The X-Files: I Want to Believe
directed by Chris Carter
(20th Century Fox, 2008)

As any film editor or director can tell you, timing is everything in movies.

And timing, more than any failing on the part of the script, cast or crew, is what caused The X-Files: I Want to Believe to falter.

For fans of the long-running series, it was good to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back in action together, and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson certainly have not forgotten what makes those characters tick. Sure, they're a little more smoochy than they used to be, but not so much that their long-suppressed passion gets in the way of their diverging styles of investigation.

As usual, Mulder is credulous and Scully is skeptical -- in this case of the psychic powers of a defrocked priest who claims insight into the disappearance of an FBI agent and other women in the vicinity. They are mirrored by agents Mosley Drummy (Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner), the skeptic, and Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet), who has a thing for both Mulder and his supernatural beliefs.

Although Mulder and Scully are no longer working for the agency -- she's practicing medicine at a Catholic hospital, while he spends a lot of time clipping news stories and tossing pencils into the ceiling panels -- they are drawn back into temporary service because of the X-Files nature of the case.

Billy Connolly is Father Joe Crissman, a convicted pedophile who immediately earns Scully's loathing because of the nature of his crime. Mulder, however, believes the tortured priest's visions are real and might lead investigators to the missing women.

There are aspects to the plot that, frankly, I still didn't understand by the time the credits rolled. The "mad scientist" nature of the villains' crimes -- as well as their very reason for being headquartered in a remote West Virginia dog kennel -- is never made clear. Then again, The X-Files has never been known for providing concrete resolutions to its cases. They like to leave you hanging.

The big problem here is that creator/director Chris Carter left us hanging too long. This movie is long overdue. Many fans have moved on in the six years since the series went off the air, and I Want to Believe just isn't blockbuster enough to lure in enough a large new audience. And, by ignoring the show's multilayered mythology -- from Mulder's missing sister and the Smoking Man's various plots to the impending alien invasion -- this X-Files was in many ways reduced to just another buddy-cop film.

Rumors abound that a third X-Files movie is in the planning stages. Personally, I'd love to see it -- but I hope they don't wait so long this time.

review by
Tom Knapp

19 September 2009

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