Friday, January 9, 2009

X Change

Watched X-Files: I Want To Believe last night and found it to be worthy neither of its heritage nor the harsh reception it was given last summer. While any coda would be an improvement over the lazy "remember when?" final episode, (or for that matter final season... or two or three), I Want To Believe is such a non-event that fans and first timers alike will wonder, "Why Bother?" There are zero additions to the mythology, (other than a confirmation of what looked likely by the end of the show's run), and outside of a cameo from Skinner near the end, no beloved, (or beloathed), supporting characters make an appearance. The bones thrown die-hard fans are hardly worth chewing and the enticements for non-enthusiasts to delve into the back story on DVD are uh, there aren't any. But, that is part of what makes it a charming, if curious, X-File. Chris Carter has put a simple, confident thriller on screen without relying on special effects, structural trickery or a single CW cast member to hook you with. It's like a classic stand alone episode of the television series. The question is - what's it doing way the hell out here in 2008-9? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson look, (appropriately), tired. Mulder and Scully don't want to be doing this any more and apparently, they haven't been - she's gone back to being an M.D. and he's gone (barely) underground to avoid prosecution. There's an FBI agent whose gone missing and a defrocked priest, (Billy Connolly), has stepped forward with "visions" of the crime. Are they genuine? ASAC Dakota Whitney, (the always welcome Amanda Peet) is so stuck on that question that she puts out the FBI's white flag for Spooky Mulder to come in and advise. Somewhere in the next hour and a half, Mulder gets his mojo back, (again), Scully questions her faith, (again), and nothing seems to be happenning at all until... well, it does. So downbeat and joyless, so lacking a pulse is this film that when something finally does happen it's like the monster you thought was dead slowly erecting itself in the background of the frame, while the hero cluelessly kisses the girl. It's a great little climax, (if not ending - the movie's end is an unnecessary bit), providing exactly the kind of gooseflesh and jump moments that made the show a hit. Afterward, I wondered why make it an X-File movie at all? Why not make it a stand alone thriller without attatching the baggage of the main characters and making them spend most of the movie sifting listlessly through it? And then I thought, all that X-Files baggage and hype really saved this little movie. Had it not been marketed as the return of Mulder and Scully, it would have been marketed far worse, giving away plot points best saved the end and saddling it with leads we're not likely to care about anyway. Now that the event movie has come and gone, (and boy has it gone), we're free to enjoy it for what it is - a sleepy little mystery with a hot poker of an ending.

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