A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 499 – The X-Files: I Want to Believe

The X-Files: I Want to Believe – July 12th, 2011

When this came out in theaters Andy and I were so far removed from the show that it never really came up in conversation. We didn’t go see it and we didn’t rent it and the only reason we own it now is because my coworker’s husband had it used and was willing to sell it cheap. Going into it this evening we were a little worried that having skipped out on the later seasons of the show we wouldn’t be able to follow what was going on in the movie. Luckily for us, for the most part this movie isn’t really a part of the Big Mysterious Plot Arc that the first one tackled. If the first movie is an extended episode tying into the plot arc, this one is just plain an extended episode, complete with unexplained phenomena that never get explained, gruesome murders and plenty of Mulder and Scully butting heads.

Unfortunately for us, the movie is very clear that it takes place well after the events at the end of the series. How do I know this? Well, because both Mulder and Scully have left the FBI, Mulder is wanted by them and there are several points where it’s clear that the almost-kiss from the first movie clearly heralded a much more intimate relationship. Around when Mulder’s head pops up from beside Scully in bed, Andy and I both said “Well, we did miss something.” And then I looked it up and yeah. We missed a lot. Not that I’m invested enough to go digging around for the episodes, but yeah. Apparently they were not opposed to hopping into bed together, even after some time apart. The movie doesn’t really make it clear how close they’ve been in recent years. Scully’s working as a doctor at a Catholic hospital and Mulder’s living in a rural area, obsessing over supernatural stuff. Scully walks right into his house and it’s implied that she’s been there before and clearly knows how to get there, but then she’s in bed with him and talking about bringing darkness into their home. It’s kind of confusing and distracting because their relationship seems to be key to the emotional impact of the whole plot.

The story is a sort of grisly murder mystery with supernatural elements. I’d call it a thriller but it doesn’t have as much of the suspenseful aspects as I normally associate with the genre. If you’ve seen monster-of-the-week episodes of X-Files, you’ve got the basic tone here, but without the dry humor that the show displayed on a regular basis. It’s however many years after the show ended and the FBI comes knocking on Scully’s office door, asking her to help them find Mulder. And why do they need Mulder? Well, aside from having wanted him for years, they want his advice on how to handle a man who’s come forward claiming to have had visions of a missing FBI agent. But when they followed his visions they found not a missing woman or even a body but a man’s severed arm. So yeah, mysterious. And apparently the FBI has only one go-to supernatural expert and that’s Mulder.

Mulder, of course, believes that the man is a psychic and totally knows what he’s talking about. Scully, of course, is skeptical and thinks he’s full of crap and only gets more skeptical when she finds out that the psychic, Father Joe, is a convicted pedophile. And here is one of my major issues with the movie. The whole secondary arc for Scully, involving a dispute with the hospital administration and experimental stem cell therapy for a young boy with an otherwise untreatable illness feels so very tacked on. The main plot is about this missing woman and then another missing woman and how a man these people might never have given the time of day is somehow able to pinpoint where discarded body parts have been dumped and been able to make connections to the missing persons cases. But then there’s Scully, tagging along going “This is ridiculous! He’s a fraud!” seemingly so that he can then say something meaningful to her and she can go back to work determined to practice her own form of faith. It just feels so clumsily put together. Like they needed something to do with her and couldn’t quite figure out how to fit her into the story. For every somewhat tense moment with the FBI agents and Father Joe and Mulder and the women being held prisoner there’s a moment with Scully looking concerned or arguing with a priest at the hospital. Granted, both plots end up involving experimental surgery, but they feel at best tangentially related.

Now, I actually rather liked the whole kidnapping and murder and dismembered limbs plot, along with the unwitting psychic who doesn’t know why he’s getting the visions he’s getting. I just feel like for such a gory and gruesome plot, with experimental science and all, it really gets short shrift. It’s left unsaid just what’s happening to these kidnapping victims until quite near the climax of the movie, so the bizarre Brain That Wouldn’t Die-ness of it all is barely touched on. There’s not even a whole lot of suspense for it. It just isn’t given time. It could be that this is a problem carried over from the series, but it’s been so long I don’t really remember the whole tug of war between Mulder and Scully feeling so tedious or Scully’s conflicts between her skepticism and her faith feeling so extraneous. I get why they’re in there, I just find it hard to care.

