X-Files: I Want To Believe

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Full disclosure: I watched the X-Files television series until the first movie came out. I was so disgusted with the transparent clumsiness of the story (so much more forgivable on TV) that I stopped watching the show. Curiosity and a cautious sort of press buzz (“it’s a stand-alone episodes even non-fans can love!”) drew me back in. I am not so dishonorable as to spoil any plot points, since the few surprises are nearly all the pleasure this film affords. However, I will say that it does feel like an episode, padded out to 104 minutes (that’s a full extra hour) with unnecessary scenes of walking, driving, helicoptering, and reiterating circular and uninteresting arguments. So no, I didn’t so much like it.

We meet Scully and Mulder again in real time, ten years since we last saw them. To say they are jaded about their FBI experiences is no understatement. They are called in — well, Mulder is — ostensibly to provide the unique experience and talents developed from the X-Files heyday. However, despite basically being in the same room as the investigators and their targets, Mulder does nothing that hasn’t already been done by the regulars and contributes nothing but doleful monologues to the proceedings. It’s like having H & R Block in to review your completed 1040 EZ forms.

The story adheres to the show’s tradition of stand-alone episodes, without involving conspiracy, aliens, bees, black oil, Cigarette Smoking Man, or any plot devices that require the audience to have see the show before (unless they want to understand the relationship the leads have). The fun of Mulder and Scully’s dynamic on the show was Mulder’s credulousness and Scully’s scientific skepticism, coupled with his implied atheism and her Catholicism. It made for a fun give and take when they were confronted with demons, space invaders, faith healers, circus freaks, lunatics, and government conspiracies.

Here, despite a conservative hospital, a disgraced clergyman, and Mulder’s natural tendency to believe in the paranormal until proved normal, X-Files 2 does not wrestle with faith or tenacity of beliefs so much as fling pebbles at these concepts from across the schoolyard. Scully spends a lot of time insisting on keeping her life as it is now (which is also unclear) and not regressing to those dark days working with Mulder. To someone who didn’t see how they left it at the end of the show, she seems to be fully engaged in that life anyway.

Billy Connolly is wasted in an interesting role, reduced to resolution-free bickering and an irritating lack of arc for someone who merits his own movie, rather than facilitating this one. Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) appears, entertaining my companion and I as we attribute all his behavior to the fact that he is a Cylon. Actually, such a plot device would have been more X-Filesy and more entertaining and less silly than what actually occurs, which is more like a gag cut from Futurama. Perhaps I have said too much.

The X-Files were special when they were on the air, new and dark, thoughtful and complex, with lots of luxurious faith versus credulousness conversations and scary bits. The then-new possibilities of topics and long story arcs on television were exciting novelties back in the days when studios would never believe audiences would have such long memories or ardent fandom. Unfortunately for this movie, television evolved well past this degree of silliness and spoon feeding (see also: Space: Above and Beyond), leaving our beloved old friends in the vault. I wanted to believe it would be a fun movie, but my companion put it best: “This was definitely time spent.”

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/25/08
Time in minutes 105
Director Chris Carter
Studio 20th Century Fox