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.