Fox Mulder: Let’s just say I want to believe.
Like Mulder, I too want to believe. Or at least at this point, I wanted to. I wanted to believe that “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” could bear its inherently heavy burden of justifiably resurrecting this classic modern television series six years after its close and ten years after the last film incarnation. I wanted to believe because I was an X-Phile; I watched religiously every week to see Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) take each other on while they tackled the unexplained that no one else wanted to deal with. I wanted to believe show creator and film director Chris Carter knew that this was the right time, that he had the right story to come back with that would breathe new life into these two characters that are cherished by and inspirational to so many fans around the world. The truth is, and I do understand the weight of that particular phrase given the context, that Carter and co-writer/X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz clearly put a lot of care and thought into bringing these characters into the present but their best efforts are also their ultimate undoing. Carter may have shattered all of my beliefs but they were all the wrong ones to break.
Given the amount of secrecy that surrounded the production of this film, one would think it might be difficult to discuss the plot without revealing too much about the film. However, I fail to see the need for all the precautions as there isn’t too much to the plot. In order to sell the X-Files to a wider and younger market, it was decided that this new movie would be a stand-alone X-file and not one shrouded in the alien conspiracy that made the show so compelling long before contemporary serial dramas like “Lost” or “Heroes” followed suit. Only the conspiracy was one of the major factors in creating the urgency that the X-Files television series commanded. It may not have been prominent in every episode but it was never forgotten. Now, we find that Mulder and Scully have moved on from the FBI. She has become the medical doctor she had always planned to and he is hiding out in the woods somewhere, true to his paranoid character. When the FBI comes around asking for their assistance on a case that only their expertise can help solve, the twosome are at odds with how deep they wish to get involved. Let alone that the case itself would be better suited for a “Without a Trace” movie as there is nothing particularly freaky or scary about it but how am I supposed to be excited about Mulder and Scully being back if they aren’t?
This is not to say that Duchovny and Anderson aren’t there; they are. In fact, the most satisfying element of “I Want to Believe” is the opportunity to spend time with these two unique personas once again. Although they both acknowledged publicly that they struggled with finding these characters again when they first started shooting, you can’t tell. The love and respect that bonds them together is still present, as is the stubbornness and frustration that stems from that mutual admiration. The way in which Carter and Spotnitz approach these characters after years apart from them is to imagine where they would have ended up, drop them there and then let us see them. While this is very mindful of the inevitably intelligent audience the X-Files has always attracted, it is not terribly satisfying for that same audience that has craved progress and resolution to the Mulder & Scully relationship all this time. Bits and pieces of what has happened between them in the years we’ve missed are revealed in dialogue that is tossed out casually and we have to notice it, grab it and connect the dots ourselves. I would ordinarily applaud this writing but we’ve had this dance before; in fact we had it for nine seasons. It is no longer enough to tease. The time has come where seeing is believing.
It is near impossible for me to be entirely objective when it comes to the X-Files so I warn you ahead of time that my grade will probably be higher than it should be and the truth about “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” is still out there for you to discover all on your own. The problem here is that I can’t recommend you pursue this particular truth. Fans will be disappointed but still find a part of their hunger fed but I can’t see any appeal for anyone outside of the fan base. It lacks thrills, chills and the aesthetic of a feature film. I almost wish they had left it all alone but I wanted to believe that Carter could kick start a film franchise he should have jumped on years ago. Instead, all I believe now is that we can’t go back and forward at the same time.
Review by Joseph Bélanger