STARGATE: A Father Looking for Redemption in the Stars

When you think of Kurt Russell, one of the movies you probably forget he is in is Stargate. I know, you hardcore Stargate-lovers probably are snorting at that comment, but those who are less savvy to the Stargate universe are going to forget that the American Badass is in the film. Kurt Russell has a small part in the film (compared to Spader ) but there is a lot of emotions hiding behind that military outfit and chiseled face. I am here to not only talk about how awesome Kurt Russell is but I am  also here to talk about the pathos behind the character of Jack O’Neil.

Stargate is an interesting film for a few reasons. I enjoy it quite a bit, though I never got into the television show(s) and I certainly don’t revere it as much as some people do. I mean, it’s a Roland Emmerich film, it’s meant to entertain, not blow me away with its discourse on human existence. With that said, I am always down to watch it because it is a blast and handles its fiction well. After debuting to a mixed critical response, Stargate was doomed to become a Cowboys and Aliens, where it was a fun summer movie, but at the end of the day, it was going to be forgotten. Well, because the fiction was interesting and was left open for the universe to be expanded upon, well, you know what happened.

Stargate looked at Egypt in a cool way that dealt with the conspiracy of aliens and the origins of the human race. It also touched on what harm religion can do, and how it is used to dumb the people so that they can be easily controlled. There are some good themes in the film that never get fleshed out as much as you would like because, well, it’s an Emmerich film.

But, there is something at the heart of the story that draws me in every time, and that is the character of Jack O’Neil (Russell). He is a man who has just lost his son because the boy accidentally shot himself with one of Jack’s guns. When the military goes to Jack’s house to call him back into duty, Jack is in his son’s room, holding a pistol. The pistol, I assume, is the one that killed the boy, and I also assume that Jack is contemplating suicide. His hair is long, he looks disheveled, and apparently is having marriage issues which is made apparent by the wife’s attitude towards him. But, his drum beats on.

Jack O’Neil shows up to work on the Stargate and to accompany Dr. Daniel Jackson (Spader) through the odd device. It seems that the dead son is forgotten about as O’Neil comes off as a standard military dude whose only concern is completing the mission. O’Neil takes a back seat as the fiction takes over, and the world starts to paint itself for the viewer.

Things become interesting for the character of O’Neil again when he befriends Skaara. Skaara is a native-boy to the planet and he takes a real interest in O’Neil. Of course the team is seen as “gods” in a way, so it is difficult to know if the boy needed a father figure or if he just wanted to get near a god. In any case, O’Neil sees this boy as a son of sorts and begins to bond with him. There is an interesting scene which I will post that shows the “real” O’Neil under the military outfit.

O’Neil wants to give the boy something to show his affection (in the “manly” way), so he gives him a lighter. Teaching the boy to smoke is not only funny to O’Neil but it is form of bonding, to become close again with a child. As soon as Skaara goes to grab the gun, which is more “manly” than a lighter, O’Neil snaps and scares the kid off. All he saw was the death of his son, and he felt the need to condition Skaara into understanding that the gun is something to be afraid of.  It’s rather funny because the lighter is a creator of fire, and that is a destructive force, just like a gun. O’Neil is OK with giving Skaara (a version of Prometheus, I guess) fire but not a weapon.

Jack is looking for redemption, as a father. He felt as if he failed to provide the knowledge of what weapons and violence can do if they are not handled correctly. And now here, in this strange land, he connects with a boy who can’t speak his own language but he wants to redeem himself as the father figure.

Towards the end of the film, O’Neil and his men are rescued by the natives. The natives are led by Skaara, who has taken it upon himself to learn how to use the guns. They overpower the overseers with weapons, and even then, O’Neil wants them all to go home, to go back to where they came from. He does not want Skaara to see what war does to people, and he certainly does not want to lose another “son.”

O’Neil’s final mission is to destroy the Stargate with the bomb that they brought over. He actively decides to stay with the explosive device. Why? Well, he feels he can’t go home, there is nothing for him there now. To die in this mission would give his life some sort of meaning and the thoughts of his son would subside. Well, he ends up transporting the bomb into the pyramid-spaceship and destroying the shit out of it without having to stay with the bomb.

Exiting the pyramid-base, he is saluted by Skaara who has now become a leader because of his guidance. He gained a son, and someone who he could pass on his virtues to, even if he had to leave in the end. He tells Spader that he will be OK now, that things are alright. As an audience, we finish O’Neil’s story together, and we KNOW that he will be alright.

O’Neil redeems himself in the end. He came to terms with what happened to his boy and he also taught the value of freedom to Skaara. As one of the smaller parts in the film, it is one that I wished was expanded on. Spader is great, but I want more Russell in my movie. I don’t think that many of you would argue with me on that statement.  But then again, it is the internet.

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About Jesse Bartel

I write about stuff.
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