

    Long ramble over.

  • they really cant do anything that hasnt been done already, or if they can then it is cgi filled s***… bring real stargate back

  • The movie never really meant anything to me. It was a so-so sci-fi movie, like many others. I had forgotten all about it when I found SG-1, and I didn’t even remember much of it when I watched the beginning of the show. To me, Stargate IS the tv shows. The movie means little to me. To be honest, I am not interested in something that continues/reboots the original movie universe. What I love in Stargate are: Tok’ra, Goa’uld, and team – in that order.

  • The original Stargate was not like SG-1. They only carried over Ra and Skaara, and the names of O’Neill and Daniel, both of whom became much better characters than Kurt Russel and James Spader could portray. I watch Stargate SG-1/Atlantis/Universe episodes all the time. I watch the SG-1 movies every once in a while. I can’t remember the last time I sat through all of the original Stargate movie.

    I think the only reason we’re into the concept of a stargate is because the TV show made it so good. If we go back to a trilogy based on the original stargate… with a cowardly alien using children as his guards instead of Jaffa or Kull Warriors, I’m not interested.

  • Seeing all the comments on SGU… Stargate could have been saved if they weren’t experimenting with Stargate in SGU’s first season. Season 2 SGU got back to Stargate roots while keeping what’s unique about SGU. Season 2’s Blockade is a great example of Stargate, but came too late unfortunately.

    What is not a good example of Stargate, is the actual Stargate movie. As SG-1 shows time and time again, loyalty to a spinning ring is foolish. Loyalty to a team will carry you forward, and ignoring the TV show will sink a Stargate reboot.

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