Aug 11, 2008

Dead On Arrival - X-Files Review

Back in April I attended a Comic Con panel with X-Files creator Chris Carter and writer Frank Spotnitz. I didn't stay very long after viewing the trailer for The X-Files: I Want to Believe, because they weren't giving out any answers regarding the films plot. It was frustrating but I chalked it up to them having some really phenomenal ideas they didn't want to spoil. I was wrong.

It almost physically hurts me to admit I didn't love the new movie. I'm a huge X-Files fan and while I didn't think a new movie was actually warranted, I was excited about it none-the-less. For the record, I did like the movie but it was littered with too many issues to ignore for fanboy's (girl's) sake. I never begged for another X-Files movie but there were TONS of fans who did. Unfortunately, they didn't put their money where their mouths were. The X-Files: I Want to Believe took in only $10 million it's opening weekend and it's total to-date is a measly $19.7 million. I viewed it the second weekend out, on a Friday, and there were only eight other people in the theater. Ouch.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe should just have been called "I Want to Believe," because at it's core, that's what this movie was about. Unfortunately Mulder's continuing quest for proof of the paranormal and Scully's, for God, wasn't enough to support the plot. Actually, I'm still on the fence as to which was meant to be the main plot and which was supposed to be the sub-plot. 

The film plays like one long and extremely slow-to-get-to-the-point episode. I knew going in this wasn't going to be about aliens but it wasn't until almost the end of the movie that I realized what it all amounted to. Here it is: A possible psychic, in the form of a pedophile ex-priest, (Billy Connolly) leads FBI agents, including a newly re-recruited Mulder and Scully, to a group of Eastern European, I use the word doctors loosely, who've been abducting women, one of whom, unluckily for them was an agent, with a rare blood type in order to use their bodies to transplant an (ill? crazy?) man's head onto. Got it? Ok, I didn't say it was simple or easy. Did I mention there was a two-headed dog?

The prominent abductor was played by Callum Keith Rennie from Battlestar Galactica who certainly has a way with creepiness. He would have shown brightly had this been a plain old horror movie. Actually the (main?) plot was so bizarre it probably would have played much better if it had been a horror flick instead. I see what they were going for, something simple that had nothing to do with aliens but was still scary. They know how to do this, look no further than the unforgettable Home from Season 4 and you'll be convinced, they just got it wrong this time.

I was going to talk about Amanda Peet and Xzibit here but they were completely forgettable characters. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish could have easily reprised their roles here instead to please fans.

Now the fun stuff. Chris Carter makes a cameo near the end of the film as do real-world names on Mulder's cell phone. The actress who played Mulder's young sister in the series, Vanessa Morley, also appears but as an FBI Agent in passing.  Mitch Pileggi shows up to help save the day near the end. It would have been nice to see more of him. We get to see Mulder and Scully in bed with each other looking like a real couple. Nothing sexual although Mulder makes an amusing inuendo. They even discuss "their son" William during the course of the film. If you sit through the bizarre music video of a credit sequence you get one more treat. Mulder and Scully in a rowboat near a tropical island looking very content. It's kind of wishy-washy but it's a cute nod to the fans when they wave goodbye to us.

In the simplest terms, I Want to Believe was a disappointment. I didn't have any expectations going in but that didn't really help. Great character exploration just wasn't enough to carry this one for me. In a perfect world where I get to choose what kind of X-Files movie should be made it would be nothing like this. 

Having already had one serious alien-themed film in 1998, I would have gone for something on the lighter side. Besides those really intense creepy episodes during the run of the series, my favorites were always the one's that involved subtle (sometimes not so subtle) humor. The Post-Modern Prometheus and Bad Blood from Season 5, Dreamland 1 & 2 and How the Ghosts Stole Christmas from Season 6 and even Sunshine Days from Season 9 are perfect examples. Those episodes were amusing but still involved something unexplainable that was classic X-Files. But alas, I'm not in charge of making any further X-Files films and after this, I highly doubt anyone else will be either.

5 comments:

Shawn Levasseur said...

I'll admit, this wasn't what I expected, but I liked the film.

I thought getting away from the alien/conspiracy storyline was a mistake when I heard that was what they were doing, but having seen the film, I find that it was a good move considering what they did with the film.

