January 5, 2009

X-Files not quite X-traordinary

Fondly remembered are the Fridays of my childhood spent watching The X-Files. Each night I huddled in bed, mortally terrified of the latest monster to go bump in the night. Would bugs devour me in the darkness? Maybe a fluke creature was lurking in the bathroom drain. Or was a carnie's ambulatory fetal twin lying beneath my bed, waiting for an unsuspecting host?! Ah, good times.

So it was with nostalgic excitement and high expectations that I trundled to a midnight showing of The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Oh how I wanted to believe.

The film kicks off with the abduction of an FBI agent and a psychic priest claiming he can aid in discovering her whereabouts. To determine if said psychic is legit, the FBI appeals to Mulder for his help because, really, they can't be assed to chase him all over West Virginia any more; it's fucking cold. Mulder gives up on his new hobby of beard cultivation to assist in the investigation. At first Mulder is skeptical of the priest's ability when Father Joe offers the FBI a hand, but, psychic or not, he leads them to a body of evidence that really helps the agents get ahead. Meanwhile, Dr. Scully has a crisis of faith, torn over the merit of subjecting a terminally ill child to the rigors of experimental treatment, which remains risky despite the hours spent Googling stem cell research. All of which culminates in a face-off with gay, Russian, psychopathic, Dr. Frankenstein wannabes. Naturally.

I Want to Believe ultimately falls more in the realm of normal than paranormal, offering many elements of a solid mystery but skimping on what makes The X-Files truly X-Files. The film is set post-series yet it fails to explore many ramifications of the closing episodes. After so many years, this fan wanted more than a few winks and a visit from Agent Skinner.

Watching The X-Files week-to-week afforded the surprise of each uniquely new creation Carter conjured. If it wasn't aliens, it was a man who ate human livers, or one's greatest fear brought to life, or any number of grotesque imaginings. I Want to Believe has a psychic. Maybe. Oh and some hinky surgical experiments. Please, that's paranormal small-fry. An X-Files movie without something superbly supernatural is about as lackluster as an entire season without Mulder.

Speaking of the foxy Agent Mulder, it is a true treat to watch David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprise their classic roles. I Want to Believe finds our heroes turned domestic couple--a welcome, if foreseeable, approach to an already intriguing partnership. As always, Mulder and Scully's interaction is clever and dynamic with the perfect dash of snarky affection.

Taken at face value – a detective mystery with supernatural undertones - I Want to Believe is an engaging enough film, taut and well-paced. Placed in the X-Files universe, it's a supplemental footnote instead of a crowning endnote. An overlong episode, if you will, which, at the end of the day, is better than no X-Files at all.


Spoiler Rant:

I'm extremely disappointed that Xzibit never offered to pimp anyone's ride.

So a gay Russian psychopath and his boyfriend are in the market for a new body. They choose:
A) random girl body
B) David friggin' Duchovny's body
What? “A”...seriously? I begin to doubt their gayness. And taste in men. Blood type, schmood type, it's David Duchovny!

(Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and www.webweaver.nu)