These are mostly the reviews reprinted from a newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews. There are also few reviews from other sources. The reviews are (or should be) sorted by names (first) of authors. All the reviews are reprinted here with permission of author and none can be reprinted further without permission of the author.
- Author: Mark R. Leeper (e-mail)
- Rating: 5 (0 to 10), low +1 (-4 to +4)
THE X-FILES is, of course, a screen version of the popular television show. The first thing that people will want to know is if they are not fans of the TV series, will the film make sense to them. Well, I can say only what my experience was. I would say that I am not particularly a fan of THE X-FILES show. I probably have seen in the range of six to ten episodes and have not seen anything that would make me want to be a more regular viewer. So not keeping up with the series was I confused by the film? I would say only in the right places. An feel at a loss to understand what was going on for any lack of following the television series. I think that if the viewer only knows that the series is about two FBI agents who battle government efforts to cover up paranormal phenomena, he is ready to see this film and, as far as I know, will not miss a lot of what is going on. How about the other side of the coin? Will regular viewers who miss the movie miss a lot of the arc of the story line? Again my guess is that the answer is no. In spite of claims in the coming attractions that all will be revealed; it would be too radical a departure from THE X-FILES formula to tell much of anything helpful. That highly successful formula keeps the viewer tantalized but never reveals enough to really clear up the basic mysteries. The film appears to me to be no more and no less than a very deluxe version of an episode of THE X-FILES television series, one with good special effects and a few very respectable character actors.
The problem with THE X-FILES is that as political thrillers go it really does not cut the mustard. In a really good political thriller, say SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, the characters do intelligent things and it makes the film all the more compelling. It is clear from the script (written by series creator Chris Carter) that Mulder is supposed to be a very clever agent of the FBI, and certainly his continued (albeit limited) success at keeping his investigations going would lead one to believe that he should be fairly bright. In the film he never gets to exercise much intelligence. The plot is repeatedly moved forward by people who are privy to secret information dropping Mulder surreptitious clues as to what is really going on, or by Mulder making extremely lucky guesses. Remove his lucky hunches and his Deep- Throat-ex-machina informants and Mulder really does not do a lot besides going through the obvious motions. In fact the only time we really get to see his professionalism is when he blurts to a barmaid that the FBI is covering up an alien invasion. Carter would like us to believe that Mulder is intelligent, but apparently Carter has no idea how to write Mulder that way.
Toward the end of the film Mulder's incredible luck becomes almost laughable. He has what amounts to a needle-in-a-haystack-within-a- haystack quest. Suddenly Mulder falls through a hole, drops a long way, and lands amazingly uninjured within a few feet of exactly what he is searching for. This guy Mulder must have friends in much higher places than the cloistered rooms of conspirators in which the film glories. Mulder must be friends with "the Guy Upstairs"... Chris Carter, that is.
But I am getting ahead of myself. The film opens with the familiar eerie whistle and almost immediately the plot twists start coming thick and fast, though this may be "thick" may be in the sense of "stupid." We start with a short prolog taking place in a glacier- bound Texas of 35,000 BC (more or less). Somewhere deep inside the ice something scary is happening. We cannot really see it well, but it is something with a lot of sudden jumps and loud noises. When the same violent thing happens again in present day Texas (minus the glacier, of course), the government finds itself with some dead bodies. And it would want nobody to ask too many questions about them. In one of those great government conspiracies it tries to conceal the deaths. And you should hear the absurd way they try to cover it up! I discuss some of the problems with the government plan in the spoiler section below. Part of the cover-up uses agents Mulder and Scully and sends them looking for answers to all the most embarrassing questions. It will lead them to the edges of a new conspiracy bigger than the ones before, a conspiracy to change our whole future.
In addition to series regulars David Duchovny as Special Agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully we have some impressive character lending their talents: Martin Landau, John Neville, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Glenne Headly is present for a single scene as the barmaid...Long on style and visuals, but short on story THE X-FILES rates a 5 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. ).
Incidentally, even in the worst of the Ice Age the glacier did not extend south to Texas. Remember that the glacier tore up the ground in the North, leaving that region good only for industrialization. It did not roll over the South, which is why they later could remain agricultural. That was a big part of the cause of that ruckus we Americans had in the 1860s.
