It has been six years since "The X-Files" last graced television sets and ten years since the movie blasted onto the big screen, but David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Chris Carter are back for another so-called X-Files adventure. Unfortunately, those looking for aliens, monsters or even a spooky plot should look elsewhere.
Before I dive into this review, let me establish that I am a huge X-Files fan. The show was one of the first serials I ever watched growing up, and I still regard it as one of the best. As such, it was pretty damn awesome to see Mulder and Scully back on the big screen - that is, until you realize that Carter has delivered the one kind of movie he shouldn't have: a picture that appeals neither to the X-Files aficionado nor a regular moviegoer. No wonder the marketing for this movie was so disastrous.
The horribly titled The X-Files: I Want to Believe begins with an FBI agent getting attacked at her home by a couple of mysterious men. The next day, a priest-turned-pedofile-turned-psychic (Billy Connolly) claims to have a vision - which leads the FBI to pull Mulder and Scully out of retirement to help the investigation. As the two wrestle with their relationship and their careers, they discover that what they've stumbled upon is not a sinister, supernatural plot, but instead a pretty standard, uninteresting one instead.
It's a real shame, because The X-Files 2 (with a different title) could have been pretty good. The assumption had always been that Carter, in an attempt to appeal to people who didn't watch the show, would do a single-episode story, a long "episode" where Mulder and Scully investigated something dark and abnormal unrelated to the alien mythology that drove the show for so many seasons (a few too many seasons). This was all fine and dandy with me; I just expected Carter to do something big, scary and disturbing. Think of some of the best "X-Files" episodes, whether it be "Home" (where the hillbillies have incestuous sex with their mother) or the ones where there's that stretchy guy who kills people and make nests under an escalator - those were scary and messed up. On the opposite end, there's The X-Files: I Want to Believe, which has you waiting for something dark and twisted occur, only to greet you with the end credits instead. Honestly, I don't know how this movie got green lit.
Plot aside, The X-Files: I Want to Believe is pretty decent. While the movie has a bit of a TV feel to it, Carter has done a good job of bringing his characters back to the big screen. Mulder is as funny as always; Scully his conservative doppelganger. He's treated their development in a realistic light, giving them solid and believable back stories.
That being said, Carter stripped a little too much away from what makes The X-Files what it is. Mulder and Scully are no longer formal FBI agents; neither have guns or badges or authority. Most disappointing is the fact that the two leads rarely are on screen together, even though they're romantically connected. Mulder does what he does best, while Scully spends her time fiddling around with a cancer patient who has no connection to the story every audience member is interested in. Furthermore, the story isn't supernatural. It doesn't contain monsters and it doesn't contain aliens. In other words, other than the presence of a silly psychic and a brief hint at something disturbing, the story presented here could have been shown in just about any modern FBI television series. Ultimately, Carter got so caught up in the metaphorical "Believe" and "Don't Give Up" bits that he forgot to make a movie that would appeal to those watching it.
Beyond the plot, there are some clunky parts. Carter glosses over many moments without much explanation; he drops the fact that Scully and Mulder are living together in a rather odd way; his revelation as to what the plot is about is so subtle that you could blink and miss it; and so on and so forth.
The X-Files lacks the story, excitement, creepiness and bang that the movie could have so easily achieved. As such, this is undoubtedly the last time we'll ever see Mulder and Scully together. The only truly good thing about this movie is that it inspired me to go watch my DVD box sets all over again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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