The X-Files: I Want to Believe Review – Gillian Anderson’s Pained Expression Says It All” width=”560″/>
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about The X-Files: I Want to Believe is how Chris Carter and company managed to keep every single element of the film under wraps. In an age when spoilers abound — even Lucas and Spielberg couldn’t stop Indy 4‘s plot points from leaking — it’s refreshing to walk into the theater knowing virtually nothing about the first X-Files film in ten years beyond its title. Sadly, the shroud of secrecy only makes the inevitable letdown of this lifeless thriller all the more painful.
Several years have passed since we last checked in with Mulder and Scully, and little has changed. Scully (Gillian Anderson) is still waging her eternal war with faith, this time as a surgeon at a sternly religious hospital. How do we know it’s religious? Perhaps it’s the constant parade of nuns that seem to follow Scully wherever she goes. Meanwhile, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is holed up in a cabin dodging the FBI and sporting his best crazy recluse beard. But before long, the duo are back on the paranormal mystery trail, this time at the behest of a pair of agents (Amanda Peet and Xzibit) — whose own skeptic/believer routine brings to mind the countless X-Files clones of the late ’90s — investigating a series of murders with the help of a pedophilic former priest with psychic visions (Billy Connolly).
Carter can still create mood and a moderate amount of suspense, and
at times, the wintery setting and mysterious creepshow villains jolt
the film to life. But the thin and confusing plot — involving
human body part harvesting and some really angry dogs — never quite
pays off. Why the FBI would follow the lead of a sex offender is never
quite explained, not to mention that the storyline isn’t all that
paranormal: Most of the plot points wouldn’t stand out in your average
episode of C.S.I. Jettisoning the series’ messy alien mythology for this go-round was definitely a wise choice, but I Want to Believe lacks the wit, narrative shape, and creep factor of some of the best X-Files
one-offs (“The Host”, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”).
In the series, Anderson’s character was often used to explore religious themes, but this time Carter
lays it on pretty thick with Scully engaging in stem-cell research
debates, lecturing Connolly’s character and questioning her faith in
both Mulder and a higher power. This is very much Anderson’s film, but
her pained expression throughout seems to be asking everyone involved
why they bothered to make another film in the first place; a B-story
involving Scully’s fight to save a young boy with inoperable brain
disease is as random as it is mawkish. Duchovny fares better,
occasionally lightening the mood with Mulder’s dark wit, but he isn’t
given much to work with. It doesn’t help that Carter and cowriter Frank
Spotnitz have hobbled their beloved leads with some truly atrocious
dialogue. (Though the best joke of the film comes in a timely use of
the infamous theme music whistle.)
While there are occasional sops to hardcore fans, a late film cameo
by Mitch Pileggi’s Walter Skinner basically amounts to the character
driving Scully around. Fans looking for answers or new plot
developments in the six long years since the series ended will be
sorely disappointed. (Though writers of racy Mulder/Scully fan fic will
have fodder for years to come.) Released at the height of X-Files mania, 1998’s X-Files at least managed to expand the show’s byzantine mythology to feature length and deliver some competent action sequences. I Want to Believe
has little reason to exist, and feels like a padded-out episode.