The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

August 2, 2008

X-Files movie has great script, worth seeing

<i>College 301</i> column

By ROBERT RICH

WARNING: The column below may contain spoilers for the film “The X-Files: I Want to Believe.”

Last weekend, in no uncertain terms, marked the end of a lengthy mission my mother and I started nearly a year ago. On Saturday we finally finished watching all the episodes of the X-Files. Nine seasons, 202 episodes and one feature film, all completed, just in time for the opening weekend of the new film, “The X-Files: I Want to Believe.” After finishing the series finale, we headed to the movie theater to check out the next installment in Chris Carter’s innovative show.

Unfortunately, I had made the mistake of looking at some early reviews before we went, so I had seen the critical backlash that is accompanying the movie. Many reviewers are not a fan of the film, but after reading their comments a little more closely, and now seeing the movie, it seems that they just don’t understand the show. For one thing, most of the reviews keep mentioning a 10-year gap since we’ve last seen the show, which is false. It’s been 10 years since the last film, yes, but the show went off the air in 2002, meaning it’s only been six years we last saw Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Just like with the last movie, we’re blessed with a quick start and not forced to sit through a mountain of credits before the film begins (I’m looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan). All that’s displayed is a quick flash of Twentieth Century Fox before the title of the movie appears, accompanied by the eerie opening strains of a theme that I’m sure everybody and their mother knows by now - mine sure does. Picking up six years since the show finished, Mulder and Scully are now out of the FBI and living together. Scully is a doctor at a Catholic hospital and a bearded Mulder continues collecting stories about and researching the paranormal. All is well until an FBI agent approaches Scully about a case involving a missing agent and convinces her to get Mulder’s help, thanks to his particular brand of expertise.

The actual case ends up being rather standard fare when it comes to the X-Files, and runs a bit like a procedural cop show. That in itself is one of the main reasons so many critics have been bashing the film, prompting one reviewer to say “After ten years this is the best Chris Carter could come up with?” Of course, you can find out all you need to know about that reviewer by his mention of the incorrect time-gap since the show ended. Say what you will about the storyline, long-time fans of the show know that more often than not, it isn’t about the case. Usually the particular case the agents are investigating is used as a secondary plot to advance the relationship between Mulder and Scully. Because when it’s all said and done, that’s what the “X-Files” is about, two very different people who started working together in 1993 and forged a unique bond due to the experiences and trials they faced together. This new film is no different. Sure, the case may be a bit under whelming and might not break new ground, but it allows us to watch the Mulder-Scully dynamic continually evolve: Mulder still stubborn and desperate to believe in anything remotely outside the box, and Scully steadfastly searching for a normal life away from the darkness she was forced to look into while working on the X-Files.

It may seem like I’m just trying to justify my reasons for liking a bad movie, but that’s not the case at all. I honestly believe that to many people who haven’t seen the show, the greatness of the film, what makes it work, will be lost on them because of their lack of time with the imaginative series. Even though Carter said the movie can be enjoyed by anyone, whether or not they’ve seen the show, those who have will appreciate and understand the little touches, whether it’s the mention of Scully and Mulder’s son William (who Scully was forced to give up for adoption in the ninth season of the series) or the handful of pencils stuck in the ceiling in Mulder’s office. Fans of the other recurring characters on the show will be a bit disappointed, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (played by Mitch Pileggi) is the only series regular to make an appearance. Gone are John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), two agents who became an integral part of the show in its final two seasons.

But what it all amounts to is the inevitable evolution of the show and of human nature. After leaving the FBI, we shouldn’t expect Mulder and Scully to keep up with Doggett and Reyes. But we should expect them to have some of the best on-screen chemistry of any two actors, and we should expect to enjoy the film.

No matter what the critics say, trust me when I tell you the movie is worth it: great script, brilliant music by Mark Snow (who was often hit or miss on his scores for the show), and plenty of moments that will scare the pants off of you. The truth is out there, so go look for it.

————

Robert Rich is a junior journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated from Westwood High School in 2006. He can be reached via e-mail at robert.rich@mail.utexas.edu