Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Movie Review: "The X Files: I Want to Believe" by David Pretty

Like Fox Mulder, "I Want To Believe". Not in something extraterrestrial, I just want to believe that The X-Files can experience some kind of pop-cultural resurgence. Regrettably, the second X-Files feature isn't the vehicle to redeem the franchise. In fact, Mulder and Scully are saddled here with a pretty pedestrian script which sees our dynamic duo alternately connecting the dots in a "bait and switch" serial killer plot and covering familiar character beats that have already been explored ad nauseum. 

The film picks up years after the unfortunate end of the television series with Scully (Gillian Anderson) now acting as a physician in a Catholic hospital and Mulder (David Duchovny) still in hiding. With the mysterious disappearance of an F.B.I. agent and the only clues provided by a supposedly psychic defrocked priest (Billy Connolly), the bureau convinces Scully to bring Mulder back into the fold as part of their investigation.

As fantastic as it is to see these characters re-unite, mid-way through the film they're forced to run over the same tired old "faith versus facts" theme. This really comes to a hand-wringing head when Scully gives Mulder an ultimatum to stop pursuing "the darkness." As a long-time fan of the show I felt like screaming: "Cripes, Dana! He hasn't changed in the last fifteen years, do you really think he's gonna change now? Especially considering that YOU were the one who pulled him back into this 'darkness' in the first place?"

The bottom line is, most of their scenes together do little to enrich their characters. In fact, their tangential debates almost seem to exist merely to pad the film's run time. Nevertheless, they inhabit these familiar roles very well and Gillian Anderson in particular does a great job depicting a wide range of conflicting emotions. It's also nice to see Scully in a more traditional medical setting for a change even if the subplot regarding her young, terminal patient always seems to be diverting us away from the main story.

The supporting performances are a bit hit-or-miss. Xzibit in particular gives some pretty distracting line readings as F.B.I agent Drummy and Billy Connolly's physical mannerisms as Father Joe are almost unintentionally funny sometimes. I don't now if it was a deliberate choice or not, but it almost seems as if Connolly is trying to communicate something subtly effeminate about the character as if it's a symptom of the character's unsavory predilections. Former Battlestar Galactica cylon Callum Keith Rennie is appropriately menacing as the main heavy, but in order to keep the audience in the dark about whether or not we're seeing a traditional serial killer plot, his character's motivations and plans just boil down to a series of seemingly unrelated actions.

I understand creator Chris Carter's desire to get back to basics with The X-Files and jettison the convoluted central alien conspiracy plot but there just isn't enough meat on the bones of this script to sustain its 104 minute run time. The film's main plot hooks involving stem cell research, kidnapping and unconventional Russian surgery may allow for a few creepy moments, but it really would have been better served as an hour long television episode.

Still, the film's self-contained simplicity does make considerable amends for the last two lamentable seasons of the television show and frankly I wouldn't be opposed to watching another entry. That said, any new film would need to boast an original story idea so big, bold and outrageous that it would pull in moviegoers of every persuasion, whether they be "X-Philes" or not. I still believe in the power of this capable creative team and wish them luck should they go to bat again.

  Tilt: down.

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