Summer Film Series – Vol. 6, No. 7: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
August 1, 2008, at Movies 14 in McKinney, Texas
Somehow I missed the news last year that this big screen X-Files sequel was in production, and its appearance in the 2008 summer lineup was a complete surprise to me. While I was very excited to return to the bizarre world that had captivated me throughout the 90s, I also had some reservations that maybe it had been too long since the series’ end to recapture the glory. I held off until the second week of release and didn’t feel a great pull toward the film, even as I waited in the theater for the first scenes to begin. More than anticipation, I think I felt a need for closure, having been disappointed with the final episodes of the series itself. Thankfully, that’s just what I got.
I Want to Believe, on the whole, felt like expanded television viewing. The story was surprisingly subtle and evenly paced, and there was nothing in the film that seemed to seek new viewers or expand the franchise itself. And for that, I must commend Chris Carter. Other directors, after such a long absence from the characters, would probably have chosen to rehash background in hopes of finding a new audience. Instead, Carter picked up the characters exactly where they would be after the interim: each having created new lives for themselves. Only brief references were made to the history of the characters, and these were done with great care so that fans of the series would fully understand and new viewers would only wonder for a moment, if at all. In this regard, I got the feeling that Carter was using the film to wrap up all that had come before.
What appealed to me the most in this X-Files film was the status of Scully and Mulder at this point in their lives. Moving on from the FBI, each was trying to forge an existence that put their former lives behind them. And yet, Mulder spent his time holed up in a home office, clipping news articles related to unexplained and extraordinary phenomenon. His words said he was finished with the work (albeit begrudgingly) but his actions told the truth of the matter. Scully, on the other hand, had returned to medicine, battling incurable diseases in hopes of saving children from lives ended too quickly. What surprised me about her new life, though, was that she had chosen to work in a Catholic hospital. With her constant struggle in matters of faith and God, to be faced with those matters each and every day seemed an unusual choice for the rest of her life. She, and Mulder as well, simply placed themselves back in environments that forced them to continue battling their personal demons, just as they did while investigating the X-files. This fact, of course, allowed the characters to retain the depth that had defined them throughout the tv series.
I rather enjoyed I Want to Believe. I was engaged throughout the story, enjoying a steady pace and plausible mystery that didn’t rely on gimmick or effects or strange phenomena, but simply presented itself in a dark and dramatic way. A die-hard fan could love it, as could a viewer who had absolutely no knowledge of the series or its characters. The film was well-crafted, just dark enough to bring drama but not gory in a way that would place the film in a horror category, and it was truly well-acted and a welcome respite from the usual summer fare of films. I was especially impressed with Gillian Anderson. In the publicity photos, I found her harsh-looking and was afraid that this was indicative of the Scully I would see. But in moving film, she was radiant and sensitive and quiet in her strength. And this was a perfect match for David Duchovny’s Mulder, who was beaten-down by his previous years and had a very hangdog way about him throughout much of the film. Still, as the story progressed, each brought a passion that raised their characterizations to the same level I remembered from the series. When the credits finally rolled, I felt satisfied and entertained, and finally ready to put The X-Files into their place in history.
image from Rotten Tomatoes