X-Files fans (those few of you left), rejoice! Chris Carter has not forgotten you! Realizing that you must be desperate for another fix, he has delved deeply into the crumbling plastic bag that was the original television show and delivered up the last few remaining granules of X-Files crack into your anxious, shaking, little hands. I say last because, if this movie is any indication, the baggie is now empty, with nothing left to offer, not even to the most irrational devotee.
The television show, which withered in its final seasons and has been off the air for several years now, centered on paranormal and unexplainable phenomena, giving particular attention to extra terrestrial life (the subject of the far more interesting and successful first X-Files movie). In the midst of all the investigations came the increasingly complex connection between the show’s iconic characters, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), and their internal struggles with the mysterious subject matter they tackled every week.
For this sequel, X-Files: I Want To Believe, writer, director and creator Carter waxes poignant with his two beloved characters. In fact, he’s so enamored with their relationship that he forgets to add any excitement to the case meant to bring them back together. He spends most of the film wallowing in the emotional and psychological issues surrounding the two, filling in the gaps with a mystery so sleepy it might have been pulled from the “rejected” pile of the show’s early days. It seems the man has been studying at the George Lucas school of “keep meddling with your sci-fi legacy until it’s a festering pool of drivel.” Scully, long disillusioned with her work with the FBI, has taken a position in a Catholic hospital treating terminally ill children. Mulder, hiding out from the agency, is holed up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, laying low and indulging his conspiracy theory fetish by clipping newspapers and growing a hermit’s beard. Carter offers some info on the characters as the movie begins, but he clearly can’t be bothered with bigger details like offering any reason whatsoever that you should invest yourself in their story. He takes for granted that the audience is coming to the story with the same built in love and devotion that he holds for the two, a flawed assumption that dooms the movie from the start. It goes downhill from there.
When one of its agents goes missing, the FBI has only one clue to her disappearance: an ex-priest turned penitent pedophile (Billy Connolly) who claims psychic visions are revealing the woman’s fate to him. The agency turns to the experts in such matters, Scully and Mulder, who reluctantly allow themselves to become involved. Mulder immediately resumes his mantra of wanting to believe and Scully goes back to her skeptical ways. The characters run around in circles, looking for clues and theorizing the existential, spending more time trying to figure out if they can salvage their love than if they can save anyone’s life.
Carter’s script flounders desperately, taking cheap short cuts and grasping at weak tricks to keep the movie going. For example, when Scully is preparing to perform a complicated and risky procedure to save one of her patients, she goes about it with a Google search for “stem cell research”. Moments meant to be scary are predictable or toothless (lots of dogs barking at shadows and Mulder sneaking up on a thought-engrossed Scully from behind). Even the movie’s setting, the dark snowy forests of West Virginia, feels like it was ripped off from the likes of Fargo.
Given the flatness of the plot and the blandness of the characters, I’m left wondering what on earth drew Duchovny and Anderson back for this pointless sequel. Anderson has proven she’s worthy of much better (if you haven’t seen her in House of Mirth, you need to re-prioritize your Netflix queue immediately) and given the success of Duchovny’s new Emmy award winning show “Calinfornication” the man can’t be hurting for a paycheck. Sadly their performances in this movie are as listless as the script, hinting hopefully that they too are finally ready to say goodbye to these characters forever. The question is, can Carter take the hint?
Yes, fans, this may be your last tryst with your beloved X-Files characters. With little appeal for general audiences, the movie is unlikely to do well, spelling doom for any horrible trilogy rumors that may be floating about. So take these last precious grains of Chris Carter crack, drop them feebly into your pipes and smoke the few puffs that may waft out. The time has come to close the X-Files for good, and whether or note you want to admit it, that’s all for the best.