Anyone who was hitherto unaware of my nerdom can now be informed of that fact when I admit to having been (and being) a huge fan of the X Files. While I could easily write on for hours about why I loved the show so much, I will try to keep it in my pants and paint a brief thumbnail sketch of the show for anyone who is, unfortunately, unfamiliar.
The show follows two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who are assigned to the “X Files” of the FBI which are cases that have gone unsolved or have otherwise defied logical, scientific explanation. Fox Mulder, who joined the FBI as a top notch psychological profiler, has earned a bad reputation among his peers for his belief and investigation of the paranormal. While his methods are frowned upon, his results are most certainly not, as Fox more often than not is able to solve the previously unsolved cases. So the Bureau assigns Dana Scully to the X Files to “work with” Mulder. Her real assignment is to apply her sound scientific background and medical training to Mulder’s work…in essence, she is there to debunk his theories and provide tangible, hard evidence to support their findings. From there, the two went on to investigate and solve myriad bizarre phenomenon, many of which could be traced back to the growing mythology of the series that involved a US government conspiracy and cover-up about the existence of extra terrestrial life.
The show branches off into so many wonderful directions over the course of it’s 9 seasons, but the underlying theme of the show was always faith. Faith in the government, in the church, in science and in one’s self. It was my faith in the creators and writers of the show that had me giddy with anticipation about the franchise’s second full length feature film, I Want To Believe, which premiered for American moviegoers on July 25th.
The film promised to be a stand-alone feature that would not only play for an audience that had never seen the show, but also would satisfy die hard fans like myself. The first film they did, Fight the Future, which was released in 1998 at the height of the show’s popularity, accomplished this extremely well. To the uninitiated, it served as a thrilling action movie with just enough of a dusting of the alien mythology and enough inside jokes and humor to whet the palettes of us X-Philes. Most of the talk about I Want To Believe, though, implied that the movie would be completely devoid of the conspiracy storyline. It was to be like one of the many stand alone episodes of the series that was devoted to a case that operated completely independently of the aliens. I was ok with this, because many of the stand alone episodes of the show are far-and-away my personal favorites. Plus, being 6 years removed from the final episode, it would have felt awfully forced to revisit it.
So on the 26th, the wife and I got ourselves a babysitter and went out to see our favorite FBI heroes in action once again. As much as I want to write a sparkling review of this film, the farther removed from it I get, the less I like it. The story is multidimensional and overly-complicated, yet remains entirely superficial, lacking any real depth or substance. Much of the dynamic tension (sexual, ethical & professional alike) that made Mulder & Scully’s relationship so exceptional on the small screen has been completely erased in favor of forced, cornball pap.
Sadly, the sexual tension is not all that has gone missing in the time that the show has been off the air. The story writing for I Want To Believe lacked that certain X Files charm and depth that was so addictive and exciting. There is nothing below the surface of this multifaceted jumble of a movie. I won’t go so far as to try and explain the many different angles and subplots going on in the film, there are far too many things happening for me to recount them all. Suffice it to say, though, the standard Chris Carter practice of starting the story somewhere completely different from where it ends remains in tact. The standard intersections of characters is gone, though. Instead of a story overview that resembled a streetmap, the movie is modeled more like a spider…spindly little legs, none of which intersect, leading back to a thorax where they comingle before coming to a head. By the time the story reaches the head, you’ve forgotten all about the legs.
The setting and feel of the movie are nothing less than I would expect…they just feel wasted on this story which spends far too much time jabbing at science and religion and ethics and psychics and other extraneous plot points that, once again, are cast by the wayside when the story reaches it’s apex.
I wanted to love this movie. Hell…I wanted to just like this movie. In the end, the more I think about it, the more it disappoints me. Worth a rental, I would say, but don’t bother with this in the theater.