It was for the most part about reintroducing Mulder and Scully, and examining their characters and their beliefs (especially, surprisingly enough, Scully!)

[ ***SPOILER WARNING *** ]



The dividing line between the characters is especially highlighted in how the question of whether or not the psychic was really psychic or just a guilt ridden accomplice. For a series about the supernatural that has long left behind any question of the supernaturals existence in it's "universe", it was refreshing to have an ambiguous situation remain ambiguous.

{*** END SPOILER WARNING ***]


I hope that there will be more X-Files in the future.

For all the talk of "Failure" of this film. It was cheap to produce (only $30 million from what I read). So I'm guessing that it'll be a financial success.

A quick google search shows that a bigger budget 3rd film may be made if the 2nd makes its money back.:

http://www.movie-moron.com/?p=642

superduperman said...

I have to admit, I'm not a big X-Files fan and since I don't have a actual life ,I checked it out on a slow day (cuz TDK was full)and here's why I think it failed.

#1 FOX waited too late

#2 it had a bad release date, (releasing it after TDK was dumb as all hell)

#3 a lot of the casual fans stopped caring after being forced to wait so long.

#4 Honestly, the story was kinda weak for a new x-files movie. not only that but something felt very off about it too. as a stand alone film it was a wasted potential. it was nothing more than a glorified 2 hour episode, instead of being a real x-files movie. I mean 5 years and this is all you come up with Chris??

#5 the tv show kinda ended with a whimper, so that definitely hurt its chances at getting FOX to move their asses and get a second movie done. instead fox dragged their feet and reluctantly decided to make a second one when the X-Files hype was deader than dead and buried 10 levels beneath hell.

#6 keeping info about it under raps might have also done waaaay more harm than good.

#7 and to add to number 6 point, the trailer was very vague (but that was because of the underwhelming story).

#8 it seemed as the movie was barely advertised, and the only people who even knew it existed was hardcore fans.



btw, Night Stalker (the inspiration for X-Files) was a better series.

The Nerdy Bird said...

Thanks for the great comment Shawn. I think it would be really hard to do an alien movie with them now because I can't think of anything that wouldn't seem redundant or pushed. I kinda agree with you about how the psychic thing remained ambiguous. It fit with the films theme better.

I'm sure it will make it's money back once it goes world-wide and after dvd sales and all that but I wonder if it warrants the higher budget an alien themed film would likely need. The natural progression would be to slate something for 2012 a.k.a. the invasion, then at least it would serve as a close to the entire franchise. I'd like to see it but I'm not holding my breath.

Superduperman, I agree wholeheartedly that they picked a poor time to release X-Files. I think it would have been better to release in say, November/December. TDK has killed everything so far, with good reason. And you're right, the advertising was barely there. I think I saw maybe two or three tv spots for it total which is very unusual for a summer film.

Tara said...

i'm a week late on this cause i was in disney.....but here i go - i liked the movie. although i was hoping for more "creepiness", i am a shipper through and through and was really hoping for some explanation in regards to mulder and scully's relationship. seriously, seeing them in bed, with mulder and scully joking about his penis size really made it for me. i know that doesn't make it a good movie, but this is what i went in hoping for. and i agree with what shawn said regarding the ending and the ambiguous-ness of it. and as far as the favorite episodes you listed - they are also at the top of my list. i could go on and on with the list as well - arcadia, triangle, clyde bruckman's final response, jose chung, etc...but bad blood is probably my all time fave. but i digress. i liked the movie, and i am disappointed in the x-philes out there. they have been bitching and moaning about a movie for 10 years (since the last one), and to make a measly 10 mill opening weekend pisses me off. if there isn't another movie, i think the fans rally have no one to blame but themselves. no it wasn't a super kick ass movie, but if it makes no money because these "fans" don't go and give it a shot, then the chances of another (and possible better) movie are nil. and that's my 2 cents!!!

The Nerdy Bird said...

Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose is amazing. It's one that grosses me out a lot but it's awesome. And I always loved Queequeg! At least until... :(

Btw, domestic total as of today is $20,590,878, worldwide total, $29,525,981.