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The X Files: I Want To Believe


‘…the story may be missing some beats, but there’s still an interesting chemistry between the leads, and the conflict between science and religion is an edgy seam to mine…’

Sequels rarely crash and burn as dynamically as this follow-up to the 1998 hit-movie spin-off from the original X files tv show; that movie ended up with a giant spacecraft unearthed at the Antarctic, this long-delayed follow-up resets the story in a way that seemed to displease hard-core fans and casual viewers alike. Instead of alien encounters, we’re suddenly plunged into a grimy world of organ transplants and surgeries, and even if it feels like a miscalculation from show-runner Chris Carter, it’s a nice throwback to the series’ better episodes.

Mulder and Scully are no longer an item; Mulder (David Duchovny) is a recluse, while Scully (Gillian Anderson) is now a surgeon in a Catholic hospital; she’s approached to bring Mulder onside to help search for a missing FBI agent. The trail leads to Billy Connolly, a comic who had more success in films than most, from Absolution to The Muppets’ Treasure Island, who plays a paedophile priest with psychic powers. This is a bold move from Carter, and one guaranteed to split audiences. Crying tears of blood as he collapses in the snow, the priest does appear to have some kind of gift, and Mulder and Scully are soon on the trail of two-headed dogs and some weird kind of Russian organ-harvesting sect…

There’s also a subplot about Scully’s career as a surgeon that seems like a stretch, as she assesses whether a risky operation on a young man is helpful as an alternative to palliative care. It’s weighty stuff, but in fact all three of the plotlines here are remarkable dark and disturbing; it’s no wonder that thrill-seekers stayed away. But as a stand-alone movie, this works better than most tv spin-offs; the story may be missing some beats, but there’s still an interesting chemistry between the leads, and the conflict between science and religion is an edgy seam to mine.

Too edgy, perhaps; the lack of prominence for this film is presumably because of the dissonance of confronting paedophilia in a sci-fi thriller. Connolly’s character mentions that he had 237 victims before he ‘castrated himself’, but there’s a suggestion here that his powers somehow come from his indefensible position. Perhaps not as an X Files movie or episode, but there’s something worth discussing here, even if only to be dismissed. The X Files was a Fox show that dug conspiracy theories long before the internet was a thing for most of us, and the mysteries and conspiracies we face regularly today sound increasingly like a case for Mulder and Scully.


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  1. I think most of the audience walked out when I saw it at the cinema, realising that they had been duped and there wasn’t going to be much in the way of aliens. The Z Files.

    • It’s such a strange misstep. As I noted, the first film ends with them discovering a giant spaceship. It’s hard to believe that Carter felt Russian organ harvesting would too that. By your description, it didn’t.

  2. After the dumpster fire that was the reboot, I decided to just stick with the tv series and not watch or re-watch any other bits. I’m fine with not having “the complete picture” because there wasn’t one. Carter jumped around and even for a conspiracy based tv show, was so off the wall and inconsistent that the viewer just had to accept certain things, against all logic and fact.

    • I’m not an expert, but the credit and blame both seem to land at Carter’s feet. I guess that’s why tv shows and movies are written by committee, feels like show creators aren’t trusted with their own IP…

        • At least he steps up to the plate and hits or misses, rather than allowing legions of faceless execs to do their worst. It’s not unusual to struggle to develop an idea..

  3. Saw the first movie. Not sure if I saw this. The X-Files started off strong, very well done and smart too. But as it dragged on it just became unwieldy. Not only in terms of keeping the various alien-invasion plots straight but in terms of the main characters. Fox and Scully became a mess. Saw the first season of the reboot and was really disappointed they were still chasing their own tail in the same way that saw the last few seasons of the original run such a drag.

    • This is a strange film, a real over-reach in terms of theme and content, and mixing pulpy storylines with very serious stuff. And yet the ambition makes it worth a look, even if the relationship stuff is hard to follow…

      • I guess they outstayed their welcome to some degree, this was ten years after the first movie, and years before the series revival. They knew how to ruin a concept in these days…

      • The cable series found a sort of sweet spot of around 6 seasons. That was about it for The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, etc.

        In the original run I think X-Files went on for nine seasons, which was too long. Hence the well-known metaphor of jumping the shark from Happy Days. I think if producers or showrunners are smart they know that they’ve only got so much they can milk out of an idea, unless you go the route of the soap operas that can seemingly go on forever.

        But I’m not sure even soaps are a big deal anymore. Is The Young and the Restless still going? As the World Turns? The Days of Our Lives? Does Dix still follow Coronation Street?

        • I’m a General Hospital woman myself. I watched it with a fervor in my teens and twenties. Haven’t watched it now for many years, but I know it’s still on and every so often I’ll catch it on and get a wave of nostalgia.

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