Allow me to begin by saying that I’m currently watching a blank screen, furiously wondering how I could start my review of The X-Files: I Want To Believe. This cannot be a good sign. Not only have I seen every episode of the series, even those from the abomination called Season Nine, but I own them too. Most taped from when the episode ran on tv, some seasons were bought. On VHS. Hey, the show ran from 1993 to 2002.
So let me begin with the good news: the movie isn’t as awful as I had anticipated. Yes, it can’t have been nice for Chris Carter and c° when Fox told them in 2006 it would be “now or never”. If they’d waited any longer, the series would’ve lost all appeal. I find this bullshit: The Avengers was a 60s show and the movie – nay, abomination de luxe – was made in the late nineties. And yes, The X-Files were to the nineties what Miami Vice was to the 80s, but when did we see that movie? Sure, it was “now or never” for the cast to appear in the movie and still look credible enough for a movie that contained a bit more action than the average episode of Golden Girls, so it was a good thing that the movie was finished in 2008.
And it starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as well as the perennial favourite sidekick… yes, Walter Skinner (as played by Mitch Pileggi) has – what could best be described as – a long cameo. Funnily enough, my friend and co-Xphile had just whispered to me “What has happened to Skinner?” just before the man appears.
More about the cast of this film later. First though, what’s up with the story? Okay, Chris Carter made the smart decision (although Duchovny may have played a part in this too) to have the story set in this year. We’re six years after the series finale and the movie opens with Scully doing what she did best: being a doctor. She’s approached with the request to find Mulder for a case that has the FBI baffled. If so, the FBI might drop the charges against him. Right, so Mulder is still a fugitive? How come they never found him? In Scully’s words: maybe they were happier with him as far as possible. Sounds acceptable.
Does the worst decision of the series play a part? Yes, William (the son of Mulder and Scully) gets a mention, but that’s it. Actually, that’s more than enough. It helped the series go down the drain and to have the name William mentioned does the movie quite some damage. Especially if William is mentioned in a scene where Mulder and Scully are together in bed and have been a couple for quite some time now. Part of what was so brilliant about X-Files’ predecessor (The Avengers) was that the sexual tension between Steed and Peel was implied. In her very last episode Emma Peel drives off in a car with someone who looks like Steed while Steed waves her goodbye. That is brilliant. Mulder and Scully discussing in bed and Scully making a reference to Mulder’s penis size… not so brilliant.
Possibly even worse: the rest of the cast. No bad word about Amanda Peet as Dakota Whitney (she who asks for Mulder’s help), she’s chosen quite well and her dribbling between belief in the paranormal and disbelief is one of the strengths of the series. She is backed by agent Mosley Drummy and if you think that’s a stupid name, just wait till you know who plays the part: rapper Xzibit (or Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner – as he was credited in the movie). Right, are we attempting to get the idiotic youth vote? Because there’s no way Xzibit fits into this movie: he sticks out like a sore thumb, never looks credible and doesn’t give the least bit of proof he can act. Let me put it this way: unless it’s directed by David Cronenberg (who has proved to be good with actors I can’t otherwise stand), there’s no way I’ll ever watch a movie starring Xzibit again. Never. I don’t even feel like bothering to use my fingers to have his name appear in bold, that’s how awful he was. (Anyone want to watch an episode of Hannah Montana followed by a movie starring Lindsay Lohan? See, no problems with bold or italics there. Heck, I’ll even write the word asparagus in bold, but Xzibit? Nope. That’s how catastrophically bad the man is in this part.)
Speaking of actors, Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie plays one of the bad people in the movie. It was quite nice to see a good actor in the movie adaptation of one of your favourite series. Don’t really know why I felt like mentioning that, maybe to get rid of that rapper taste. Billy Connelly joins the crew too: he plays Father Joe, a paedophile priest with paranormal powers. A large part of the film depends on one question: is Father Joe paranormal or a fraud? No problem, many of the episodes of The X-Files were based on that sort of questions. The thing is: a normal episode of the series would last 42 minutes, not 104. Sure, most of the movie plays like a double episode, but twice the length of one episode would still give you 84 minutes. I’m willing to accept that we need to discuss extra things: 1) Where is Mulder now? 2) What’s Scully doing these days? 3) Mulder and Scully have to go back to the FBI (combined with the regular mocking of Mulder’s beliefs). All that doesn’t conceal that the movie is at least 15 minutes overlong (possibly even longer).
And yes, it wouldn’t be an X-Files without mentions of Mulder’s sister and Scully’s crises of faith. As you may remember, Scully didn’t want to believe all of Mulder’s theories, but was a catholic. And yes, Chris Carter has a thing for milking God. A lot of episodes of The X-Files, Millennium and even Harsh Realm (that’s right, we’re pretending The Lone Gunmen never existed) featured discussions about the existence and powers of God. This movie isn’t different and yes, the fact that Scully is now a doctor who’s taking care of a mortally sick boy in a Christian hospital doesn’t help that.
So is this just an extended episode? In a way, yes. Is that bad? Nope. Remember the episode which took place in the past and all they did was wear older clothes and make cell phones huge? Well, I Want To Believe is more credible: Mulder and Scully look six years older now and the world is doing okay without them. However, by using almost every cliché from the series (his porn collection may not be mentioned, but Mulder is still chewing sunflower seeds by the dozens) and using it a bit too often, the movie makes itself so cosy in the series’ house you may find this guest a bit obnoxious.
None of it’s bad, some of it is just way too much in the picture and shown overlong. The trick to make the movie meatier by adding the plot of the sick boy Scully is trying to help is not really working. Sure, you as a viewer already knew what the evil people were up to, but allow me to say that Mulder and Scully probably needed a hint to find out what was truly happening. So yes, the inclusion of the sick kid wasn’t bad, but did we really need all those scenes? None of them are annoying, but the film outstays its welcome (or was that just for us, who were watching it in a cinema without air-conditioning?) by not ditching a handful of scenes that didn’t make the movie stronger (just longer).
But truly, the sight of Mulder and Scully kissing… was that necessary? Yes, we could’ve guessed it, but that doesn’t mean you have to rub our noses in it. Especially not in an abhorringly long dialogue between Mulder and Scully that makes little sense apart from repeating what’s already been said a couple of times.
I want to believe (yes, that was rather weak) in a director’s cut that throws some of those unnecessary scenes in the bin. Until then, people who watched the series may want to view the movie to see what’s happened to Mulder and Scully in two episodes stitched back to back. New viewers should avoid it as this material won’t make them understand why The X-Files was hailed as an important series in the nineties. And fans of Xzibit’s movie career should seek medical care as soon as possible.
A fan’s verdict: 6 or 6.5
A non-fan’s verdict: ermm, probably less
P.S. Don’t mind all the people leaving once the credits roll. There’s a completely daft scene at the end of the credits. Who said The X-Files took itself too serious?