Friday, December 19, 2008

I No Longer Believe

The X-Files: I Want To Believe.

The X-Files is finally, truly dead. This movie proves that creator/co-writer/director Chris Carter, his chief writing partner Frank Spotnitz, and the franchise have nothing left in it. Part of the reason is the TV series simply ran for too many seasons – nine(!), with the last 1 ½ seasons WITHOUT David Duchovny’s Mulder, the character that is the central focus of the show. They ended the series with the X-Files closed down and Mulder framed by the FBI and the government.

The movie opens six years after the end of the series. Scully is a practicing doctor at a depressing Catholic Church run hospital. Mulder stays at their home (they became an item at the end of the series) sitting in his office all day, cutting out newspaper and magazine clippings about the paranormal, and tossing pencils at the ceiling. Now the actors haven’t worked with each other since the end of the show, but Mulder and Scully have been together all that time, so why do they have NO chemistry between them? That was one of the hallmarks of the television series, their chemistry. They worked well together, they bantered with each other in a fun, flirtatious way. Not here. This common law marriage is dead.

I mentioned the depressing hospital, but everything is this movie reeks of depression: the lead actors expressions, the cold setting (Virginia in winter), a pedophile priest, the characters’ lives. And what's with rapper Xhibit being in this film as frowny-faced FBI doubter Drummy? This movie should have been subtitled, "There Is No Hope." Also, and this is a big issue, the majority of X-Files tales, especially the stand alone episodes, were scary, which was a major goal of the series, according to Chris Carter. He wanted to scare you! Here, depressing is substituted for scary.


Let’s talk about the X-File in this film. The series had a variety of paranormal phenomenon it explored, from the traditional – extra-terrestrials and alien abduction, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and A.I. – to the unusual - fluke men, liver-eating elastic mutants, lightning-wielding teens, killer cockroaches and zombie insectoids.

So what is the X-File in this film? There really isn’t one! Billy Connelly is a supposed “psychic” pedophile priest, divining what went on and the current state of the victims, but it turns out he only has a psychic connection with one of the villains in the film, who is revealed to be a survivor of a childhood molestation by the priest. And the villains in the movie? They are Russian doctors who are not only black market organ thieves, but continuing their earlier nasty Dr. Frankenstein-like work by creating two-headed guard dogs and keeping the now grown molestation survivor alive by transplanting his head onto compatible bodies (male or female). What’s next, an Incredible Two Headed Transplant? Paging Rosey Grier and Ray Milland!

[Let’s talk about that two-headed guard dog for a second. He/they/it is shown briefly when it runs after one of the kidnap victims. But it was so dark, and edited so quickly, you really couldn’t see what it was (and that’s how director Carter wanted it). Fine. But later it attacks Mulder and, once again, it is so dark that I didn’t realize it was a two-headed dog! That’s poor photography and editing, people.]

This movie is so pathetic that the X-File is almost an afterthought. Now, the series had at least one episode, “Irresistible,” where the X-File was not paranormal; it dealt with Donnie Faster, a necrophiliac (the network sensors didn’t like that term, so he was called a “death fetishist”). But Mulder and Scully were fully engaged in that episode, which focused more on Scully’s reaction, having been recently abducted at that point in the series. In this movie, Scully is ONCE AGAIN questioning her faith in God. Geez, make up your mind, woman. And Mulder is supposedly drawn back to investigating an X-File, the only thing he knows how to do. Well, at least that’s what it said on paper, because the always low-key Duchovny is near comatose in this film, just (barely) going through the motions. And the once radiant Gillian Anderson's light has dimmed over the years. Too many depressing British period pieces perhaps?

The movie ends the way it began. Scully is still a doc at Depressing Memorial Hospital. And Mulder’s work on this barely there X-File is dismissed and thrown aside, leaving Mulder to re-grow the Grizzly Adams beard he sported at the start of the film as he continues to sit in his home office cutting out magazine and newspaper clippings, and tossing pencils at the ceiling.

What a pathetic film, and what a pathetic end to a once-great, groundbreaking series.

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