THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
At first glance, Mulder and Scully’s sophmore film seems like a rushed effort. While the first movie was given a generous promotional and merchandising campaign, the follow up is permitted only an ambigous trailer, limited TV spots, and an extremely unimaginative movie poster. Combined with a film heavily scaled down from “Fight the Future”, this entry has all the makings of a quickie made to cash in on the series’ fans needing to score a much overdue fix.
Yet…….there’s something about “The X-Files: I Want To Believe” that simply works, and wonderfully so. What makes this film so special isn’t just the return of Mulder and Scully after an over 6 year abscence. It’s not the storyline, which is frightening enough to wriggle under your skin-en route to taking root in the nightmarish part of your subconscious. It’s not even the subplot involving Scully treating a terminally ill child, and her struggle as to whether she should allow the child to slip into the good night or fight tooth and claw to save him. The true gem of the film is Mulder, his journey from a reclusive cynical doubter to a return to the Mulder of old.
In the countryside of West Virginia, an FBI agent has mysteriously disappeared. The search team dispatched to find her locate a recently severed arm, but not belonging to the missing agent. With time rapidly running out, the leader of the search team reaches out to Mulder for help. Essentially: come back, all is forgiven by the FBI, we need your help. While Mulder at first refuses, his conscience and the idea of working on an X-File after all these years cause him to change his mind. Faster than you can say “little green men”, Mulder and Scully are on a helicopter bound for the FBI Building. Once arriving, they learn the paranormal reason why Mulder was specifically requested for this case. A man claiming to have a psychic connection to the abductees has been providing the authorities with accurate details on the case. What makes him highly suspect is the fact that their psychic is a former Catholic priest–and convicted child molester. What lies at the end of the journey the disgraced man of the cloth takes Mulder and Scully would make Hannibal Lecter retire and become a vegetarian.
The second “X-Files” film marks series creator Chris Carter debut as a film director, and unfortunatly he’s not as comfortable directing a motion picture as he was directing a television show. While other “X-Files” alumni Rob Bowman and David Nutter have settled comfortably into the role of movie director, Carter at times seems slightly uneasy in his new job. This unfortunatly shows in the film; some scenic shots stretch on a bit longer than they should, and the dynamic between Mulder and Scully in the first third of the film occasionally seems forced and disjointed. Possibly the biggest problem is the direction of the climatic scenes of the film; while they are tense and scary, they don’t pack as much visceral punch as a more experienced director probably would have delievered. But what Carter lacks as a director, he makes up for as a screenwriter. Teaming with Frank Sponitz, they deliever a frightening and at times gruesome script that manages to be quite inspiring. Along with the terror and scenes of gore we’re given a redemption tale, the redemption of a disgraced priest guilty of the most loathsome crimes known to man. Mark Snow, who has scored the series since its inception, gives the film an appriopriatly creepy musical feel that perfectly compliments the action onscreen. Director of photography Bill Roe does a decent job with the film’s indoor scenes, but truly shines outdoors by using camerawork to emphasize the movie’s desolate and isolated snowbound location.
Castwise, the biggest burden rests on David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in reprising their iconic roles as Mulder and Scully. To their credit, they slip back into character as if its only been six days instead of six years since they’ve done “The X Files”. Anderson does an amazing job in expanding her character to a medical doctor, but she really shines as Mulder’s polar opposite partner, dragging him back to rationality when he threatens to go off on a paranormal flight of fancy. Billy Connolly is also excellent as Father Joe, a former priest now living in disgrace. His lulling Scottish burr gives way to desperation, as he at times seems to plead for practically anyone to allow him to atone for his crimes–without realizing a higher power might be doing just that. Amanda Peet is fair as the FBI agent who plucks Mulder from isolation, but her character is never truly developed and she ultimately amounts to someone who beams down in a red shirt on “Star Trek”. Even worse is Alvin “Xzbit” Joiner’s portrayal of FBI agent Drummy, he has little to do except to show his dislike for Mulder and scowl more than any healthy person should. For old time’s sake, Asst. Director Skinner appears but his prescence occurs near the tail end of the film and probably hasn’t enough screen time to satisfy die hard fans.
David Duchovny’s name is listed first in the film’s credit’s and rightly so. Above everything, this is Fox Mulder’s film and the story of his transformation from a disillusioned man hiding from the world to someone rediscovering their purpose in life. His “I Want To Believe” poster goes from being ancient history to a battle cry, the way Mulder was during the series. Duchovy doesn’t just play a character the above events happen to, he makes you believe it like it was a law of nature. To see someone like Fox Mulder go from a man beaten down by life and doubting everything he held dear to being reinfused with confidence and purpose is incredibly inspiring. “Fight the Future”–bring it on.
“The X-Files: I Want To Believe”, may not be a perfect film. There are flaws, but the film’s positive aspect greatly outnumber them. While this film is essentially a horror film, it is also an inspiring redemption play. With a third film in the works, fans can expect to see Mulder and Scully back in action in the near future. In the meantime, fans and general moviegoers can enjoy this nifty multilayered horror tale.