Thursday, July 31, 2008

Madd_Hadder on the X-Files: I Want to Believe [Guest Blog]

[Madd_hadder reviews the X-Files movie, which I have not seen. Spoilers.].

Mulder and Scully are back! The FBI has a case that was brought to them on a cold call, by a supposedly psychic priest (Billy Connelly), but the two agents in charge (Amanda Peet and Xzibit(?)) are not sure they believe he is really a psychic. Who you gonna call? Fox Mulder! Mulder has been laying low, hiding from the FBI for the last few years after he broke out of a military prison where he was to be hanged. Agent Xzibit asks Scully, now a doctor in a Catholic hospital, to track down Mulder because an FBI agent has been abducted and they need his help. The Priest has more psychic visions, but no one trust him because he is noted pedophile, having molested 30 young boys during his priesting. Mulder believes, or at least he wants to believe, that the visions are true. In these visions the father is seeing and hearing dogs, but not much else, except he is able to lead the FBI to all kinds of body parts. When a second girl gets abducted, Mulder gets fully behind the case, but Scully will not commit. Scully refuses to follow Mulder back into the darkness, but Mulder proclaims his whole life is about the darkness. When they stumble onto the body parts and test them for drugs, Mulder believes they are looking for an organ thieving business, which of course, is not terribly X-files like. In a side plot, focused on Scully, she is the doctor for a child who has an incurable disease, except she wants to try some risky stem cell surgery. It doesn't seem like much of a story, but the brilliance of Dana Scully is the way she is always trying to balance science and religious faith and this story line provides the perfect opportunity for it.

There is a giant part of me that believes I have to view this movie as if The X-Files did not exist. I want to review this specifically as a movie. In that regard, I believe it mostly succeeds. The opening scene is creepy and does an excellent job of setting the mood and the rest of the movie follows suit. There is a nice balance between the darkness and the light hearted Mulder and Scully banter, but in the end, as an X-Files movie, I have to ask "why?" If you are going to revive a franchise that died a very slow and painful death in 2002, you had better make sure the product you bring back something worth watching. The X-files: I want to believe, is worth watching as a movie, but as an X-Files movie it feels like an average stand alone episode. That being said, it was a blast to see my two favorite FBI agents back in action.

David Duchovney finds Mulder perfectly, even after letting him go 6 years ago. He is funny, charming, and earnest and, he still knows how to make us believe in him and his beliefs. Gillian Anderson kind of steals the show, though. She is heartbreaking, kind, and subtle in her choices and watching the two of them banter for the first half and argue through the second half does have a sense of classic X-Files to it. The scene they share in the hospital when Scully confesses she cannot follow him is really the crux of the movie. The plot takes a back seat to watching these characters re-evaluate their relationships and their lives. Mulder still eats sun flower seeds, is still obsessed with the paranormal and his ceiling is still riddled with pencils, but he is desperately in love with Scully. Dana is still whip smart and resistant to believing in the paranormal, but her love for Mulder shines through easily. Even in a lesser X-Files episode they are worth watching and that is no different here. It helps that Chris Carter crafts pretty good dialog that feels totally true to the two characters. Even as Mulder and Scully try to find a way to live with each other after the series, they cannot help but continue to question everything all of the time. It is obvious Carter was not ready to let these two iconic TV figures go.

When the plot does get back on track during the third act, we get some cool, creepy and scary stuff, all helped by Mark Snow's haunting score. The man has not lost his touch for creating the perfect mood with music. The X-Files theme is used only 3 or 4 times that I remember in the actual movie, but it is butchered in some awful techno version in the credits. Fans of the show will undoubtedly get a kick out of seeing Skinner again as well, even if just in the cameo role he was relegated to early in the series. However, while the plot is mildly X-Files like, I was left wanting more. I needed a better reason to see Mulder on screen again. I needed a better reason to watch Scully and Mulder share a bed together. I know Carter wanted to do a stand alone supernatural thriller, but a psychic child molesting priest? Why not tackle something like Big Foot even. Or perhaps something alien that did not have to do with the mythology. I have to believe The X-Files mythos can continue on, but I am not sure this was the right venue in which to bring it back.

I was entertained; I laughed and cheered silently and even uttered an audible "oh shit" during the moment that shocked me, so I cannot be too mad at Chris Carter. He made a pretty good thriller featuring the characters of the X-Files, just not a good X-Files thriller. Sadly, the opening weekend box office leaves little chance we will see a third movie and after limping across the finish line once before, this solid, if unremarkable, movie could be the final nail in the coffin of The X-Files.


Chad Nevett said...

I saw this on Saturday with my girlfriend because she loves the show--while I don't think I've ever seen a full episode. And we both liked it, but it seemed less like a movie and more like a long TV episode. I think you're right when you say that it works best by pretending there wasn't a TV show since that raises the level of expectation. The show has been off the air for a few years now, so it seems like it returning as a movie should be BIG(!) when it's not, it's just a decent flick. That seems to be a common problem with movies that started with TV shows, though.

Todd C. Murry said...

The cinematography and mystery plot were fine (the mystery was on par with a very good episode of the show). I like that the stars don't have movie star teeth (Dana's uneven yellowing was refreshing). But you can't view this as just a movie if you ever watched the movie. I know that's not fair (since the series' last few years were what they were, it is definately not fair to expect the movie to make up for this), but not making at least some comparason judgement is dishonest.

As such, the movie's singleminded focus on Scully's crisis of belief creates a distance that absolutely nullifies the Scully/Mulder chemistry that is the single biggest selling point of the franchise. The movie also fails to make clear (or at least interminably delays the explanation of) anything about how you get from the finale to here. I don't need averything explained (not dealing with the government's negotiated alien invasion date is fine), but there is no clarity on whether Mulder and Scully were together for 30-40 minutes.

Also, the action was badly configured, some effects were bad, I didn't like Peet's performance, and nitpicks abound (I kept dwelling the question of what kind of doctor Scully is now - she didn't do any residency before the FBI, the TV show made that clear, and she performs a neurosurgical proceedure and is the primary on a case a neurologist would have been on - where did she do her residency/fellowships between when the show ended and now? Within commuting distance of the middle of nowhere house she shared with Mulder?).

Todd C. Murry said...

Third sentence should read "...if you ever watched the TV show"