A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 498 – The X-Files: Fight the Future

The X-Files: Fight the Future – July 11th, 2011

When I was in college I had a friend who was obsessed with this show. She had all the commercially available VHS tapes and she made special time to watch it every week. She had marathons of it whenever she could. And she was a very good friend and I liked hanging out with her and you just couldn’t hang out with her without seeing at least some of the show or hearing a good deal about it. So while I might never have really gotten into the show on my own, and therefore given this movie a pass when it came out, by the time it was released I’d seen a pile of episodes and knew the basic mythology of the world the show is set in. All thanks to this one friend.

I have to admit, I don’t love the show as much as my friend did. I certainly enjoyed it and I found a lot of the episodes fun to watch. Others, however, not so much. I’ve expressed my opinion on horror before and sometimes The X-Files trod a little too far into horror for me. The episodes Squeeze and Tooms, for example, can still make me shudder. But then there was the overarching mythology of the show, and that? That fascinated me. I realize I’m talking about the show and not the movie, but I think it’s impossible to really touch on the movie without addressing its place in the show’s mythology. Because very little in this movie makes much sense out of the larger context.

The basic mythology here is that there is an alien virus present on Earth that predates modern civilization. It can infect humans and after infection something happens. I remember being curious about this whole arc and feeling like I was missing tons. I’d watch episodes like Tunguska and Terma and still feel lost after. I’m sure part of this is that I wasn’t a dedicated viewer of the show, watching every episode and then discussing the connections with other viewers. I was a casual viewer. But having a Big Mysterious Plot Arc that impacts the main characters and the entire world they live in? It shouldn’t necessarily be so hard to follow. Anyhow, I eventually read up on it and really, this movie does more to explain the Big Mysterious Plot Arc than I had reason to hope.

The Big Mysterious Plot Arc I refer to is the major plot for this movie. The show pops it into episodes through the seasons, in between episodes about other bizarre and unexplained phenomena, but the movie makes it the focus. I’ve read that the original idea for X-Files was to end the show earlier than it ended and use films to explore the Big Mysterious Plot Arc. I stopped watching once I was out of college so I admit I have no idea what the ended up doing, but this movie shows some promise. We get to find out a whole lot about the seemingly sentient black oil that can squirm inside people and take over their minds. It’s an alien virus and it’s mutated, apparently with the help of some high-placed people in the governments of more than one country. We see its presence along with an alien creature back in the stone age, then we see it re-emerge to infect a boy and a couple of firefighters in modern day Texas. Of course Mulder’s interested in it and of course Scully is reluctant (but still interested) because that’s how this all works. Mulder gets excited, Scully follows along to try and keep him under control but really she wants to know what’s going on, things get complicated and then they get more complicated and then everything ends with even more questions.

So we start out with Mulder and Scully investigating an unknown infection that killed two people, whose deaths were then covered up. That investigation leads them to Texas, which leads them to a genetically modified cornfield and some specialized bees. When a bee stings Scully she ends up infected which leads Mulder to Antarctica and we get to see the aliens incubating inside infected hosts before the whole facility takes off into the sky, leaving Mulder and Scully lying in the snow. In among all that is a lot of talk of government conspiracy, a lot of older men having serious meetings about Mulder and his informant and a lot of people not believing Mulder that something is going on. Which is about par for the course.

There are also a lot of lines that are meant to explain the characters and the setting. Mulder gets drunk and explains that he’s known as “Spooky” Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was a kid. Now, this is a great moment that’s really a parody. Mulder says, and I quote: “I’m the key figure in an ongoing government charade, the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It’s a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman, and child on this planet, so, of course, no one believes me.” It’s like he’s reading out his own Wikipedia entry, while sloshed. Scully’s moments of self-explanation are less amusing, so she says the same thing twice, explaining to Mulder, as if he needs reminding, that they were put together as partners in the FBI so she could discredit him. So with the two leads explained that leaves the villains. And they don’t get nearly the exposition that Mulder and Scully do. Instead there’s a lot of implication and suggestion and meaningful looking at one another. The Cigarette Smoking Man shows up and gets to be mysterious and sinister, just like he is in the show, and in general that’s how the baddies are. Mysterious and sinister and apparently somehow using the alien virus but not necessarily to produce more aliens, since they talk about burning specimens who are infected.

