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xFiles: I Want to Believe

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When the X-Files whimpered from our television screens back in 2001, I think that most people felt that the horse, werewolf, inexplicable creature and human with funky, stretchy abilities, had well and truly been flogged to death. In this nerd’s humble opinion, the right time to end the series would have been right after (or even before) the X-Files’ 1998 big screen debut: FIGHT THE FUTURE (XF1). Sadly that didn’t happen, and while some of the episodes which followed the movie held indications that the creative minds behind the show hadn’t been sucked dry of all that made the series such a hit to begin with, it mostly devolved into a poor imitation of itself.

Despite having jumped the shark, cancer-eating guy, side-show freak (with detachable, mal-formed, psychotic, conjoined twin) and human-fluke worm hybrid, the series — particularly the early seasons — remain high on my all time favourites list. So, while I was keen to see what the new film, I WANT TO BELIEVE (XF2), would bring, didn’t dare get my hopes up… well, maybe a little.

The most surprising thing about XF2 is what a great job Chris Carter does of directing the movie. Sure, he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the initial success of the series, but I’ve never really considered him much of a (television) director. In fact frequent X-Files episode director, Rob Bowman, directed the the first movie and this, i believe, is Carter’s first feature film director’s credit. So, in that respect, his efforts at putting together an extremely nice looking, evenly paced, movie should be applauded.

Frank Spotnitz, who shares writing credits with Carter, should also be proud of the character study that he’s created with the script for this film. It’s no small task to put together a script, spawned by nine seasons of a television show, which manages to develop the characters further, and still allow a viewer, with no prior knowledge of the series, to engage with these people.

Scully (Gillian Anderson), Mulder (David Duchovny) and the FBI have all moved on, and when an agent for the latter, Mosley Drummy (Xzibit), comes to her work asking about Mulder, Dr Dana Scully informs him that she no longer works with Fox Mulder. The FBI is not pursuing Mulder for any of the charges the have kept him in hiding for the past six year though, they are instead seeking his assistance on a time-sensitive case, relating to the disappearance of an FBI agent. Should he agree to help, all charges against him will be dropped.

Carter, Spotnitz, Duchovny, Anderson and everyone involved in the creation of this movie have worked unbelievably hard to prevent information regarding its plot from becoming public knowledge. So much so that Amanda Peet, who plays ASAC Dakota Whitney, told David Letterman that, while shooting in Vancouver, it was said that one PA had mentioned to another that he’d heard a rumour that the X-Files movie was shooting ‘in town’, to which the other PA replied “Dude, this IS the X-Files movie!”.

Sadly, the thing missing at the heart of this movie is that, despite all the secrecy around the plot, there is no mystery. There’s nothing to fear in this film, nothing to jump at, or be afraid of. More than a freaky, mind-bending thriller, I Want to Believe is a mature piece of character development against a backdrop of the investigation into a series of murders. There is a supernatural element… or is there? Ultimately the choice to believe is left up to the viewer, and the characters in the film, to decide… hence the name, I guess.

This isn’t the X-Files that people remember, and maybe that’s a good thing. This movie isn’t bad per se, it’s just not what people are going to expect from this franchise. What it does do though, is introduce a new tone for these characters and, hopefully, will spawn a new series of movies that will allow them to trek back into the territory that made the early X-Files compulsory viewing, but with a far more mature tone. I Want to Believe is a lot less about action, and far more about introspection and faith. [source]

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7 Comments

    I feel like the X-Files is one of those shows that relied on the “big mystery” type angle but never really had a final plan for any reveal, pay-off or ending of any consequence.

    Seems like this new movie still does not provide. Meh.

  • That sounds more like you’re describing LOST, Rommy!

    X-Files gave away its big bang in Season 6, which is why, like Elroy said, “it went out with a whimper” later.

  • Hey! Lost has a plan, and an end-date, you jerk!

  • Hey did I ever tell you about my own personal LOST theory (everyone has one, right?).

    I reckon they’ve crashed onto a vacation island and the 5 star resort is actually just on the other side of the mountain range. When they work it out everyone feels pretty sheepish, but there’s a big buffet and a cocktail lounge so they forget about the whole ordeal pretty quickly.

  • This is your theory based on watching one episode from Season 1, presumably.

  • The early series of X-Files was so much better than the later series. “Black Oil” is where it jumped the shark, and it never recovered. The whole Alien thing got out of control, and it was all downhill from there.

    I couldn’t stand the first movie, so was basically going to not bother with the second. Maybe I’ll give it a chance when I rent or borrow it from a friend – but don’t think I’d bother seeing it at the movies. Then again, going to the movies suck. The general public suck! Don’t get me started…

  • Furious – hardly! This is just what i pieced together from the incessant TV ads.

    Jamie – I liked the first movie although I haven’t seen it in ages. I liked the epic feel it gave. But yes, you kind of have to give X-Files the George Lucas treatment. Ignore the newer stuff!*

    (*Have yet to see the newer movie, comment pending)