7/25/2008

X-Files: I Want A Better Title

Aside from its awful title, I enjoyed the new X-Files film, and to all the naysayers, I say nay. Or something.

I suppose it's all a matter of expectations. This is summer, of course, the season of bombastic, overblown, overhyped Hollywood schlock, certain Dark Knights notwithstanding. Over the past few months moviegoers have been inundated with men of iron, hulking hulks, drunken fallen angels (or whatever the hell Hancock was supposed to be) and working-class demons from hell, all bright and colorful and loud, so it's no surprise, really, when shown something as quiet, thoughtful and understated as X-Files: I Want to Believe, we're unsure how to react.

Over the course of seven, I mean, nine seasons (forgive me, I do try so very hard to forget those last two agonizingly painful years), we watched FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully investigate everything from vampires and werewolves to Bigfoot and slimy fluke-men to alien abductions and government conspiracies. Their cases ran from the sublime to the ridiculous (Jose Chung, anyone?), and while the show became buried under its own convoluted, confusing alien mythology, at its heart, X-Files has always been about the growth of its characters, the paranormal, supernatural-obsessed Mulder and the rational, scientific Scully, and how they grew to first trust, then respect and, ultimately, love one another.

To me, the monster-of-the-week was simply a platform, a framework within which we learned about our heroes while they learned about each other, and that's the mentality I brought with me into the theatre. I wanted to know what Mulder and Scully have been up to, how their relationship has grown and progressed since last we saw them on the small screen, a mere six years ago. It was refreshing to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson slip so easily back into their old patterns. It was like seeing old friends, friends who have grown and changed with time, but who are still warm and familiar nonetheless.

Some critics have written about, and my father commented upon, the plot of the movie, how it's not really an X-File. "Where are the aliens?" my father asked midway through the film. He pointed out that the story, the case Mulder and Scully are brought in on, could have been any old movie, how the only thing that made it an X-File is that it was Mulder and Scully. He said they could have done the same movie with Will Smith "and that other guy," and I can't say that he's wrong. Mind you, I don't fully agree with him either, but I understand his point. The plot, involving kidnapped women and a mysterious psychic, is fairly straightforward, with no real twists or turns. No conspiracies, no aliens. It has the feel of a two-hour long episode (they went back to Vancouver to shoot the film, where they shot the first four seasons before moving to L.A. after the first movie). Nothing about the case itself screams X-File, but then again, the same could be said for every case Mulder and Scully worked on. What made the X-Files X-Files was Mulder and Scully, embodied by Duchovny and Anderson, not the cases themselves.

So, with all that being said, I thought it was a damn fine movie. Sure, Chris Carter may not be the best director in the world, and the plot may not necessarily be "film-worthy," but once you see Mulder and Scully together again, and the great chemistry Duchovny and Anderson have with one another, it'll bring flooding back all the great memories of shows past and make you glad to see them one more (last?) time.

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