CAPTION: Hello? Has anyone seen my career?
No Country for Old X-Files, 27 July 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
The world is a greatly changed place since the heyday of The X-files. Back in the late 1990’s the TV show was at its height and tapping into the shared fears of the day: fear of the unknown, fear of the impending millennium, and fear that something larger than us (the government or alien invaders) was up to no good. Flash forward to the year 2008 and we know all that hubbub about the millennium was for nothing, our government has been up to no good for years, and it’s not space invaders we need to worry about but other people terrorizing us. The murky, gloomy, grim style of The X-Files is now the norm with feverish and dark films like There Will Be Blood and The Dark Knight tapping into the mindset of culture today from opposite ends of the film spectrum.
Apparently creator Chris Carter didn’t realize his baby was irrelevant now. His only mission should’ve been to please the faithful. If he wanted to revive his series on film, he had best stick to the labyrinthine alien mythology that still has some die-hard fans buzzing, or at the very least deliver a fun stand-alone monster-of-the-week style flick that would make fans jump in their seats. With The X-Files: I Want to Believe he does neither of those things. Instead, he gives us a story where Mulder and Scully come out of hiding to work on a case where the FBI are using a psychic criminal priest to help locate a missing agent and track down a potential serial killer. The plot fits more into the mold of his far less popular companion series Millennium than it does to The X-Files. Apparently Carter wanted to please no one except perhaps himself.
The weirdest thing about the film is that it isn’t all that bad. Carter as a director lays on some decent atmosphere (with all the global-warming defying snow and some eerie nighttime shots) and creates some palpable tension as the horrors of the case grow grimmer. The chemistry between Mulder (a lazy but effective David Duchovny) and Scully (an amazingly fully ranged and emotional Gillian Anderson) is still there, and Anderson’s performance is especially gripping. Billy Connolly, cast against type, gives an interesting turn as the corrupted priest searching for redemption through his visions that probably would’ve garnered an Emmy nod had this been a very special two-part TV episode. Also good is Amanda Peet, looking smashing in her smart FBI pantsuits.
Most interesting is the story arc given Dana Scully. I honestly had stopped watching the show after the sixth season, and aside from the mythology storyline that built up to the first film released ten years ago, I recall some of my favorite episodes being the ones where Scully questioned her faith and struggled with reconciling her Catholicism with her scientific approach to the paranormal investigations. This is again explored here, as Scully, always the skeptic, so desperately wants to believe in something. However, it’s an odd choice for Carter to focus on this internal human drama when he should be focusing on how to bring fans back into the fold. It would’ve been an interesting and compelling layer had Carter not been so inept with the rest of the plot.
In the end some fine performances and a moody atmosphere do not add up to a good time. Eventually it becomes an uncomfortable and anachronistic creep-fest that plays like the type of suspense thriller that ruled the roost in the mid-1990’s after films like Silence of the Lambs and Seven made police detection and serial killing popular entertainment. Well, it’s 2008, Mr. Carter, and it’s time to wake up from your prolonged nightmare that was rendered uninteresting in 2001.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database: