DVD Review HTF Review: Stargate Atlantis - Rising

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jun 18, 2005.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    Stargate: Atlantis Rising




    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2004
    Rated: Not Rated
    Running Time: 88 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.78:1)
    Subtitles: None
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1





    Release Date:
    June 7th, 2005



    Spin-offs are a lot like movie sequels, in that while a few of them manage to live up to the expectations created by the film or TV program that inspired them, most merely fall by the wayside and are forgotten. This is especially true when, in the case of a series like Stargate Atlantis, the spin-off in question is an off-shoot of a very good series, like Stargate: SG-1, which is one of the better television programs in its genre.

    So, how does one objectively look at a spin-off, or a spin-off of a program that is itself a spin-off? Well, what I tried to do is (except for some basic details) forget that the Stargate film or the Stargate: SG-1 series starring MacGyver himself, Richard Dean Anderson, ever existed, and judge the show on its own merits. And you know what, in doing so, I found Stargate: Atlantis to be an entertaining little sci-fi series from what I have seen (a little over half of the episodes from Season One)!

    This particular DVD features “Rising”, which is the feature-length pilot (two episodes) that sets the rest of the events in Stargate: Atlantis into motion. It kicks off with the SG-1 team discovering what is believed to be the remnants of a base used by the Ancients, the powerful beings that created the highway between worlds known as the Stargate, and abandoned Earth millions of years ago, taking their city with them. After this amazing discovery, Stargate Command launches a full investigation, to continue the search for weaponry or information capable of helping Earth’s inhabitants fend off an invasion by a hostile race of beings known as the Goa’uld.

    Thus, a new team of explorers, headed by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson), is assembled, and sent through a stargate to the far-off Pegasus Galaxy, where it is hoped that Atlantis/the “Lost City of the Ancients” will be located. The team is equally hopeful that the weapons needed to defeat Earth’s attackers will reside there. For added fun, the team will also need to find a way to make a return trip home…for the energy source used to reach the Pegasus Galaxy was only powerful for a one-way journey! Will the team ever return home, or find the tools needed to save Earth? Perhaps the upcoming second season of the series will give us the answer to those questions…

    Now, some of you may be asking: “Can I tell if this series is worth watching from the pilot?” As I said above, I like it, although I would not quite call the series great yet. One of the most intriguing things about it for me, however, is that sending the team on an expedition to a new location so very far removed from Earth (and the struggle for it) gives the show its own identity, and a wealth of possible storylines. I think it also helps facilitate the involvement of viewers not fully immersed in the particulars of the battle to save Earth from the Goa’uld, which was such a key component of Stargate: SG-1’s storyline.

    Still, longtime Stargate fans should find some familiar ground, for this new series is not without a villainous alien race of its own – in this case the enemies being “the Wraith”, a powerful and carnivorous species that threatens the team and their expedition. To tie the new series into Stargate: SG-1 (no doubt a move to try and grab its audience’s attention), Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks make an appearance in the pilot. While this is a nice treat for SG-1 fans, their appearance is brief, and rightfully so, as this show needs to focus on developing and maintaining interest in the new characters that are going to carry it for the remainder of the series.

    Speaking of characters, my favorite new character is Major John Sheppard, who actor Joe Flanigan seems to really have a lock on, even in this pilot. Another intriguing new character was Dr. Weir, the team leader that was not especially well written or played in “Rising”, but evolved nicely over the course of the first season, I think. I am sure you will have your own favorite characters, but the remainder of the cast also does good work in the Stargate: Atlantis series.

    I am not sure if I have adequately answered the question “can I tell if this series is worth watching from the pilot?” adequately, but in general, I think it is hard (and perhaps unfair) to judge a series based upon its pilot episode alone. That being said, in terms of “Rising”, I do believe that the pilot gives science-fiction fans a reason to seek out further episodes. In particular, the pilot’s story was fairly entertaining and well told, and the cast turns in respectable performances. Fans of Stargate: SG-1 will likely be pleased to find that the special effects and sets look great in this new series as well, especially by television programming standards.

    For me, the bottom line is this: Stargate: Atlantis is no Stargate: SG-1, and it may never be, as the latter series is an extremely successful, long running, and well-written show. That being said, however, the series’ interesting premise, solid group of characters, and new enemies and locations give it promise. Time will tell if that promise is built upon in the show’s second year…





    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    For Stargate: Atlantis Rising, MGM has put together a very nice widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, which has been enhanced for 16x9 displays! Although occasionally bordering on “hot”, colors are generally reproduced in a bold, bright, and accurate manner. Flesh tones also maintain a pleasant, natural appearance during the pilot. Additionally, the image’s black level is both deep and stable, so shadow detail is excellent throughout, as are image depth and texture.

    With respect to general detail, the image is extremely clean and sharp, boasting a level of fine detail that extends well into the background of just about every shot, which makes the large, intricate sets really “pop”. Just as importantly, however, edge enhancement is not a problem on this disc, and I noticed no other digital signatures interfering with the visual presentation. Overall, this transfer is a very nice effort by the folks at MGM!!!


