You can count me among the fans — but not the super-fanatics — of The X-Files when it aired in the '90s. I may not have been as insane about it as others, but I kept up with the weird, spooky drama and I looked forward to new episodes. Plus, Gillian Anderson's character, Dana Scully, is a strong, female sci-fi heroine of sorts, and I really looked up to her at the time. Oh, and of course David Duchovny's Fox Mulder was definitely crushworthy so all in all, it was a highlight of my TV-viewing universe. This is why I had nothing but high hopes for X-Files: I Want to Believe, and I tried to ignore those pesky questions during the build up to the release like: "Really, ten years later?" and "Will people still, in fact, want to believe?"
I should also point out that this movie has been promoted as a stand-alone story, meaning that even folks who have little knowledge of the series would be able to get on board and enjoy a dark thriller with a compelling mystery. In fact, details of the plot have been kept so tightly under wraps my assumption was that they must have thought of something really awesome to hinge a new movie around — hence everyone's willingness to get back together years after the series left the airwaves.
Which brings me to the bad news first (and I won't give away spoilers): the so-called "mystery" that has been so shrouded in secrecy is truly nothing very exciting. In fact, it hardly stands up to the most mediocre of episodes, which only adds to my perplexity over this movie. Truth be told, I'm pretty bummed out. To see why,
When the movie opens it has been six years in "real time" since we last saw everyone in the series finale, and we learn that Fox Mulder is no longer with the FBI and is a bit of a recluse (well, we're meant to assume this because he is bearded and sits around clipping newspaper articles like a crazy person). Meanwhile, Scully is a surgeon at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital where she is personally invested in saving a terminally sick boy, to the displeasure of her colleagues.
Also, two FBI agents (played by Amanda Peet and Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner) are feverishly looking for a missing colleague using the help of a psychic priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly), but they really need the one agent who has experience with this kind of stuff: Agent Mulder. With the help of Scully the FBI pulls him back in and X-Philes will sigh with relief at how quickly he's back to his obsessive ways.
It's Scully who has probably changed the most; she's no longer just a pragmatic voice of reason, but resolute in her unwillingness to "look into the darkness" any longer. A lot of screen time is focused on faith, losing faith, that darkness, etc. Like the television series, it's dark and brooding, but without a strong case to solve all this analysis and back-and-forth between the two former agents is tepid. It's sad to see these two so empty. I missed the occasional wry glint in Mulder's eye and I wanted to see Scully quit dragging her feet and jump on board the case despite her reservations. But between all that angst and a story that's mostly uninteresting (I wish there had been something extraterrestrial about it, or maybe some magic — anything too crazy to believe!) the whole thing is mostly just so-so.
Still, even after all that head-scratching and some boredom, I love Mulder and respect Scully and I suppose after such a mediocre return to the X-Files that's probably the silver lining. Which is to say: it could have been worse but I wish it were so much better.
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox