Review of a film about which only I and a number of fat lonely fangirls care, and about which no one should care: The X-Files: I Want To Believe

I have, in at least two prior posts, professed my passionate hatred for the Francis Ford Coppola film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and though that hatred broils within me now as fiercely as ever, I find that I can in no way  describe my feelings upon viewing The X-Files: I Want To Believe more effectively than I can through allusion to that object of my unadulterated revilement, particularly to the prologue sequence wherein Dracula returns from waging war in the name of the church to discover that his wife has committed suicide and thus been deemed condemned to damnation by ecclesiastical authority, this revelation prompting him to fly into a frenzy, scream “IS THIS MY REWARD FOR DEFENDING GOD’S CHURCH”, plunge his sword into a stone cross, and become a vampire. 

Chris Carter, is this my reward for 17 years of unflinching dedication to the franchise you created? I renounce The X-Files! I will rise from my death to avenge this disappointment with all the powers of darkness!

The subtitle of the New X-Files is resonates with a new poignancy in retrospect. The attitude I maintained in anticipation of this movie is most succinctly conveyed thusly: I wanted to believe it would be good. I wanted to believe that a script penned by some of the series’ most accomplished writers would contain compelling dialogue and engaging characters. I wanted to believe that Chris Carter would learn from the mistakes he rendered in his first effort to translate the show’s atmosphere to a feature film. I wanted to believe that production team would valiantly resist the compulsion to retread the very path that lead to the show’s decline in order to appease chubby, lonely fan girls. Even as negative reviews poured in like a torrent of truth surging forth from out there, I wanted to believe I could find some way to enjoy it. As Agent Mulder said once, “I wanted to believe, but the tools had been taken away. The X-Files had been shut down. They closed our eyes… our voices have been silenced…. our ears now deaf to the realms of extreme possibilities”. 

The question as to how this project went so horribly wrong is one that utterly baffles me. I feel as though any pubescent boy instructed to write a movie script about ‘two FBI agents who work together to solve cases judged unexplained by bureau proper- an eccentric whose sister’s abduction by mysterious forces when he was eight years old provokes him to obsessively pursue supernatural phenomena, and uncompromising skeptic who doggedly challenges her partner’s beliefs’ would produce a composition superior to The X-Files: I Want To Believe. Every component that made the television series fantastic was somehow excised from this installment in the saga. Mulder and Scully don’t investigate a crime but rather are dragged along, blathering about “the darkness in their lives” as other people do so. The case itself is barely even paranormal in its nature, to the extent that when Mulder demonstrates a belief that forces beyond mortal comprehension are at work, he isn’t chastised for ‘spookiness’ but rather respected for his legitimate opinion. Scully is too entrenched in an inane, trite, lifetime movie of the week worthy subplot involving a boy with a terminal illness to actually serve as her former partner’s foil. The convoluted mystery, involving a pederast who experiences psychic visions of his former victim’s attempts to perform illegal head transplants, is unraveled not by intuition or cunning on the part of any character, but rather by happenstance as Scully stumbles upon the seminal clue after conducting a google search on Stem Cell Research in hopes of aiding the ailing young man in whom she has become emotionally invested.  Even Mulder and Scully’s simmering sexual tension has vanished. With what does Chris Carter seek to fill the empty husk that remains once these elements are stripped away? A fuck-ton of fanservice and rapper-turned actor Xzibit.

I know that a number of people will enjoy this movie, and I know just what sort of people will comprise that number. Lonely, socially maladjusted, most probably obese women who only value the legacy of The X-Files insofar as they want its two central characters to fuck, who squeal rather than choke back vomit when Scully grumbles cutely about Mulder’s ‘scratchy beard’ on her face. These individuals don’t care that cuddling in bed and exchanging “I Love You”s mutilates the chemistry these characters previously shared, they care only about projecting their own sexual frustration onto fictional personages. When confronted with my perspective on the matter, people of this kind will likely allege that I’m opposed to ‘evolution of the characters’. That idea isn’t entirely wrong, especially if the characters evolve into shitty boring people whose show would have never been picked up in the first place. 

What would I have done were I at the helm of the new X-Files movie? I would have taken a page from mainstream American comic books and implemented a major fucking retcon, that is to say, for those unfamiliar with the term, I would have reorganized continuity entirely. Perhaps Chris Carter is so tremendously deluded as to believe that sensible people want his show’s last three seasons to be anything but entirely erased from history, but I am not so misguided. I would have put Mulder and Scully back in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in their cramped basement office, solving unexplained cases. One such case presents itself, Mulder thinks the supernatural is involved, Scully doesn’t. Maybe the perpetrator of the crimes turns out to be Satan, or a werewolf, or a genetic mutant who needs to extract livers in order to survive, or all three, I’m flexible as long as it actually possesses some of the palpable menace that head transplanters distinctly lack. Somehow, the simplicity of the formula I’ve just delineated alluded screenwriter Frank Spotnitz.

