(And now, a review of quite possibly the worst movie of 2008 – LS)
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
By Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares
(SCENE: We come upon L.L. SOARES digging a ditch in a cemetery. There are snow drifts and the earth is hard with frost. MICHAEL ARRUDA shows up to give him a hand.)
MA: Who’d you kill this time?
LS: No one yet. I’m trying to bury the X-FILES.
MA: You mean X-FILES 2?
LS: No, the whole franchise, and it’s not called X-FILES 2. That would be too easy. Instead it’s called THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. As if that old chestnut of a slogan from the TV show wasn’t tired enough, now they have to use it in a movie title.
MA: What’s wrong with that? I want to believe too. I want to believe that the truth is out there, that these things we write about are real on some level. You hear me? I want to believe, brothers and sisters! I— sorry, I got carried away.
LS: I think I’ll dig a second ditch.
MA: But first, we have a review to do.
LS (groans): The thought of reliving this movie gives me the creeps.
LS: It’s something like ten years after the events of the first X-FILES movie. Since then, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) has left the FBI to become a full-fledged medical doctor at a Catholic hospital. Her former partner, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), has gone into a life of seclusion and has even grown a mountain-man beard.
MA: I liked the beard. He should have kept it throughout the movie. It would have given the film an identity it lacked.
LS: This movie needed a lot more than some lame beard to give it an identity. It needed a totally different script!
Mulder spends his days clipping articles about strange phenomena out of the newspapers. On his wall is the old poster of a flying saucer and the words “I Want to Believe” from the TV show (sound familiar?)
An FBI agent goes missing, and the Bureau is using a psychic to find her, named Father Joseph Crissman (played by Billy Connolly). Father Crissman is actually an ex-priest who was convicted of pedophilia, but somehow the Bureau trusts this guy enough to follow his “visions.” So far, he’s led them to several severed limbs – evidence of some bizarre serial crime – but no sign of the missing agent yet.
Special Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) asks Mulder to come back to the FBI. She wants him to check out the credibility of the priest’s visions, and also use his past experience in bizarre cases to help track down the missing agent. Of course, to get in touch with Mulder, the Bureau has to first contact Scully, who is one of the few people who know his whereabouts.
Once Mulder and Scully get involved in the case, it goes from lame to plain old boring, as Father Crissman continues to have visions that bring them closer and closer to solving the mystery. Unfortunately, the mystery itself, as it unfolds before us, isn’t very interesting.
A subplot involving a dying child that Scully is trying to save in the hospital seems rather unnecessary as well, and while the fight to keep someone alive should be compelling, the truth is, it isn’t here.
(A PRIEST with long white hair stumbles onto the scene, and approaches MA and LS).
PRIEST: It’s here. It’s here. She’s alive. My visions tell me she’s here. I see—.
(LS hits the priest over the head with his shovel with a loud CLANK! knocking him out cold)
LS: Stars. That’s what you see now.
MA: You know, I do see something down here. (Drops to hands and knees and starts digging in snow.)
LS: I absolutely hated this movie, which surprised me, because I was a big fan of the television show when it aired on Fox from 1993 to 2002. Well, I was a fan of most of it. The last few seasons were pretty much a waste of time, and the first X-FILES film was mediocre at best. But it was a masterpiece compared to this movie.
Which is all sad, because there was a point when it was one of the best shows on television.
The problem was that the first film dealt with the whole alien conspiracy storyline that got more and more muddled on the TV series as it developed. The movie ended up asking more questions than it answered. But the best shows were always the ones that were self-contained cases rather than the conspiracy storyline, and creator/director Chris Carter seems to understand that this time around, and has dropped the complex alien storyline here in order to give us a story of tormented psychics, weird experiments, and severed limbs.
Too bad that the new film not only seems like a bad episode of the TV show – it’s also a LONG episode –as in the length of a feature-length film, which it claims to be.
I actually had a hard time watching this one. I just got more and more restless as it went on, and wished I was anywhere but in a movie theater watching a lame X-FILES sequel. I mean, at this point, what is the audience for this thing? A lot of fans gave up on the show years ago, when it dropped in quality. And a lot of audience members who didn’t watch the show will not get any new interest in it based on this film.
The whole thing was just dismal. I WANT TO BELIEVE that I didn’t spend $10 to see this useless crap, but unfortunately, I did!
MA: I found it! I found a body part! (Lifts the severed head of an alien from the snow). Too bad this wasn’t in the movie. (Tosses head away and wipes green blood from his hands onto his clothes).
No surprises here. I didn’t like this movie either.
What’s interesting is that unlike you, I was not a fan of the X-FILES TV show. I caught one or two episodes here and there over the years, but I never watched it regularly, so I’m coming from the perspective of someone who didn’t have knowledge of the show.
But the one good thing about this movie is that you don’t need knowledge of the show to understand the movie. As you said, it’s a stand-alone plot. But, as you also said, it’s a lame and dull plot, and I agree with you on both those points. Talk about going for the non-dramatic! This film was about as compelling as a snowflake. I mean, you have a story of a possible serial killing, and yet we don’t get to know the victims, nor do we know anything about the villains until the mystery is revealed, and even then, they’re not fleshed out. There’s simply no emotional connection here, other than to Mulder and Scully, but that doesn’t make for a very balanced movie.
Still, I enjoyed the two leads, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and I thought they were both very good in this movie, as you would expect. They were believable, as they should be, having played these roles for so many years.
LS: I thought Mulder and Scully’s scenes together were incredibly flat for two characters who were once lovers. It’s not clear what their relationship is now, but they’re not married, and they had a child together who died.
I thought they did a good job showing the pain between them, the lingering ache of losing a child. But I couldn’t bring myself to believe there was ever any passion between these two characters. Watching them was like watching the sex lives of robots.
MA: I believed that they genuinely liked each other and missed each other. That was expressed quite clearly to me, but no, based upon what I saw of them in this movie, I wouldn’t categorize them as passionate. The lack of passion didn’t bother me though. I didn’t think this was supposed to be a love story.
I also really enjoyed Billy Connolly’s performance as the psychic priest. His performance as a convicted pedophile generated the right amount of anger, disgust, and most difficult of all, sympathy. It wasn’t a knockout performance by any means, but in an otherwise stale movie, it added some spice.
LS: I actually like Billy Connolly. However, I thought his character was rather repellent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a movie – characters don’t have to be likable to be compelling – but despite the movie’s attempts to make him sympathetic, I didn’t find myself moved to care very much about him. I also thought it was interesting how he’s a major presence for most of the movie and then when he dies, it is completely anti-climatic (has nothing to do with the story) and happens off-screen. Like the script just lost interest in him.
(The COWARDLY LION runs up to them, wringing his hands)
LION: I do believe in spooks! I do believe in spooks!
LS: Hey, you already “believe.” I bet you liked this X-FILES movie!
LION: I dunno. I was too scared to watch it!
(LION runs away in fright)
MA: At least I didn’t hit him with a shovel.
I actually was drawn into the mystery during the first half of this movie. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go, and it was just mysterious enough to hold my interest. There were missing women, severed body parts, and visions from a weirdo priest. For a while there, it was fairly interesting. I even thought, “You know what, I should check out the original episodes of the show on DVD to see what I missed all those years ago,” which I bet is exactly what writer/director Chris Carter was aiming for when he decided to make this movie.
But once the mystery is revealed, and we know what this film is about, it’s a letdown as it just isn’t that compelling, scary, or even all that interesting. Those thoughts I had about checking out the original series? Pushed aside. I’ll finish the dozen or so series I’m watching right now first.
LS: You should still check out the early episodes at some point, to see how all of this actually WORKED at one point. But this franchise long ago passed its expiration date.
MA: THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE does in fact play like an elongated TV episode, and the sad part is, it’s not even a very good episode. It’s largely forgettable, in terms of plot. It also doesn’t make a very good movie, as there’s nothing cinematic about it. The key chase scene in the movie, for example, should have been a high point, a major source of excitement and suspense, but it falls flat. It’s dark, hard to see, and for a chase scene, rather slow. For me, that was the beginning of the end, because it was also around this time that answers started being revealed, and they where ho-hum revelations at best.
I also agree with you about the subplot about the dying boy. You know, I liked this plot for a while, and I felt for the boy, and Scully’s determination to save him I found admirable, but in terms of this movie, so what? There wasn’t a strong enough tie-in to the main plot.
LS: The boy was supposed to be a surrogate for Scully’s child who died. It was supposed to make us feel something. But I just found this storyline forced and boring. Where it should have been poignant, it just hung there.
MA: Watching this movie was like eating a slice of white bread when you were expecting a hearty slice of rye.
LS: White bread would be a treat. This movie is like eating paper.
MA: You’d think that after a 10 year hiatus, writer/director Chris Carter would have come up with something more compelling.
LS: Definitely. For a while there, it was like Carter fell off the face of the earth, which is bizarre, since at the peak of the X-FILES show, he was being touted as a friggin genius. I guess in his case, genius is a fleeting thing. After all these years, he should have had a script that could knock us out. But this is a complete dud.
And it’s funny how the die-hard fans who still exist now seem kind of sad. There were people in the audience I saw this with who cheered the first time the X-FILES theme was played. They cheered the first time Scully and Mulder came onscreen. Even after two bad final TV seasons and a lame movie spin-off, these people still thought they were going to see the show returned to its former glory. And Carter keeps delivering low-quality product.
MA: I did enjoy the George W. Bush gag very much, and it was fun to see a movie with snow at this time of year, but that’s about it.
LS: George W. gags are a dime a dozen and have reached the saturation point where they just make me cringe. But the fact they also made fun of FBI founder (and total whacko) J. Edgar Hoover redeemed the joke.
MA: Saturation point? What planet are you living on?
THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE is about as intriguing as an afternoon nap. Perhaps a better title for this yawn fest should have been, THE X-FILES: I WANT TO SLEEP.
LS (stops digging and raises his head to reveal he is crying blood): I just want them to stop making these films. I want to believe that I’m finally free of bad X-FILES movies!
MA (also begins to cry): I want to believe that a man can fly!
(Suddenly, a full orchestration of John Williams’s SUPERMAN theme is heard, and Superman flies by above them.)
MA: Thank you. I do believe! I do believe!
(LS hits MA over the head with his shovel with a loud CLANG!, knocking MA into the ditch.)
LS: I do believe this review is over.
MA (unseen): There’s something else down here.
VOICE: Phone home.
(Originally published on Fear Zone on 7/27/08)
© Copyright 2008 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares