I had the opportunity to attend a media screening today and these are my initial thoughts of the big screen reunion of former Agent Fox “Spooky” Mulder and Dana Scully
The X Files: I Want to Believe.
Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly, Amanda Peet, Xzibit
Rating…somewhere between 2 and 3 stars out of 5.
Couldn’t have thought of a better title, really, I couldn’t. I wanted to believe too, but instead I found myself laughing, at times inappropriately.
To be fair, there were tense moments, scary moments and certainly some gory ones but outweighing it all were the moments of out and out absurdity.
After Seven and even TV’s Prison Break, there really is only one body part that can turn up in a box these days and alas it’s no longer all that shocking.
The plot in a nutshell – the FBI is forced to “reach out” to discredited former agent Fox Mulder (Duchovny), agreeing to bury the past if he will help locate a missing female agent.
A psychic (Connolly) who also happens to be a convicted paedophile and former priest (full marks for whoever came up with that character composite) has located a body part in the snow and the FBI needs Mulder to scope out whether the psychic is genuine or a fake.
Mulder won’t work the case unless Scully (Anderson) is along for the ride; after all, she delivered the request from the FBI.
But Scully is less than enthused; she has left the darkness of the paranormal and sci-fi world behind her. She is now a physician in a hospital run by a religious bureaucracy that would prefer to send one of her young patients to a hospice than let her try radical life saving treatment.
Mulder is almost too easily returned to the FBI fold by agent Dakota Whitney (Peet), whose superior (or is he her offsider, it’s never made that clear) agent Mosley Drummy (Xzibit) thinks Father Joseph is a phony who should be treated as a suspect.
Like the previous X-Files big screen outing Fight the Future, this one spends a lot of time in the dark and the snow; a good place to bury but accidentally preserve unwanted body parts, it seems.
If you’re an X-phile hoping for alien mythology, conspiracy theories, shadowy agents smoking cigarettes and the like, you will be seriously disappointed. Apart from a passing mention of Mulder’s sister, aliens don’t rate a mention. On the flipside, the stand alone nature of the film does make it more accessible.
This film seems more intent on challenging our faith – in God, human nature, our own judgment and to a lesser extent the value of psychics to criminal investigations.
There are questions of redemption, guilt and probing the darkness within us all.
Where the film starts to go seriously pear shaped is in building the links between the missing FBI agent, body parts found in the snow and another young woman who goes missing from the same local swimming pool.
In fact, it all goes a bit Dr Moreau/Frankenstein. Scully conveniently makes the link while doing stem cell research (good to know even someone like Scully turns to Google) for her dying teenage patient but Mulder has already joined the dots while visiting the local store (called Nutters, hilarious).
Having already chased a suspect unarmed through a city building site in almost total darkness, Mulder sets off on foot in freezing temperatures with a head injury and no phone to confront his suspect.
Mulder and Scully’s relationship remains one of the great curiosities of the film; the URST is long gone, replaced by equal parts trust and wariness.
Their status at the start is a little hazy and drew different interpretations during post film analysis. They seem at once committed and withdrawn, and Scully seems ready to walk away if Mulder lets the case take over their lives.
The film has deviated a long way from the early creepiness of the TV show, becoming a cliché-filled action thriller that doesn’t deliver enough of either. Where once there was mystery and the shadows of the unknown, we now have axes, marauding dogs and scarred thugs with eastern bloc accents.
If this is the best Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz could come up with, I feel it is time The X Files were marked case closed and sent to Area 51.