Now, the movie itself never specifies what aims or goals the group of baddies are really going for, aside from power. Are they allied with the aliens somehow? Or not? Or stealing alien tech? Using aliens against aliens? There’s talk of a cloning program and Mulder’s father and looking to the future and fighting it (hence the subtitle that ended up not getting used during the US theatrical release). Generally I think we’re just supposed to feel like People Are Doing Bad Things and run with it. And I can. I mean, that’s what I had to run with in the show, right? After all, this movie wasn’t really intended to be an introduction to the show or to stand on its own. It was supposed to be expanding on the existing world and storyline. Sure, it has holes (getting to Antarctica is not a sure thing and Mulder certainly got there quickly) and sure it requires some prior knowledge. It still has the same stuff the show had, with bigger effects and a romantic moment for the leads (and the shippers go wild!) and a hefty chunk of worldbuilding. I can’t fault it for that. It’s not brilliant, but it’s not bad. It’s an extended episode made for a big screen. And that seems to be exactly what it was supposed to be.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

The X-Files: Fight the Future

July 11, 2011

The X-Files: Fight the Future

I’ve never been a rabid X-Files fan. I’ve known a couple, and I’ve seen my fair share of episodes over the years, but I never really made a concerted effort to catch the show when it was on. As a result I might not be the right person to be reviewing this movie, since it is clearly aimed at fans. I enjoy this movie well enough, I suppose, for a longish big budget episode of the show, but I also have issues with this movie.

If you are unfamiliar with X-Files you’re probably going to be pretty lost watching this movie. It purports to answer long unanswered questions that had simmered in the show for years before this movie came out. The whole thing about the show was the slow simmer and the hints of an over-arching plot behind the scenes. By the time this movie came out it was pretty well established that there was some kind of conspiracy involving aliens. Reoccurring characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man have something to do with this conspiracy. We know that Fox Mulder’s sister has been missing since they were children and that he believes that she was abducted by aliens. We’ve seen the black oil that somehow corrupts people. This movie attempts to answer some of the questions from the series, but not too many of them.

The biggest problem I have with this movie is the way it goes about presenting its answers. This is a film with a lot of exposition. Partly this is because some attempts were made to explain what was going on to people unfamiliar with the show. There’s a lot of scenes where Dana Scully explains to Fox Mulder why she’s a skeptic, why she was assigned to be his partner. Then a crazy conspiracy theorist spends a bunch of time explaining to Mulder that some people who were found in the rubble after a terrorist explosion were already dead before the blast (because it’s part of a cover-up by those masters of global conspiracy FEMA.) Mulder and Scully follow a hunch to a hole in the ground that had “fossils” (they’re bone fragments from the last ice age – so they’re not fossils) tainted by the same mysterious virus that turned the corpses from the FEMA offices to goop. They then drive off into the Texas desert where they find transgenic corn crops and deadly bees tainted with the alien virus. (Yeah, it doesn’t make any more sense in the movie than it does when written down.)

Then there’s another expository scene where one of the conspirators explains to Mulder what exactly has been going on with the whole conspiracy. They’ve been working with the aliens on a delivery method for the virus in hopes that they could on the sly create a vaccine. Or at least that’s what the Well Groomed Man says.

I told Amanda that I felt like the movie did more telling than showing, and that I was frustrated that Mulder doesn’t actually discover anything for himself and was pretty much led by the nose. She says that her impression is that this is typical of the show itself, so maybe it’s supposed to be that way. I don’t know. I’m not really invested in this movie. It talks a lot about the aliens and the impending invasion and the horrifying black oil virus that turns people into aliens… but it doesn’t actually show any of that cool stuff. Mostly, I suspect, because the producers and the executives at Fox wanted to have something left to keep the TV series going. Nothing is resolved, and we don’t really even get to see many aliens or anything. Maybe if I was a rabid fan of the series this would be an important turning point in the overall plot arc, but as a stand alone movie it is pretty underwhelming.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment