Stargate debuted in theaters exactly 20 years ago today. It was so good that they released it again seven years later, except that time it was called Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
These movies are so closely related that it’s crazy that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin didn’t get story credit on Atlantis or at least an “Inspired by.”
We’re going to correct this oversight today by exploring the numerous similarities between Stargate and Atlantis: The Lost Empire!
First of all, here are all of the plot points I’ve noticed these two films have in common:
- A teaser shows things from the past that we’ll learn more about later
- A young man with glasses gives a presentation on ancient civilizations
- He is recruited by an old person to a top-secret project
- He has nothing to lose – no job and no relatives
- He corrects a mistranslation of ancient text (“Ireland” to “Iceland” and “Door to Heaven” to “Stargate”)
- Important information is withheld from him by the people in charge
- The leader of the expedition has a hidden agenda
- The main character gets sick while traveling
- The other members of the expedition ostracize the hero, but warm up to him over time
- They follow a tribe to their city
- They discover a civilization that is cut off from the outside world
- The primitive people are completely illiterate in an effort to hide the past
- The main character is a translator/linguist, and he is able to decipher their language
- The city is engulfed by a sandstorm/lava wave, but is protected from harm
- The heroes eat unfamiliar food with the natives
- The main character is awkward around a woman he just met who starts disrobing
- The woman takes him into an underground/underwater cave to learn about the past
- An alien/god inhabits a human body
- Some people wear masks with glowing eyes to be intimidating
- They have a special healing ability, which they use on the main character
- The main character is put into an awkward situation with his “friends”
- The primitive people join in the fight at the end
- The climax involves alien aircraft, men fighting to the death, and the villain being killed while trying to escape
- The main character sends back a souvenir to the old person who sent him on the expedition
- He falls in love with a princess and stays behind at the end
We’re just getting started, so buckle up as we explore each of these points more closely.
Blast from the Past
Stargate starts by showing us the archaeological dig that unearths the Stargate in 1928. We also see a little girl named Catherine Langford who takes a pendant with the Eye of Ra etched into it. We find out these things’ significance later on.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire starts thousands of years in the past, showing a massive explosion and tsunami that destroy most of Atlantis and leave only a small part intact. We get some context for these events as the story unfolds.
In 1994, Dr. Daniel Jackson is an expert on Ancient Egypt, and he gives a controversial presentation to a bunch of other experts in his field. He claims that the Egyptians did not build the pyramids, so someone in the crowd asks if the Atlanteans did. Everyone walks out on him for offending their sensibilities.
In 1914, Milo Thatch is an expert on Atlantis, and he gives a controversial presentation on how to discover the lost city. He even briefly mentions the Ancient Egyptians in his speech. However, in a clever twist, he’s just practicing giving his presentation, but the experts he was planning on addressing made sure he wouldn’t have a chance to do it for real.
Immediately after his speech, Daniel is recruited by a much-older Catherine to participate in a top-secret project that requires his expertise on Hieroglyphics.
Milo goes home to his apartment and finds a seductive woman waiting to take him to an old man named Preston Whitmore. Whitmore invites him to join a team that is going to look for Atlantis.
Nothing to Lose
Catherine points out that Daniel has no job, money, or place to live. He was raised by foster parents, and he has no one he’ll be leaving behind.
Whitmore tells Milo that he has no job and he doesn’t need to worry about his belongings because everything has been taken care of. He was raised by his grandfather (who is now dead) after his parents died, so he has nothing and no one to lose.
Correcting a Mistranslation
During his presentation in the basement, Milo says that an ancient text had been mistranslated as “Ireland” when it really should have read “Iceland.”
Whitmore gives Milo the Shepherd’s Journal, which contains detailed information on Atlantis. We later learn that Commander Lyle Rourke tore out a key page from it to hide an important part of their mission from him.
Daniel gets the Stargate working. It acts as a portal to another world. O’Neil goes on the first manned expedition through it, but he’s not going to explore. Unbeknownst to everyone else on the team, he’s going solely to destroy the Stargate on the other world they visit to prevent threats from coming to Earth.
Milo shows Rourke where to find the underwater entrance to Atlantis. Rourke and his team aren’t going for philanthropic reasons, though. They plan on stealing Atlantis’ treasure, even if it means destroying what’s left of its civilization.
Daniel is allergic to traveling, causing him to sneeze whenever he takes a long trip.
When O’Neil and his team arrive on the other side of the Stargate, Daniel informs them that he is unable to get them back home. They react angrily, throwing his luggage around and pushing him away. But at the end of the film, they treat him kindly and thank him for finding a way for them to return home.
After suffering a huge number of casualties getting to the cave that leads to Atlantis, the other members of the crew are extremely unhappy with Milo. They do pranks at his expense and eat their meals far away from him. Later, they open up to him and start to trust him a little more.