I would far rather have gotten more time to investigate the procedures being performed by the mysterious Russian doctors and found out more about the man being operated on and the man trying to save him. I would rather have spent more time on Father Joe and his visions-of-unknown-origin. They’re never explained, by the way. There’s a connection drawn between him and one of the other people involved but it’s never given the time necessary to give it any impact beyond shock value, which is pretty cheap if you ask me (as is the totally out of left field accusation that Mulder wants Father Joe to be psychic so he can find Mulder’s sister). There’s a lot of stuff like that, things with good concepts or potential but no weight whatsoever. I don’t require black ooze and conspiracies from the X-Files and I don’t require full explanations. But I do prefer to feel like the plots and stories were thoughtfully put together. This feels more like it’s supposed to be character development with a plot tossed on for kicks and it doesn’t hold up. Unfortunate, but there you go.

July 12, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

July 12, 2011

X-Files: I Want to Believe

I mentioned in the review for yesterday’s movie that I felt like the movie was a lengthy episode of the TV series. That’s actually far more true of this movie. This film is all about catching up with Mulder and Scully to see what’s been up since the end of the show and enjoy one last X-Files adventure with them. Here comes the awkward confession though – I didn’t really watch the X-Files after the last movie. I watched some episodes as a casual fan up through about season five but not much after that. As a result I wasn’t really sure how much in this movie was moving the characters past what they were in the show and how much was just a continuation of themes from the later seasons.

So what have the two of them been up to since the show ended? Well Dana has retired from the FBI at last to follow her career as a doctor, and Fox has been growing a shaggy beard. What’s interesting is that the event that brings the two of them reluctantly out of retirement is not some kind of epic world changing conspiracy, it’s a little tale of abductions, strange medical procedures and psychic powers. Very much like any stand-alone episode of the show this isn’t about the over-arching plot – it’s just about these characters and the slightly supernatural world they inhabit.

An FBI agent has been abducted and the team hunting for her has for some reason turned to a scraggly haired ex priest who is plagued by visions that pertain to the case. See if you can follow this now: the agent in charge of the search for the missing girl wants to believe the visions of the priest, but isn’t completely sold. She decides, therefore, to seek out that famous investigator of the paranormal Fox Mulder. Fox has been living in hiding though because of something having to do with being discredited (I think) and hunted by the FBI. They want to offer him amnesty so they can pick his brain and get the movie going, but they have to find him first. Naturally, therefore, they seek out his old partner Dana Scully because they know she’ll know where to find him. He agrees to go check out this psychic priest but only if Dana agrees to come along to keep him grounded.

I see all kinds of hints of character traits that were played up extensively in the show here. Particularly Scully’s whole clash between her scientific scepticism and her Catholic faith. She’s working now for a hospital that is run by a gaunt priest. She is desperate to save the life of her (apparently) only patient, who is a boy with some degenerative brain disease and is willing to use controversial experimental therapies to do so. Then it turns out that Father Joe is not just a psychic ex-priest, he’s a convicted pedophile. It’s all tied together. The whole thrust of the episode movie is that people don’t know if they can trust this fundamentally flawed man. Either his visions are a genuine psychic phenomenon and a way for Father Joe to redeem himself somewhat or he’s a loathsome shyster trying to scam the FBI. Naturally Fox wants to believe him and Dana despises him from the moment she discovers his past.

Gillian Anderson has the most to work with here. Scully spends the entire movie being conflicted, which means she has a whole lot of scenes of soul searching – perhaps too many. I know that Amanda’s biggest problem with the movie is that Dana is not really part of the main plot, that her whole thing with the dying boy in the hospital has almost nothing to do with the rest of the movie. It’s most confusing when you come to the fan service scenes. We get to see Dana and Fox in bed together acting like an old married couple (even though they never refer to each other using their first names.) Then Scully agonises because she doesn’t like the whole dark world of the FBI and she just wants to live her life without all that.

Meanwhile David Duchovny has a lot less to work with. Fox starts out as a recluse living in the woods with his beard and his newspaper clippings, and the movie is just him turning back into the character he was in the show. He re-discovers his passion for paranormal investigation, which is fun to watch and all, but it doesn’t really give him anything new to do.

I actually had more fun with this movie than I did with yesterday’s. It’s not really trying to be more than a fun episode of the show, and I enjoyed being brought back to those strange and creepy shows that made me enjoy the X-Files back in the late nineties. It reminded me what it was about the show that worked, and it proves that even when the ongoing unresolved sexual tension of the show is finally out of the way these characters are still fun to watch. Maybe it could do with a little less angst and a little more supernatural horror, but it works well enough for me and it left me wanting more.

July 12, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment