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KIDS ON FILM

'Stargate' Admits Those Who Love Action, Special Effects

November 10, 1994|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section.

In "Stargate," a dweeby Egyptologist (James Spader) deciphers instructions to an ancient space travel machine, then joins a suicidal commando (Kurt Russell) and his team to explore a distant planet, where they meet up with the evil Sun God, Ra, and the desert people he has enslaved. (Rated PG-13)

*

You have to really like explosions and shooting and lots of high-volume digital sound to enjoy this movie. Obviously, many people do, since the film continues to draw the largest audiences, last weekend raking in $12.5 million. And that includes kids, especially boys in the 7 to 11 range.

As Scott Tipple, 14, explained it: "Kids now like that kind of stuff--guns, shooting people and stuff."

Kids also liked the Egypt stuff, the hieroglyphics, the animal headdresses and the ancient language spoken by the villagers, transported eons ago from Egypt to a planet in another galaxy.

The kids were impressed, too, by the special effects--a space-travel tunnel, Egyptian armor that deconstructs on demand, hydraulic architecture and a camel/mastodon with a big, slobbery tongue.

Their favorite effect of all was, naturally, the "stargate," a stone ring first discovered by archeologists in 1928. It produces a watery doorway when twisted in the proper combination--not unlike a high school locker.

But those outside the target group of school-age boys found a few flaws.

Older kids said that though they liked the movie, it reminded them of too many other sci-fi movies, including "The Abyss," "Star Trek" and even "Star Wars," which was released before most of them were born.

"I liked it a lot," said Shawn Rusich, 15. "I didn't like the helmets, though, how they just disappeared into nothing. It was too magical to be science fiction."

Scott's brother, 12-year-old Ryan, diligently tried to comprehend the details of the plot but wound up confused about who Ra was, how he got to the planet and what sorts of powers he had over people.

"I understood it, and I explained it to him," Scott said, "but I can see how it might be confusing to somebody younger."

Of course, I got it completely. Ra was dying, searched the galaxies for an atmosphere similar to Earth's, took a human form because the bodies were easy to repair and all the villagers were there because, uh . . . oh, well. The special effects were great.

The younger set had problems, too.

Six-year-old Kris Gilman had a problem with the "being mean" part. The violence quotient is high. Ra likes to shake the life out of transgressors' brains with a high-voltage hand buzzer. He sends stealth bombers out to crush villagers who help the Marines. For their part, the Marines share their civilization's great achievements and teach the villagers how to use automatic weapons.

As for the actors, kids said Spader overshadowed Russell who, Shawn observed, "was trying to go with the usual gung-ho mentality."

Girls were noticeably sparse in the audience, perhaps because they were also sparse in the film. The only women in the film were two token scientist types in the beginning and the requisite love object--an attractive and helpful village maiden who winds up with the only member of the expeditionary force who can communicate with her.

Even though Scott and his brother could give the film no higher than 3 1/2 stars out of five, they said it was a satisfying enough sci-fi action flick.

"It was good. And it was worth seeing on the big screen," Scott said.

Let's hear it for the special effects.

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