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X-Files Sequel A Weak Hail Mary for Franchise

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (Fox, 2008)
Directed by Chris Carter
Written by Carter and Frank Spotnitz

I will argue with anyone that for the first five (maybe even six if I’m feeling generous) seasons, The X-Files was one of the best shows to ever grace the small screen. Even while I see that 1998’s first foray onto the big screen, The X-Files: Fight the Future, was merely a continuity gap between the end of season five and beginning of season six, it was still a rather effective foray into the mythos of The X-Files phenomena.

The final few seasons of the show were not nearly as effective, but at times managed to entertain and intrigue us with haunting creatures of the night, crazy conspiracy theories (aliens wrote the freaking Bible?), and a talented roster of actors. And I can even see the interest in going back and trying to reenergize the once thought dead property.

This has worked for other genre shows of the past such as Star Trek and even Battlestar Galatica. However, what I can’t understand is how Chris Carter, along with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, thought this was the story that needed to be told.

I guess it’s got everything you could want in a big summer movie: serial killers, organ harvesting, stem cell research, dying kids, pedophiles, and gay marriage? Yeah, the last one threw me for a loop as well, but it’s in there. I will not be giving away any major spoilers, but if you don’t care or have already seen the film, you should check out Devin’s review at Chud; he’s got a whole thesis on the homophobic nature of this film that at the very least makes for entertaining reading.

Even at its basic core, this story does not work. An FBI agent has gone missing, and agents’ Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and Mosley Drummy (Xzibit) are stuck relying on a psychic for help; former pedophile and priest, Father Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly). Crissman is supposedly having visions of the agent’s abduction and thinks there might even be more people being kidnapped and tortured.

So Whitney decides to track down Mulder since he’s had dealings with psychics in his former work on the X-Files. This is as loose of a thread that I can think of to bring Mulder back to the FBI. They don’t have other agents that haven’t been off the force for five years or on the FBI’s most wanted list that could help out?

Whitney is kind of like Mulder in that she wants to believe there are things out there going bump in the night and that Father Crissman’s visions might be the real deal. Drummy is an even more skeptical version of Scully, who doesn’t buy into any of the nonsense and thinks both Crissman and Mulder are off their rocker.

Poor Gillian Anderson, who I’ve always thought was the better of the two main actors by a landslide, is stuck on the sidelines. Now that Mulder and Scully are in an actual relationship and have been living together for the last five years, she’s become even more of his moral compass. Although with the “Screenwriting 101″ dialogue that she feeds Mulder, I can’t really blame him for not listening to her. Some of their scenes feel like they were ripped off some after school special about the dangers of doing drugs.

An intriguing aspect to the television show was that every week it felt more like you were watching a film than a television show. So, I find it even more confusing that I Want to Believe feels so much like an episode of some terrible X-Files rip-off. They even have a B-Story line, which most television shows possess, but oddly enough The X-Files rarely did. Scully is working as a doctor in the present day, and she is trying to save a kid’s life with an untreatable disease. They do try to tie this in at one point, but it is a stretch to say the least.

Chris Carter, who is nobody’s definition of a good director, could have brought in some fresh talent to give us a new vision for this franchise to take and start up a whole new series of films. Or hell, he could have used a veteran director from the show to at least do a professional job. His decision to direct this might be the movie’s biggest fault because the man has never understood the concept of moving a story along; go back and watch any of the episodes he directed and tell me I’m wrong.

Of course Spotnitz and Carter’s screenplay can’t go without blame either. The first half is fairly pedestrian build-up, and once we start getting our answers, the storyline is all over the place. When all is said and done it’s a very basic story, but the writers felt like they had to give it that X-Files zing and make it seem like there is more than meets the eye. They try their hardest to make the film feel epic; you can almost feel the desperation on Carter’s face and it’s cheap to say the least.

I also have to mention this film has the worst looking “Falling Victim” scene I have ever witnessed. It’s one of those sequences where we see the person falling, eyes opened wide and arms flailing. This makes the stumble down the stairs in Psycho III look brilliant. I don’t know whose fault that was, but it’s terrible nonetheless.

Whoever is to blame for this mess is beside the point I guess. As The Projectionist has already stated, this is probably the final nail in the coffin of a franchise that once had so much promise. It’s a sad day for X-Files fans and an unpromising day for those that were hoping to be converted. Very little in this film works, and what little does isn’t even worth mentioning. This is a very bad movie that is coming at a time when the Summer Movie season was actually on an upswing. I recommend going to see The Dark Knight, Wall-E, or Hellboy II again. I cannot recommend wasting a second on this bullshit.

Sam Loomis

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