The X-Files: I Want to Believe

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The first X-Files fea­ture film Fight the Future (1998) was so tight­ly bound to the com­plex mythol­o­gy of the orig­i­nal tele­vi­sion series that it was most­ly incom­pre­hen­si­ble to any­one not already a deeply com­mit­ted fan. I myself had only seen the odd episode over the years, and as such could bare­ly fol­low what was going on. This unex­pect­ed sequel, belat­ed­ly com­ing about six years after the con­clu­sion of the series and a full decade after the last fea­ture film, is a stand­alone adven­ture almost entire­ly decou­pled from the series’ uni­fy­ing sto­ry arc: all that jazz involv­ing an inva­sion of body-snatch­ing aliens col­lab­o­rat­ing with the gov­ern­ment, all of which may or may not have some­thing to do with sticky black goo.

David Duchovny in The X-Files: I Want to BelieveDon’t eat the yel­low snow

Freed of the weight of years of con­ti­nu­ity allows this new film to dig into the true core of the series: the rela­tion­ship between Fox Mul­der (David Duchovny) and Dana Scul­ly (Gillian Ander­son). These are two peo­ple who not only deserve each oth­er (their idea of pil­low talk is to dis­cuss tox­i­col­o­gy reports) but are actu­al­ly each other’s yin and yang. Their believ­er / skep­tic dynam­ic fueled the addic­tive sci­ence fic­tion aspects of the show, but also the sex­u­al ten­sion that helped make it a hit. They each need each oth­er in order to not self-destruct.

Scul­ly, a know-it-all red­head like a grown-up Hermione Granger, is every geek boy’s crush. In the inter­ven­ing years, she has vol­un­tar­i­ly left the FBI to toil with­out reward as a doc­tor at the apt­ly-named hos­pi­tal Our Lady of Sor­rows. As a prag­mat­ic woman who does not oper­ate on faith, a Catholic Church-oper­at­ed insti­tu­tion is the last place she ought to be. Her coun­ter­part Mul­der, since last we’ve seen him, has become the stereo­typ­i­cal beard­ed recluse. With­out the medi­at­ing influ­ence of Scul­ly, it’s clear he’s only a few cranky let­ters to the edi­tor away from becom­ing the next Uni­bomber.

Gillian Anderson in The X-Files: I Want to BelieveScul­ly is, as usu­al, the life of the par­ty

Mean­while, next-gen­er­a­tion FBI Spe­cial Agent Dako­ta Whit­ney (Aman­da Peet) inves­ti­gates the alleged visions of a con­vict­ed pedophile Father Joseph Criss­man (played against type by wacky come­di­an Bil­ly Con­nol­ly). Need­ing agents with a cer­tain exper­tise in the weird, she gets the old X-Files band back togeth­er. In an unfor­tu­nate­ly dropped sub­plot, it’s evi­dent she crush­es on an endear­ing­ly obliv­i­ous Mul­der. In fact, her entire char­ac­ter is unfor­tu­nate­ly dropped too soon — dropped down an ele­va­tor shaft, that is. Sor­ry for the snarky spoil­er, there, folks.

The plot is a mélange of hot but­tons ripped from the head­lines, Law & Order style. Tick­ing the box­es, we have lung can­cer, gay mar­riage, Catholic church pedophil­ia (the mur­der­er turns out to be the hus­band of a grown altar boy that the Father bug­gered years ago), stem cells (Scul­ly attempts to cure a boy’s rare brain dis­ease with research she cun­ning­ly finds via Google), grotesque sci­en­tif­ic exper­i­ments (a plot point refers to an actu­al Cold-War era Russ­ian exper­i­ment that has been mak­ing the rounds on the inter­net recent­ly involv­ing arti­fi­cial­ly sus­tain­ing a dog’s sev­ered head). To top it all off, the movie also fea­tures cinema’s most extreme sex change oper­a­tion since The Silence of the Lambs.

Amanda Peet in The X-Files: I Want to BelieveSpe­cial Agent Dako­ta Whit­ney has an appoint­ment with an ele­va­tor shaft

The X-Files: I Want to Believe was poor­ly reviewed, and worse, a com­mer­cial fail­ure (although, grant­ed, much of the lat­ter was the fault of open­ing oppo­site Bat­man: The Dark Knight — read The Dork Report review). The most rad­i­cal inno­va­tion to the X-Files for­mu­la is the new ver­sion of the famous theme music by elec­tron­i­ca out­fit UNKLE, so per­haps audi­ences and crit­ics want­ed some­thing new. But it’s an enjoy­able film, large­ly because it’s not with­out some humor, and against all odds, fea­tures a hap­py end­ing for the long-suf­fer­ing cou­ple.

A note on the DVD: I watched the “Extend­ed Ver­sion” cut, so I can’t com­ment on how sig­nif­i­cant­ly it may dif­fer from the the­atri­cal ver­sion. Among the bonus fea­tures is an inter­est­ing fea­turette in which Chris Carter dis­cuss­es the “green pro­duc­tion” for the movie (the use of hybrid cars, recy­cling of set mate­ri­als, etc.), and how he abhors the waste that typ­i­cal­ly goes into tele­vi­sion and movie pro­duc­tion. An anti-smok­ing pub­lic ser­vice ad is includ­ed on the DVD, mak­ing one won­der if the recur­ring theme of lung can­cer in the plot was graft­ed on or an organ­ic com­po­nent to the plot.


Offi­cial movie site: www.xfiles.com

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.