Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Director: Chris Carter
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson & Billy Connolly

Six years after The X-Files television series finished its nine year run, Mulder and Scully return for their second big screen adventure. While The X-Files: I Want To Believe offers some satisfying moments and performances for longtime fans of the show, there is little present to justify its presence as a big-screen film.

The X-Files television series, a cult phenomenon, ended in 2002 after nine years of the investigations of Agents Mulder & Scully into supernatural and extra-terrestrial phenomenon. While the stars of the show had moved into supporting roles during the series final two seasons and the edge of the show losing its effectiveness towards the end, The X-Files was still one of the best received and remember television shows of the 1990s. So, six years later, creator Chris Carter reunites with show stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson for a new case. The storylines of the television show usually focused on either government conspiracies involving extra-terrestrials, the supernatural (including ghosts and monsters) or serial killers (often with an unusual/supernatural element). Having satisfied its overarching storyline involving aliens and the government within the television series, Chris Carter has wisely chosen not to revisit that conspiracy and focus the plot of this film on more human horrors involving the supernatural, this time represented by a psychic ex-priest.

The storyline, involving a kidnapped FBI Agent, dismembered body-parts discovered in ice and an ex-priest having psychic visions regarding the Agent and her captors is interesting and generally well presented and feels right at home amongst similar storylines from the television series’ history. However, its strengths as the storyline worthy of the television series is also one of its weaknesses as a film as the plot and events are developed as an episode of the show would be developed without fully taking advantage the big screen format. Unusual since the advantages of the big screen were used effectively in 1998 when The X-Files was first adapted for the big screen half way through the television series’ run. Had this been released as a movie for television it would likely be better received as expectations in terms of budget, action and scale for a big screen adaptation would go unsatisfied by this film. Instead, Carter adds an unnecessary sub-plot involving a dying boy at a hospital Scully works at distracts from the film’s central storyline whilst serving to separate Scully from Mulder for lengthy segments throughout the film. This sub-plot itself is ultimately left open ended and is only tangentially related to events elsewhere in the film. This sub-plot is more suited for a television episode that can afford to indulge in soap-opera drama but slows the film down too much which is a problem given that this film is also our first adventure with Scully and Mulder in six years.

On the acting front there are many good performances. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson slip comfortably back into the roles that made them famous and deliver solid performances in spite of the film continuing the romance between the two that was better served in the early years of the television series as a more platonic romance than the relationship it inevitably became. Duchonvy leads the cast well, receiving most of the spotlight (though sporting a terrible beard during the first third of the film) but is supported well by Billy Connolly who delivers a restrained and tortured performance as the ex-priest with an unsavory past who is receiving visions that can help solve the case, and Amanda Peet is likeable as an FBI Agent leading the investigation whose commitment to covering all angles brings her to involve Mulder and Scully in the investigation.

Overall, this would stand as a better than average episode of the television series but an extended sub-plot, an anti-climatic resolution to the main storyline and little use of the big screen format leave The X-Files: I Want To Believe somewhat unsatisfying as a film, especially as a film that reunites us with the cast of the television series. A film mostly for long-term fans of the show but not recommended for new or casual fans but don’t expect big things, just an extended episode of the series.

Rating: 2/5 for film fans or 3/5 for X-Files fans