Don’t misunderstand me, this movie isn’t entirely without merit. It facilitates some excellent Xzibit jokes. At one point, Mulder asks Agent Xzibit to “get a car ready”. You couldn’t do better if you tried. 

-Gothicus Maximus

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4 Responses to “Review of a film about which only I and a number of fat lonely fangirls care, and about which no one should care: The X-Files: I Want To Believe”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Having just seen the movie, I agree with the sentiment of your opening paragraph with one caveat: Is this our reward after 15 years of dedication to this franchise. I trust you do realize the show began in 1993?

    As much as it pains me to say so, I must agree with the critics who said it felt like an extended TV episode and not one of the more memorable ones at that.

    In order for the X-Files to survive as anything remotely resembling a legitimate franchise Chris Carter must finally admit that the only people who give a shit about these characters are the show’s fans and make movies catering to that base. This movie contained too little to pique the interest of the non X-Phile and nothing but a few stale crumbs to satisfy the faithful; not to mention that it all comes just a little too late to be relevant to either.

    I’m afraid that the X-Files just wasn’t meant to be anything other than episodic TV.

    When I mentioned “the base” I didn’t mean to include the “shippers”. Once the sexual tension was consummated, either on screen or implied, the tension evaporated along with one of the more appealing aspects of this particular relationship–that strange mutual unrequitted thing which was singular to who they were as characters. Something similiar happened with “Moonlighting”. The characters just weren’t as interesting anymore.

  2. gothicusmaximus Says:

    Fifteen years, my bad. Hell if it doesn’t feel like two longer, though.

    Man, Moonlighting was fucking awesome before the leads got together.

  3. Unfortunately, I have to agree that this movie left me feeling more than a little dissatisfied, disappointed, and disgruntled. I am a relic of the 1990s–one of those truly obsessed, message board-posting, fansite-owning X-Philes who marked the passage of time in terms of days between X-Files episodes. I believe that the grand failure of X-Files: I Want to Believe is Chris Carter’s feeble attempt at mass-market appeal. The X-Files was a cult classic television show whose ratings were driven by its vehement, loyal core fan base. The true market for this film is those fans, and any TRUE X-Phile is going to leave the theater after viewing XF: IWTB feeling empty and unfulfilled.

    I agree that a major part of what made the show so interesting to watch was the famous “Unresolved Sexual Tension” (or in X-Phile terms, UST) that smoldered between the main characters. That said, I have never been opposed to Mulder and Scully’s relationship progressing into the romantic realm. How could they not after 15 years? BUT, as a happily engaged, physically fit, socially adept woman in her late 20s who has never gone more than 2 weeks without sex since the age of 17, I think that the movie’s writers could have treated this fabulous and touching romance with more respect. I feel the way it panned out in the film was both innocuous and vapid. There is so much more depth to the Mulder-Scully relationship than what was portrayed in this film. The dialouge between the two was stifled and downright silly at times, while the frustration of the long-suffering Scully and the callous indifference of the self-absorbed Mulder were far too predictable.

    My advice to Chris Carter and gang: If Fox graciously gives you the chance for a third crack at an X-Files movie, forget about attracting a larger audience. Make a film that the FANS are going to enjoy (a la the Star Trek franchise), because it is the FANS who will make or break the future of the X-Files. Forget throwing us a bone with vague references to the tv series–assume the audience knows what’s going on and bring back the Mulder and Scully we’ve always loved. Include more scenes of our beloved characters together, and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will take care of the rest. In XF: IWTB, DD and GA barely had enough shared screen time to exchange a meaningful glance, much less indulge in any engaging banter. And yes, if you’re going to portray Mulder and Scully as being romantically involved, you could at least let the audience SEE the love. Sorry, hand-holding, spooning, and one little kiss that was about as exciting as a smooch from grandma will not do it for anyone other than the aforementioned lonely, socially maladjusted fat girls. If you want smoldering, I think Duchovny and Anderson could bring it to life if given half a chance.

    My hopes for the franchise? A third and final installment released for Christmas 2012 with Mulder and Scully back in fine, ass-kicking form to take on the alien invaders. After all, being in mortal peril always brings out the best in Mulder and Scully! A lot less moping and snivelling and lot more action, wisecracks, and yes, even a little bit of desperate, we’re-going-to-die! romance, would give the X-Files a much better send-off than the sappy drivel of XF: IWTB.

  4. Well-put, Kenneth. These were my sentiments exactly. Despite my shipper-leaning tendencies, I prefer subtle sexual tension to…an in-house relationship devoid of chemistry.

    It’s like they actually turned into the couple from “Arcadia!”

    And I mean, SERIOUSLY…how is it possible that Scully had never heard of stem cell research before?!

    -me (em)

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