The title of this story is of course, a gross generalization. There are indeed people out there who do care about the new X-Files movie. In fact all ten or twenty of them are rushing to this website right now and plotting ways to send me death threats.
Yes it’s a generalization to say no one cares about the X-Files movie, but like all good generalizations, it's one that rather accurately reflects the sort of non-buzz there is out there for this movie. X-Files: I Want To Believe opens this very weekend, and it currently has the kind of pre-opening excitement around it that’s usually reserved only for should-have-been direct-to-DVD movies like Space Chimps. It’s a shocking state of affairs for a franchise that a mere decade ago completely ruled the geek world. Maybe things will turn around, maybe audiences will show up in droves this weekend and somehow knock The Dark Knight out of the top spot, but a long slow look around right now reveals a world in which no one seems to remember X-Files even exists, much less care enough about it to see Mulder and Scully’s new outing.
Why are things going wrong? Where’s the interest? It’s simple really. I’ve broken it down into five easily digested reasons:
5. The Dark Knight
It’s the same reason Hellboy 2 only made around $30 million opening weekend, even though it received stellar reviews and a monster marketing blitz. People have one movie and one movie only on their brains right now, and it’s about a guy who likes to dress up as a flying rat. Those who haven’t been able to see it because of sold out showings are planning to see it this weekend. Those who have already seen it are planning their second, third, and fourth sojourn into The Dark Knight world. Yes, the hype really is that out of control. Opening a movie in any sort of proximity to this sort of record-breaking phenomenon is suicide. Here comes X-Files, ready to commit hara-kiri. The Dark Knight is officially the biggest movie of all time, and for the next couple of weeks everything else will be stuck living in its shadow.
4. Bad Marketing
We’ve started seeing a few advertisements over the last week or so, but it was too little too late. By the time Fox got around to really trying to raise awareness on this thing, most potential moviegoers were already focused on something else. Meanwhile, the marketing they have done hasn’t been particularly exciting. The little plot nuggets they’ve dropped all seem to revolve around Mulder and Scully kissing or getting all romantic, a plotline that the X-Files series laid to rest years ago. It’s a dead subject. Hey moviegoers! Who wants to buy a ticket to see a tired old will-they-won’t they gimmick rehashed?
3. Stifling Secrecy
The production of X-Files: I Want To Believe has been wrapped in utter and total secrecy. Even now, a mere few days before the movie is released, 20th Century Fox still hasn’t handed out a proper plot synopsis. Worse, during the production they put out fake news items to trick whatever fans they have into thinking the movie was something it wasn’t, and then pulled the rug out from under them over and over and over again. I know a lot of the most hardcore X-Files fans are still excited to see this thing, but it’s hard to imagine a world in which at least a few of them might not feel a little burned by the mess. For the more casual fans, at some point they got tired of the bait and switch game and simply started ignoring not only whatever X-Files news has been floating around out there, but by extension the existence of the movie itself. I understand the need to keep the specifics of a plot on a movie like this under wraps, but there’s a way to do that without lying to and shutting out your supporters. X-Files: I Want To Believe never seemed to figure that out.
2. No One Cared About The First Movie
Even the first movie was met with somewhat lukewarm reception, and it was released a full decade closer to the epicenter of X-Files popularity. It made money, but it never really burned up the box office and people seemed to forget it as soon as it was gone. A mediocre, moderately well received film is hardly the sort of launching point to carry a fandom through a decade dry spell and keep them energized enough to support a new entry in the franchise when it finally pops up ten years later. The whole franchise has already been wrapped up pretty tightly. Fans haven’t spent the last 10 years wondering what if. They’ve moved on. Which brings me to number one….
1. The World Has Outgrown The X-Files
We’ve outgrown The X-Files. All of us. That includes the cast. David Duchovny has gone on to more interesting projects which allow him to hang around beautiful naked women on cable television, and Gillian Anderson went where all overrated geek obsessions eventually go: out of sight out of mind. As for the X-Files faithful, well they’ve moved on to better shows which have arrived to fill The X-Files void. People like JJ Abrams have stepped in to do what Chris Carter once did, and done it even better. The whole mystery thing has turned mainstream, and at best Chris Carter’s tired old show is retro. It was great in its time, but its time is long past. The world has changed, we’ve changed, and the creepy mystery of the X-Files world is nothing more than old hat. Been there done that.