The X-Files: I Want to Believe

directed by Chris Carter
written by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter
starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Alvin 'Pimp My X-Files' Joiner (i had to sneak that gag in somewhere), Mitch Pileggi (oops. spoiler?) and Billy 'You Couldn't Hate Me If I Were A Paedophile Priest Like I'm Supposed To Be In This Movie' Connolly

hurm. can't say it was bad; just absolutely inconsequential. one might argue that 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe' is meant to be a post-X-Files X-Files story, that Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz had gotten the gang* together to pull one last rickroll-style bait-and-switch on unsuspecting fans: 'here's something that will absotivolutely rejuvenate the franchise...oops, hang on, no, sorry, can't be done, you see the world has moved on since the 90s...' Scully, at least, baldly states this sentiment, and it sort of almost looks like maybe Mulder might have come around there at the end...allowing, of course, for an unexpected take at the b.o. that might rejuvenate the franchise after all.**

as cruel and unusual as that would have been for even the likes of Carter & Co., yeah, i might actually have wanted to believe that.*** instead, i'm more inclined to believe that this story was originally a screenplay for something else entirely, but which Carter couldn't sell until he slapped the X-Files label on and tweaked it so it wasn't too obvious.

that said, again, i can't really say it was bad. it might**** actually have done well straight-to-video, or if it were released in the late 80s or early 90s as a made-for-TV movie. sure, the pacing seemed a bit off, but it was never quite excruciating; the photography was sometimes pretty, if hardly brilliant, but anyway mostly plain and unobjectionable. the script might have made for wooden dialogue, but was shot through with enough of that Carterian geek-inflected, noir/dragnet-pastiche, infodump/moral speechifying to be called reasonably quirky.

the story? see above.

as for seeing Scully & Mulder together again after all this time, i wish i could say it was like watching two old friends who'd had a falling out get back together...but, well, the problem with that is it was like watching two old friends who'd had a falling out get back together. it's sorta sweet, you like both of them enough you hope it'll work out this time, but there's just something excruciatingly cringe-worthy about it all, like you could see that the reason they didn't work out in the first place had just pulled them further apart in the interim, and that this latest attempt has all the fire and passion of a pathetic, broken, resigned sort of desperation.

and, as entertaining as watching them might have been before with all that unresolved sexual tension simmering beneath the surface to bubble up into flirty bickering, these days, it's just no fun having to watch anymore.

if there is any pathos to be felt for the characters in this film, it is for the fact that every single one of them seems unmoored, as if they'd just dropped into unfamiliar territory without a map. unfortunately, the effect is hardly Wong Kar Wai.

and, most of all, there simply wasn't anything 'cinematic' about this movie. as Manohla Dargis put it in her NYT review, in Rob Bowman's 'The X-Files', the series 'supersized nicely, filling the larger spatial dimensions by staying true to its conceptual parameters.'

there's no such supersizing here, not that i could tell. 'I Want to Believe' has the pace and feel of a particularly unimportant and unexceptional filler episode incomprehensibly spread into a two-parter on the old series. actually, no, it doesn't even feel like it belongs in the old series, despite the familiar characters and aforementioned script quirks or even the rather slap-dash x-filesy (ish) twist. like i said, this feels like something else, and only serves to convince me that, sadly, Scully's right: the world has moved on; chasing down x-files just isn't their job anymore. and what are x-files these days, anyway?

oh, if there was any sort of 'filmic' moment that could be had, it was at the very end, with the sequence of visual textures that were run throughout the end credits and that, sadly, everyone else walked out on. these might, in fact, indicate that Carter had been trying to make the kind of statement i would prefer to think underlies the entire movie after all (rather than call it a complete failure, at any rate): the textures initially recall the black oil that figures so importantly in the series' mytharc; as the credits roll, the visual textures morph into something less ominous, more recognizably of this world; even friendly. soon we realize we aren't looking at black oil; it's only the ocean, just the ocean--threatening in its own right, but hardly black oil, certainly not x-filesy--the shadow of the helicopter that must be carrying the camera we're looking through crosses our view; finally, we come upon Mulder (or, at any rate, David Duchovny) all manly with his chest hair and his red speedos rowing a rowboat towards a paradisical island in the (we assume, what with those waving palms or coconut trees or whatnot) tropics, Scully (or, rather, Gillian Anderson) lounging in the tubby wooden thing wearing a bikini, her skin so luminous it is practically phosphorescent. (best. bit. of the movie. too bad it was a long shot, and slightly out of focus.)

in the end, Dana & Fox--Gillian & David--see us looking down at them. they don't seem to be bothered at all by our voyeurism; in fact, there's a hint of a smile on their unfocused faces; they look up together and wave.

fade to black.

now: what are we to make of that?

*what's left of them
**highly unlikely
***you knew that joke was coming eventually, didn't you? admit it. it's too easy. all the reviews i've read so far pulled something like that, so i thought i'd give it a go

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