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THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE


STARRING: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet

2008, 104 Minutes, Directed by:
Chris Carter


Why make another X-Files movie? Besides for reasons of avarice, that is . . .

After 202 one-hour episodes (the show lasted nine seasons from 1993 to 2002) and one big screen movie this is a legitimate question. What more can be said to justify another 104 minutes long full-length movie? Not much, it seems if X-Files: I Want to Believe is anything to go by. The plot is mundane and seems pieced together from bits from (better) episodes of this now defunct TV show.

Much effort went into keeping the film’s plot a closely guarded secret and prevent the beans from being spilled on the Internet. Driving home after an early screening of the film I realised that there were only two reasons I could think of of why they would go to all that trouble, namely (a) to hype the movie and (b) to prevent people from finding out just how humdrum the storyline really is. At one point some misinformation were fed to web sources hinting that the movie will feature werewolves. There are no werewolves in I Want to Believe, and after watching it you’d probably be wishing that it did. The plot is in fact so down-to-earth that one would imagine CSI and not the X-Files investigating it!

I Want to Believe picks up several years after the events of the last season. And just how did all that end? I can hear you ask. Well, apparently Mulder is wanted by the FBI on some bogus charges. Scully is now a medical doctor at a nearby hospital. Both have quit the FBI and are now living together! Gasp! This for a show that made such a point of not having its two protagonists fall for one other! I say apparently because like many other people I began losing interest in the show soon after it moved its filming locations from Vancouver to Los Angeles – and definitely wrote the show off after that whole business with Mulder being replaced by that humorless dude from Terminator 2.

One suspects that The X-Files: I Want to Believe – even though it is a “standalone” story and doesn’t dip into the turgid waters of that show’s convoluted alien invasion “mythology” – is aimed at those dedicated fans who stuck to the show right through to its bitter end. Cinemagoers unfamiliar with the series or those fans (such as myself) who drifted away from the series long before it ended will find little in I Want to Believe to convert them or lure them back into the fold again. It is hardly a triumphant return to form for this franchise and any X-Files fan worth his or her salt will offhandedly easily think of half a dozen or more episodes from the series that were a lot better than this big screen effort.

"Not what one would expect of a big screen X-Files movie!"

Anyway, Mulder and Scully are tempted away from their “retirement” to assist the FBI in tracking down a missing female FBI agent who was abducted from her home by unknown assailants. Why get Mulder and Scully in on the action? Because the FBI are being helped in their investigation by a psychic and seeing as they have seen this plot device being used countless times in old X-Files episodes, the FBI felt it was time to call in Mulder and Scully themselves. The psychic incidentally may or may not have real powers - but this being an X-Files movie you probably know the answer to that one already.

[SPOILERS AHEAD! Do not read any further if you haven’t seen the movie yet and intend on doing so!] Soon some body parts are found buried all over the place and it becomes clear that this is now a serial killer story, but with a twist. Sort of. It isn’t much of a twist to be honest. A group of renegade Russian doctors are trying to save someone’s life from an incurable disease by attaching that person’s head onto a body stitched together from various body parts.

Yup, this isn’t the Wolfman. It’s Frankenstein (a source which the movie cheerfully admits to). So cue your usual serial killer victim being held prisoner in a wooden box on an abandoned farmhouse guarded by killer dogs clichés – the sort of thing we have seen in countless TV shows and movies over the past fifteen years or so, including, yes, The X-Files. Like the Frankenstein’s monster being assembled, the plot too is a hodgepodge of bits sewn together from older X-Files episodes. So no aliens, no UFOs and nothing more supernatural than a psychic ex-priest. [END SPOILERS.]

So what else is there? Some mildly funny Mulder one-liners, a joke hinting that George W. Bush might in fact be an alien and . . . not much else. In fact X-Files – I Want to Believe is a slow, talky affair with little action. The movie lacks the scope that one would expect of a big screen movie version.

The previous X-Files – Fight the Future movie may have been aimed at long-time fans and I Want to Believe may be more “accessible” to casual viewers, but the truth is that Fight the Future boasted at least the sort of action and special effects spectacle that one expects of a widescreen cinema release. I Want to Believe has none of that. Instead it panders to fans of the show by endless dramatic scenes going on about Mulder’s “loss of faith”, padding the running time in the process. Agnostics will just roll their eyes and wonder what they’re going to have for dinner . . .

If truth be told I Want to Believe would have gone down much better as a made-for-TV or direct-to-DVD release. That doesn’t mean that it is bad. Just mediocre and disappointing. It is not what one would ultimately expect of a big screen X-Files movie. It belongs on the small screen. One gets the idea that 20th Century Fox is pushing their luck with I Want to Believe, checking to see just how many X-Files fans there are still out there to perhaps warrant some future straight-to-DVD movies. Ultimately it is something that one wouldn’t mind having caught on television late one night or perhaps have rented at the local video store. Forking out a full theater admission price for it is however a different affair.

And if you’re really cynical you might even say that I Want to Believe illustrates why the show was cancelled in the first place: because it ran out of fresh ideas . . .
 


 



 

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