Movie ReviewA loss of faith can alter your life course in ways one never deemed imaginable. The creed that defined your life up to that point is revealed to be nothing more than an illusion. It’s as if a wizard appears from beneath a curtain to tell you everything you know and love is all a lie. This is why it takes people years to recover from unexpected deaths of loved ones and from marriages that dissolve. Life shouldn’t be challenging but it is at every turn. When the dust settles and you have a few fleeting moments to digest the unexpected life turn, you sit back and say “what now?”. This is the exact sentiment X-Files fans had around the 8th season of the show. There were cracks in the surface prior to this point in seasons after the first film in 1998, but I’m a believer that the overall majority of those shows were quite good contrary to beliefs at the time. I had only seen a handful of episodes prior to the first feature film, Fight The Future, but I became addicted after seeing it. Now this was in a day and age before full seasons appeared on DVD, in fact we owe the creators of The X-Files credit for beginning the complete TV season craze back in 1999. But after that, I’d tape the episodes in syndication and eventually bought all of the DVD seasons. I view the post film years in a different light than others. While I do admit that there was some questionable episodes in latter seasons (anyone remember that ridiculous dog episode?), I still feel they’re better than many give it credit for. The addition of two additional FBI agents wasn’t a bad thing, but it pushed the cult show in a direction that the rabid fan base did not want it to go in. The X-Files isn’t as interchangeable as Law & Order even if the shows were well written and executed. However, because of those final two seasons, I believe that the creators of this show lost the grasp they had on their audience which is evidenced by the opening weekend results of the latest feature film, The X-Files: I Want To Believe. Part of it can be blamed as poor timing as I don’t think anyone had expected The Dark Knight to become the behemoth it has become. All that being said, it’s an extreme pleasure to see Mulder and Scully back on the big screen, alas, I wish they had come up with a better story line for them to sink their teeth into.
When Fight the Future appeared in theaters in 1998, the show was at its peak and the film grossed a very modest $80 million. This number would have been even more impressive if 20th Century Fox hadn’t spent $60 million in promoting the film (the same dollar amount as the production budget). The film didn’t play well to those who weren’t regular viewers (although I did get sucked in) but even worse, the film alienated those who felt there would be major mythology reveals; which didn’t occur until later seasons. In retrospect, they should have done a standalone monster movie back then and a film more geared to the cult viewers this time. This brings us to The X-Files: I Want To Believe. For me this was one of the most anticipated films of the summer and with the less then stellar opening weekend I’m afraid we’ll never see these characters ever again, which is a shame because from the moment they appear on screen, we’re reminded why we fell in love with them and their quirks over the course of nine television seasons. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson step right back into the shoes of their roles with ease yet their characters are lacking a belief system that drove them investigating those paranormal FBI files. There’s been a crisis of faith in both of them and they are living a domesticated lifestyle, but is this what they want? Are they being true to their inner selves?
I’m giving you a spoiler warning now and will let you know when the spoilers are over, so if you don’t want to know plot points, skip down to where you see CAPS notifying you they are over.
MINOR SPOILERS BEGIN HERE
The film finds Mulder and Scully on the fringe of society a number of years later almost in hiding. Scully is a working doctor at a Catholic hospital and Mulder is in hiding. Just like Michael Corleone, they get pulled back into the world of the FBI when the agency has nowhere else to turn. An agent has gone missing and the FBI is taking leads from a priest with a checkered past played brilliantly by Billy Connolly. Connolly’s performance is stirring, disturbing and downright chilling like many of the best guest spots on the series. The interrogation and good cop/bad cop routine by Mulder and Scully has never been better, however, the material with which they were given isn’t A-grade. Now, it is good, but this would have been a B or B- storyline within the context of the show. Now the issue one runs into is that it’s been six years since we’ve seen these characters and there had to be some kind of explanation as to where they are and what they have been doing. The film attempts to straddle Mulder and Scully’s crisis of faith against a story whose backdrop, while terrifying, doesn’t quite meld. This is the crux of the issue with the film. While I understand Chris Carter’s reasoning for wanting a stand alone movie, the time and place for it was a decade back. You have an incredible mythology at hand and they should have embraced it to lure that cult fan base back.
END OF SPOILERS
The supporting players, specifically Amanda Peet and Xzibit offer nothing to chew on and in Xzibit’s case, his acting is so amateurish and over the top it almost makes you wish the cigarette smoking man would appear just to put his cigarette out on him. Sadly there is only one…yes one…character from the television show that makes an appearance. For me, there were not enough inside jokes or references to the TV show to evoke top tier dramatics. Despite all of this, I did find the film engaging, I just wish it was something more. However, there is a scene after the credits roll that provides a potential major reveal, so make sure you stay through the credits to catch the scenes.
Ultimately what makes The X-Files: I Want To Believe compelling is Mulder and Scully; the case they are working on is irrelevant in the larger scope of things. Watching these two people be re-born and reexamine their faith is as staggering as a resurrection. Their interaction is priceless and revealing and even in the scenes with no dialogue, their expressions speak volumes showcasing that Anderson and Duchovny are actors whose brilliance is in their subtleness they bring to each role they embrace, something that should be heralded but more often than not, isn't. The film is essential viewing for even casual fans of the show because of the two gripping lead characters whom we would follow anywhere. We see ourselves in them even if we’re not solving murders and chasing UFO’s because the way they question their lives, what they know and what they have been told isn’t that different from us and ultimately, The X-Files: I Want To Believe is satisfying because we too want to believe.
Film Grade: B-
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network and his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door and can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com.