The X Files: I Want to Believe Review
Ten years after the last movie, six years after the last season ended, Chris Carter's precious X-Files baby has been resurrected for the Big Screen (in a way) for one more go-around. I don't know where it came from, heard very little about it in pre-production (mainly because everything was kept quiet) and had almost no build-up prior to release. Vastly overshadowed by the monolith that was The Dark Knight, X-Files 2, dubbed X-Files: I Want to Believe (an odd decision which cause some confusion considering the original 1998 movie was only given its 'Fight the Future' title as a release afterthought) barely made a dent in the charts, becoming moderately profitable but only really because it was made on a relative shoestring budget of $30 Million. So what went wrong? Was it just a matter of bad timing or was this actually just a bad movie?
Six years after the X-Files ceased to be, a strange case involving a psychic and a missing FBI Agent causes the investigating team to contact Dana Scully, ex-X-Files member, who is now working as a Doctor, with a view to finding her exiled ex-partner (and lover) Fox Mulder, and gaining his insight on the matter. Cue the introduction of a bearded Mulder, tired and bitter from his maltreatment by the FBI and not wholly keen to return to the scene. But drawn in by Scully's pleas and soon intrigued by the nuances of the case (a paedophile priest with psychic visions leading the Agents on the trail after the missing FBI Agents, which itself involves severed limbs, a potential serial killer and - of course - some kind of conspiracy, this time involving human experimentation) Mulder doesn't take long to recover the mindset. Scully, on the other hand, has more reservations - not least being preoccupied by her day-job where she has a young child patient with an incurable disease, but also perturbed by the flagrant abuse of her religious beliefs exhibited by the paedophile priest in the case. Pretty soon more strange discoveries are found, and the missing persons count increases, and with the pressure on and tension in the air, Mulder and Scully find their faith and even their own relationship tested, and their very lives put on the line once again, as they both race to find both the truth and also something to believe in.
The 2008 X-Files is a very different animal to the one that went extinct over half a decade back, and almost unrecognisable when placed alongside the first movie from a decade ago. Gone are the UFOs, the mass Government conspiracy theories involving warring Alien races and cloning and the like, gone are the Big Screen explosions, the giant set-pieces and dramatic - literal - cliffhangers. Instead, what we have here is a stripped-down, bare-bones, good old-fashioned X-Files story, the equivalent of a classic two-parter from the series' early glory days, about unexplained phenomena and a serial killer. And if you take it as just that - and not as a grand Hollywood sequel - this movie is surprisingly effective at showing just what happened to Mulder and Scully when the conspiracy died, and what kept them alive.
Ten years on and both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson appear to slip quite convincingly back into their roles, despite obviously being much older. Anderson, arguably, looks better now than she did in her early days as Scully, now more of a gorgeous strawberry blonde, and her chemistry, interaction and banter with Mulder is as well-constructed as ever. The movie is almost as much about their relationship as it is about kidnappings and experimentation, and fans should be quite pleased with that. Duchovny's Mulder was always the cooler, more risk-taking member of the duo, and here he gets more screen-time to wander the snowy mountainside of West Virginia or chase suspects. And he can still pull off the role, despite - arguably until his recent series Californication - having less post-X-Files success than his partner-in-crime-detection, Anderson (whose foray into stage work and period dramas has garnered her some significant acclaim).
Billy Connolly's visionary priest seems worryingly authentic for the renowned Scottish comedian, and Amanda Peet (Identity, Whole Nine Yards) also fits the low-key FBI Assistant Special Agent in-Charge leading the investigation, with the out-of-place Xzibit as one of the other Agents (I'm fed up with rappers getting these kind of roles, whether it be Ja Rule or 50 Cent or now Xzibit, they so often get lumped with unsuitable parts where their naturally thuggish demeanour just doesn't fit). Battlestar Gallactica's Callum Keith Rennie is far better cast as a transplant transporter (albeit with a dodgy Russian accent) with a hidden agenda.
It should be made absolutely clear that this is not a 'mythology' story, it carries no links to the previous movie or any of the storylines involving aliens and so forth, and as such it is likely to disappoint avid X-Files 'mythology' fans who were wanting more of that. As aforementioned, it is much smaller in scale, harking back to the old days of Toombs or Fire, and adopting that kind of storytelling rather than Hollywood grandeur. Personally, I found this worked quite well, allowing more time for Mulder and Scully and effectively bringing the series full-circle, and rounding off any unanswered questions about what happened to this duo. If you bought both movies together and watched this right off the back of Fight the Future (as it's now called), then you'll most likely be disappointed, but if this is your first taste of X-Files in the last six years then you might find that it is thoroughly enjoyable classic X-Files storytelling.