Thursday, July 24, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Over the past several months, the cast and crew of The X-Files: I Want to Believe considered it a badge of honor to be as tight-lipped about the plot of their film as possible. Internet searches met with futility. Spoiler sites were useless. The film’s trailers were little more than a jumble of unintelligible images. As it turns out, the tremendous secrecy was not to hide the film’s plot until the last minute, but rather hide the fact that The X-Files: I Want to Believe is arguably the dullest film to hit theater screens this year.

Somewhere in the frozen West Virginia hinterland (who knew West Virginia had a frozen hinterland that looked so remarkably like the Canadian Rockies) someone is abducting women and subjecting them to freakish experiments. At a loss to explain the abductions, much less solve them, the FBI, led by Special Agents Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and Mosley Drummy (Alvin “XZibit” Joiner) enlists the help of two former Bureau employees who have experience with the abnormal: Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), now employed as a pediatric surgeon and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) who apparently spends his days cutting out newspaper clipping referencing paranormal events.

Together with Father Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly), a defrocked priest who claims to receive psychic visions from God about the locations of the abducted women, Mulder and Scully (who have obviously lived a lot of profound history in the past six years since we last saw them, much of which is dealt with in casual, throwaway lines) find themselves right back where we left them — a battle of wits between reason and faith. As Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, more than just their lives are in danger; perhaps their very friendship is at stake.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe would not even be considered a good episode much less a good film. There is utterly no sense of dread or tension, just as there is no sense of inertia or momentum. The X-Files: I Want to Believe is a profoundly boring film. To say the film was languidly paced would be to admit to the contributions of an editor and I am unconvinced one ever existed. While the characters appear to move in real time, the film seems to be stuck in slow motion, as if all the action is taking place underwater or within wet cement. All this leads up to one of the most anti-climactic, underwhelming resolutions ever set to film.

There are films that purposely conclude in ambiguity and then there are films that end without ever addressing the supposed central premise of their plot. The X-Files is the latter. A disjointed, unintelligible mess that makes no sense, The X-Files never once bothers to explain itself and worse, doesn’t even care to try. The X-Files thinks it’s saying something significant and insightful about the intersection of faith and science and the despair of losing one’s most profound beliefs, but as with so much else in the film, it is all talk and no action.

While Duchovny and Anderson slip comfortably back into the roles that made them 90’s icons, the movie itself is not so lucky. Why in the world was this film made? It’s not as if fans were clamoring for another installment, no matter how enjoyable the first film, which came out even before the series ran its course, turned out to be. Does anyone even care anymore? The X-Files is about six years too late and now completely pointless. There is nothing here to attract new fans. Die-hard X-Philes should prepare themselves for one heck of a disappointment. This time, X does not mark the spot.



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