Following a Tribe Home
Daniel and some of the soldiers stumble upon a huge number of human workers on the alien planet. The primitive people assume Daniel is a friend because of the Eye of Ra on the pendant that Catherine had given him, and so they invite him and the others to their city. Sadly, these people are later punished by Ra for this act of kindness.
Milo and his fellow explorers are discovered by a handful of Atlantean scouts. They become fast friends and are welcomed into the city of Atlantis. Unfortunately, their trust is betrayed and their king comes to regret allowing the strangers to stay.
Cut Off from the Outside World
We learn that the people on the alien planet were mostly brought there from Earth. But after the people on Earth buried their Stargate thousands of years ago, they’ve had no contact with our side.
Since Atlantis was swallowed by the ocean thousands of years ago, they’ve had no contact with people in the outside world.
After Earth’s rebellion, Ra (the being who created the Stargates) forbade his people from learning how to read or write in order to prevent them from learning what happened and rebelling, as well.
In one night of studying their language, Daniel is able to speak the alien people’s language fluently.
After a few seconds of conversing, Milo discovers that the Atlanteans can speak virtually any language, including English.
Protecting the City from Danger
A sandstorm suddenly sweeps down across the desert. But the city is protected by its gates.
Milo and his companions partake of exotic Atlantean food, and one of them claims that it has lots of nutrients.
“I Swim Pretty Girl”
Daniel is separated from his companions and soon finds himself alone with the tribal leader’s daughter, Sha’uri. She starts to undress in front of him, and he reacts squeamishly.
The king’s daughter, Kida, takes Milo to a body of water and strips off some of her clothes. Milo asks her what she’s doing and she responds by asking if he can swim. He says, “I swim pretty girl… pretty good.”
Secrets About the Past
Kida shows Milo writings that are inscribed in stone underwater. He is able to translate them to help explain more about her heritage. She’s illiterate, so this is illuminating for her.
Ra is an alien who was dying, so it came to this alien planet long ago and possessed the body of a young man in order to keep itself alive. The young man’s consciousness seems to have been eradicated in the process.
Kida is possessed by the gods of Atlantis, as they always do in times of danger. These gods heal Atlanteans and prolong their lives, but if Kida is bonded to them for long, she will cease to exist, just like her mother before her.
When Kida and her fellow Atlanteans first spot Milo, they are wearing some type of masks with glowing eyes. It’s unclear why they wear them, but it seems logical that they are meant to frighten away potential enemies.
Daniel is mortally wounded in the chest during a fight with Ra’s men. But Ra brings him back to life with a healing chamber.
Ra is going to force Daniel to execute all of the soldiers who came with him. At the last minute, Daniel fights back against Ra and save his companions’ lives.
Milo is betrayed by all of his companions. Rourke is going to kill Kida and her father unless Milo helps him find the heart of Atlantis. Milo does, but he is also able to convince some of Rourke’s followers to take his side.
Locals Rise Up
Daniel shows the primitive people that their gods are really just regular men like them. This inspires them to rise up and fight against their oppressors.
Two alien aircraft attack a group of soldiers and natives outside Ra’s spaceship. Daniel and O’Neil find themselves in deadly combat with powerful foes. Sha’uri gets killed, but Daniel brings her back to life with Ra’s healing chamber. Ra tries to escape into outer space, but Daniel and O’Neil send up a nuclear bomb to his ship, which promptly detonates and kills Ra.
An aerial battle takes place inside a dormant volcano between the Atlanteans and Rourke’s men. Milo and Rourke engage in a brutal fight in a hot-air balloon. Rourke tries to escape by flying out of the volcano, but a woman he betrayed shoots a gun, igniting the balloon and leading to his death. Daniel frees Kida from her prison and makes sure she returns to her normal self.
Daniel gives Catherine’s pendant to O’Neil as he prepares to go through the Stargate once more. Daniel says to tell her that it brought him luck, repeating what she had said when she gave it to him.
Milo gives an Atlantean crystal to his friends to deliver to Whitmore. He attaches a note saying that he hopes the crystal will be enough proof to convince him that Atlantis is real. Whitmore had mentioned that he wanted some sort of proof before sending Milo on the expedition.
Not Coming Home
Daniel stays on the alien planet because he’s already married to the chief’s daughter and he doesn’t feel any need to return to Earth.
Wow. Practically everything in Stargate found its way into Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The main characters are extremely similar and the stories chart an almost identical course.
But these films do have an important difference. Stargate was a stepping stone for Roland Emmerich’s career, marking the point right before his meteoric rise to superstar territory with Independence Day. Atlantis represented the decline of Disney Animation after years of superb films.
2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove was an enjoyable farce and Dinosaur was an ambitious film, even with all its faults. But 2001’s Atlantis was the film that definitively ended the Disney Renaissance. It’s not a terrible film, by any means. I like what it’s trying to do by being so action-oriented. But it’s not a great film the way that many other Disney films are.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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