    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    The soundtrack for Stargate: Atlantis Rising, which is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1, does a fair job of reproducing the source’s audio information, although I would not go so far as to say I was impressed. Let’s start with the good: dialogue is easily discernable throughout, and the effects, score, and dialogue each occupy their own space in the mix, so everything can be heard clearly and distinctly.

    In general, the soundstage also creates a decent sense of space, which leads to an accurate representation of most of the environments the characters find themselves in. Unfortunately, there are a few sequences that needed more aggressive use of the surround channels to have the impact they should have.

    More bad news (well, not that bad) is that the soundtrack sounds slightly compressed to me, so frequencies at both the high and low end of the audible spectrum lack the precision and clarity that I would normally expect them to have.

    Don’t get me wrong, these two issues do not thoroughly undermine the listening experience, but they are noticeable enough for me to be slightly disappointed, and to knock this track’s score down a bit. On the whole, Stargate Atlantis: Rising's soundtrack still sounds pretty good, but I cannot help feeling it should have been better, especially for such recent programming.


    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    Preview to Atlantis
    The poor-looking and sounding “Preview to Atlantis”, which runs for 23 minutes, is your garden variety, promotional “making-of”, not too memorable, but not a complete waste of time either. Over the mini-doc’s running time, you will hear from some of the show’s creators, who describe how the series came about, and how the concept changed during pre-production. You will also get a look at concept art for the Wraith and the lost city.


    Audio Commentary
    A feature length audio commentary for the show is turned in by director Martin Wood and actor Joe Flanigan, both of whom are animated and easy to listen to. Overall, it is a good track, and has a lot to offer fans/prospective fans of the program. Among the highlights were:

    --- A discussion about the challenges of moving from 35mm to high-definition video, and the attempts made to get the latter to have a more film-like appearance.

    --- The two men discuss the process of developing Joe Flanigan’s character, and some of the disagreements they had over the same thing.

    --- Discussions about changes to the pilot’s storyline, deleted scenes, and continuity errors that they notice.

    --- Conversations about the massive sets erected for Stargate: Atlantis.


    Sneak Peak: Stargate Atlantis - Season Two
    This “fluffy” promotional piece is kind of as it sounds, an 8-minute long glimpse at the upcoming second season of Stargate Atlantis


    Trailer and Art
    The teaser trailer for the Stargate SG-1: The Alliance video game is included, along with artwork from the same game.


    Promotional Materials
    Promotional trailers for Stargate: SG-1 – Season Eight, Dead Like Me: Season One, Jeremiah, and Stargate: Atlantis have been included.



    SCORE CARD

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    THE LAST WORD
    Spin-offs usually face more of an uphill battle than “new” shows, because of the expectations placed upon them by their predecessor’s fan base. This probably goes double for science fiction shows, like Stargate: Atlantis, because of the mythology and technology their parent shows/movies have established for them, and that geeks like me pay such close attention to!

    Fortunately, the Stargate: Atlantis Rising pilot (and subsequent season one episodes) was entertaining, which provides hope for the show's future - lord knows there is not enough good sci-fi on TV these days! More good news is that this DVD presents “Rising” nicely too, with a good-looking, anamorphically enhanced image transfer, a decent reproduction of the soundtrack, and a handful of bonus features, including a good audio commentary and decent "making of".

    That being the case, I am not too sure how strongly to recommend this disc, because I find it hard to imagine it will not be included if the Complete First Season is released at some point down the road. As such, I think I will weasel out by recommending that those not having watched the show yet, and who are on the fence, pick up Stargate: Atlantis Rising, to see if they would enjoy watching on a regular basis. If you are already on board, you might want to sit on the sidelines and wait for the specs on the first season DVD set to be announced before parting with your cash.


    Stay tuned…,
     
  2. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Thanks, Jason.

    I like the series. In fact, I think SG-1 has taken enough of a downhill slide that this show topped it last season.

    I'll wait for the season set on DVD, however.

    -Scott
     
  3. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    This series slowly grew on me. THis disk is rather pointless at the price they released it at. I think it would have been better coming out at 9.99 rather than the $20 I have seen it at. This would have served the purpose finding those who don't watch the show, but are interested.
     
  4. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    This is actually 1.78:1, not 1.85:1.

    Gord
     
  5. Bill>Moore

    Bill>Moore Second Unit

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    I enjoyed the first season of Atlantis, but still find that I prefer SG-1. Still, not a bad start to the series. I'll be waiting for the release of the entire season myself.
     
  6. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review, Jason!

    Like many others, I'll be wating for a season 1 release. I wonder why they even bothered with this? I hope they don't base an upcoming season 1 release on how well this sells.

    Ric
     
  7. Stan Rozenfeld

    Stan Rozenfeld Stunt Coordinator

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    I am wondering if someone can help me out with the continuity of this show with SG-1. I have watched all the Stargate SG-1 that's on DVD, meaning through season 7. At what point does this pilot come in? Should I start watching season 8 of sg-1 first?

    Thanks!
     
  8. David Williams

    David Williams Cinematographer

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    I wouldn't worry. Gateworld announced in their news bit on the pilot release that S1 is scheduled for a November release and it will include the pilot ep.
     

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