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The X Files - I Want To Believe (DVD)
Member Name: SmoothCriminal
The X Files - I Want To Believe (DVD)
Advantages: A suspenseful and atmospheric thriller
Disadvantages: No exploration of the X Files' alien mythology, anti-climatic conclusion
'The X-Files: I Want to Believe' arrived in the cinema in 2008, with somewhat odd timing. Six years after one of the most iconic television series of the 1990s left our screen, and an entire decade since the first X-Files Movie set the box office alight, the timing would suggest that the movie was set to wrap up the fascinating mythology outlined by Chris Carter in the television series. Instead, fans were given a stand-alone tale that resembled more of a mainstream horror thriller, as opposed to a continuation of the rather distinct franchise. It was critically mauled and subsequently only did tepidly at the box office.
Now, I enjoyed the film. With many movies, there is the bandwagon effect when it comes to bad reviews - making carefully measured comments and weighing up the strengths and weaknesses makes for confusing reading for the layperson, so it's easier (and far more entertaining) just to rip it to pieces. My simple judgement is this - if you have hardly watched the TV series or never seen it at all, you will enjoy this movie, but if you are a hardcore fan, it will undoubtedly leave you with much to nitpick at.
'I Want to Believe' stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They have an extensive history of investigating the paranormal and unexplained cases handed to the FBI, and often uncover conspiracies to hide the otherworldly from public awareness. The movie is set six years after the end of the television series - Mulder lives in isolation, while Scully works as a Doctor. The two are reluctantly drawn back in by the FBI, as the strange case of a missing agent, forces them to work with a former priest (convicted of child abuse, no less) who is having psychic visions, to help untangle the web of strange disappearances before it is too late...
The film clearly falls into the horror thriller genre, and while there are no truly scary moments, there is a chilling atmosphere throughout the movie. This is compounded by Chris Carter's beautiful cinematography, with the choice of filming the movie in Canada, undoubtedly a brilliant one. The thick layer of ice and snow in every scene is visually unnerving and symbolise that something is being covered up and concealed.
At times, there are some brilliant moments that hark back to the golden age of thrillers - before directors relied on 3D and huge explosions - as a chase scene occurs in an abandoned building, with the characters teetering on the edge of unsafe scaffolding. Moments like this certainly get the blood pumping, and counterbalances the dialogue-heavy mystery elements of the story.
I felt the acting in the movie was great, with Gillian Anderson putting on a really powerful performance in her sub-plot regarding the dilemmas and conflicts facing paediatricians. It's a bit of an oddly placed, sub-plot might I add, but Gillian makes it work. Billy Connolly was the stand-out for me though, with the challenging role of a child-molesting priest receiving visions pertaining to the disappearances of several young women. He really humanises the role, and makes the viewer feels the same conflicts as the characters on screen, as we wonder whether he deserves forgiveness or not. It is in issues like this where the movie really shines. Chris Carter really has a knack for using the characters and the plot to work as an allegory for greater issues. The title is a really clever one, as it features throughout the movie in different manifestations - it embodies the fundamental divide that characterises both Scully and Mulder's relationship, and a lot of broader issues. When should we have faith and when should we have scepticism?
In terms of a thriller, the first three quarters of the movie are pretty damn near perfect. There is suspense, a bit of action and some good characterisation, however, I felt the ending was a little too abrupt. The big reveal and ultimate conclusion was a little anticlimactic and didn't have much of a sense of danger or urgency in the conflict. The explanation felt a lot less X-Files and more B-List horror movie, which was disappointing given the strength of the premise of the movie.
Where the movie encounters problems other than the ending is simply its own place within the X-Files franchise. Now I haven't watched the series from start to finish, however, I do know that the show ended with a lot of major issues to wrap up. There are 'super soldiers' walking the earth, Mulder is being hunted by the FBI and there is the small issue of an impending invasion of earth being planned. Two of these are utterly ignored and one is dealt with rather implausibly. Then again, plausibility doesn't seem high on Chris Carter's list, if he felt it necessary to show Scully googling "stem cell research" prior to performing a stem cell surgery on a child. It just feels like an odd movie to appear so many years after the series ended. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie, but the show had nine years and over 200 episodes to tell stories like this. What fans want to see and what the general public would have been far more captivated by, would be addressing the alien invasion in 2012 that was foretold by the TV series.
Ultimately, 'I Want to Believe' is an average thriller. What makes it appealing to mainstream audience is that it really has nothing to do with the X-Files, as one could not class it as a supernatural movie or as being particularly loyal to the franchise, as there is simply none of the bizarre, unnerving brilliance of the TV series. And therein lies its downfall - by making a mainstream thriller that anyone could watch, it seemingly loses its niche and character that would make it stand-out from the crowd. Would I watch it again? Yes. Would I recommend to a friend? Probably. But is this the best continuation of the TV series that could have been done? Definitely not. I still have my fingers and toes crossed for the alien invasion movie that almost ten years of television was building up for - if that gets delivered, then some, if not all of the downfalls of this movie will be instantly forgiven. However, if this is the last the X-Files has to offer, then long-term fans will undoubtedly be disappointed.
Summary: An enjoyable but rather pointless epitaph to the X Files franchise
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