Monday, February 1, 2016

The X-Files: I Want to Believe - 2008

In 1998 I somehow convinced my mom to take me to the first X-Files movie when it came out in theaters.  I was 12.  It left a giant impression on me.  You see, I saw all these TV spots (probably at a friends house) and I heard that last line of the trailer "Only in theaters."  To this day I hate that wording.  When is it NOT only in theaters when it's a real, like not HBO, movie?!  I mean sure now we have things premiering in theaters, on iTunes, on HBO, all over the fucking place and it could easily be confused where to watch something.  But I literally thought at the time that meant this movie was ONLY going to EVER play in theaters.  No DVD, no VHS, no cable play, etc.  So with that sense of urgency, I somehow talked my mom into taking me.

I had never seen the TV show X-Files at that time.  I had heard of it, sure.  It was in it's height of popularity at the time, around season 5 when the writing was at full strength, the ongoing plot was hitting left and right turns, and there was plenty of places the movie could have gone.  The first movie was about aliens, which of course was the story-arc of the TV show.  Heavy spoilers for the TV show and the first movie may be present in the rest of this review.

In the end of the TV show (we're ignoring Doggett and Reyes because who gives a fuck about them) Mulder and Scully have had a son, who was given up for adoption because he may have been a human/alien hybrid OR he may have been a supersoldier with psychic ability.  I don't really even know anymore.  The show ends in 2002 with the death of the Smoking Man, Mulder and Scully are together, and their future is uncertain now due to the fact the alien invasion is coming in 2012.  Then in 2008, money and fan interest demanded a sequel movie.  And, not to rag on it too much, but the movie was way off in terms of continuity and feel.

Like I said I can't rag on it too much.  I think they did a pretty good job with the characters.  Scully has left the X-Files, Mulder has quit the FBI entirely, and then this case comes up where they need to both come back to help, ostensibly like a "one last time" type thing.  But it's the X-File itself that I think fell flat.  Billy Connolly co-stars are a pedophile priest who has a psychic connection (maybe) to a case involving a kidnapped FBI agent.  It seems the guy is legit, because he finds two bodies and at one point he cries blood.  Mulder is all in, Scully is doubtful because of the guy's past and also because she doesn't believe in that shit.

But I dunno.  The feel is somehow very low-importance.  I think it's the fact the villain's don't have a lot of screen time or strength, it's also the priest as a pedophile thing.  In fact, that as well as references to George Bush as president and stem cell research make the whole movie feel really dated.  It was like they took two (at the times) controversial things, kinda half threw them together, and decided to make it into an X-Files movie. Essentially, the plot in the end is that the villains are kidnapping people with the intention of transplanting heads onto other people's bodies, with the stem cells working to connect the two.

The pedophile priest angle also feels unfinished.  We're supposed to have a hatred for the guy, but he instead just seems laughable.  He doesn't actually do very much in the film, sort of disappears in the second half, and to my satisfaction his connection to the case is never fully explained.  Spoilers again.  It is eventually revealed the priest molested one of the villains when he was a kid.  So the priest is connected to the villain.  It's also then proven the priest isn't psychic when he tells Mulder and Scully that a woman they know to be dead is still alive.  So was he actually in on the kidnappings then, like everyone suspects?  Or did he have a psychic connection just to the ex-victim guy and somehow not know that the woman was dead?  I am not sure.  After that, Billy Connolly's priest character promptly dies.

The movie is well shot, decently acted, and as a murder mystery I guess it's ok.  It's a dial back from the over-the-top movies that have been coming out, more of a realistic murder case.  No high body count, no aliens, and no out of the range of possibility plot lines.  In that way, it succeeds because having realism in a movie now is mostly unheard of.  But as an X-File, well - that's what the X-Files were:  outrageous, nightmarish, with aliens and way out there plots.  So I guess it brings me to the same thought I've had both times I've seen this:  why is this an X-Files movie?

We as fans were so anxious to see more, to understand the hanging plot threads.  Then instead we get a movie about what in the end could have been a normal, if a bit complicated, case of kidnapping?  I'm not saying there's no place for that, I'm just saying why make that plot, that specific plot, into the movie?  It's kid of like if they had taken an episode, and not even a great one but just some run of the mill monster of the week episode from season 2 or something, and made that into the X-Files movie.  I can't say that this was a terrible movie, it's just that it in no way feels X-Files related.

With the show's 6 episode revival started a week ago, we're sure to see some of the actual plot lines be addressed and perhaps resolved.  We're bound to see aliens, or at least hear about them, and we're bound to see our favorite characters back in action.  But just like a crappy episode from a random season of the X-Files, this movie will never be mentioned again.  Not because it wasn't successful, not because the characters or the plot sucked, simply because this movie was never important, will never be important, and made no impact at all upon anything in the X-Files universe.  And for that it gets 1.5 stars.

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