The initial cover-up with the building explosion could not have worked. First, I am sure the fire department knew to where the firemen had been dispatched and it was not where they supposedly died. The black-eyed boy's mother also would have known her son was not by chance in the exploded building. And it is very unclear why the bomb expert was willing to commit suicide for the good of the cover-up. Also given that they had worked out all those problems, the last people they would have wanted involved with the cover-up would be their two star paranormal investigators Scully and Mulder. It is within minutes of the start of the film that it starts losing its credibility.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright © 1998 Mark R. Leeper
- Author: Martin Thomas (e-mail)
THE X-FILES movie picks up where the highly popular tv show leaves off with the continuing adventures of FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). This time they're on the trail of a conspiracy to cover up the existence of a prehistoric virus that's connected to aliens. Being that the show is heavily centered around secrets I won't reveal any more of the plot, other than to say it asks as many questions as it answers.
Like the movie STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, the story is the conclusion to a season finale. One big concern has been that non-viewers may get confused, but let assuage that fear right now. You don't need to be a regular viewer to understand THE X-FILES movie...you just need to be a regular viewer to enjoy THE X-FILES movie.
The two movies I would probably most compare it to would be CONSPIRACY THEORY and THE ARRIVAL, but it wouldn't be a fair or favorable comparison. Despite how you may feel about either of those movies, in terms of plot, pacing, dialogue and character development they are out of THE X-FILES' league.
The X-FILES is not so much a ‘movie' as it is the latest of the new genre of Movie/
The action sequences are shot at such close proximity that all you can make out are indistinguishable flashes. It's lazy in its characterizations, relying on the fact that you already know them well enough from watching the show. Often I knew that phrases or characters meant something important only by how long the camera stayed on them, the audience's reaction or how dramatic the music was.
There's nothing clever or unique about the dialogue and, except for an action scene near the end that takes place in the arctic, it's very low on a main ingredient that even the worst summer movies have: Cool parts! Even the obligatory appearance of ‘The Lone Gunmen' is meaningless and gimmicky.
Originally, I felt that I should exempt myself from reviewing THE show...and believe me I've tried. I desperately want to like it. So many of my friends, whose opinions I respect, love the show. I don't know about you, but to me the only thing better than watching a good show is talking about it the next day with friends.
And don't mistake me for one of those people who don't like something just because it's popular. Please! To me those people are worse than bandwagon-hoppers because they live under the delusion that they're hipper and less manipulated.
No, I've watched The X-Files about 12 times (how many chances would you give a show you don't like?) and I've liked only 3 episodes...and from what I hear those episodes were anomalies. I think that to like the show you maybe have to be open to a few concepts such as:
David Duchovny as a good or charismatic actor- With the notable exceptions of his turns on THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW and TWIN PEAKS, I've always found David Duchovny to be something of an Eckerd's brand Richard Gere...and let's face it, even a ‘top shelf' Richard Gere is not always desirable. On a more personal note: Duchovny physically reminds me of an ex- boss. My only enjoyment from the show used to be watching him get dissed and beat up by the other agents.
Conspiracies! Conspiracies! Conspiracies!- I'm probably one of the least paranoid people you'll ever meet. I do, however, believe that all professional sports are ‘fixed' to one degree or another. I also think our government is guilty of every corrupt thing they've been accused of... EXCEPT covering up the existence of aliens.
Extraterrestrial beings inhabiting the Earth- We all look to the skies for the answers we can't find here. Some find religion and some, well... Without putting you through a session in the Total Perspective Vortex let me throw a few facts at you: We are 500 light-seconds from the sun. The next nearest star to earth is 4.3 light-years away- something like 23,000 billion miles away! Even traveling at one million miles an hour, it would take more than 2,500 years to get there. Despite the probability of intelligent life on other planets, any signal from any planet in the universe broadcast in any direction is unlikely to be in the path of another inhabited planet. Waiting for a signal might require a wait longer than any life on any planet might last. If we were to get a signal, the waves carrying that signal left hundreds or thousands of years earlier and by the time we tracked its source down, the sending planet may no longer be habitable or even exist.
An extraterrestrial would have better odds winning Lotto three times in a row than finding Earth.
If you think I don't see the absurdity of religiously watching XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS but not ‘buying' THE X-FILES, you're wrong. But shows like XENA, and even HIGHLANDER, aren't ashamed of their cheesiness. They cut right to what's adventurous and fun, and don't exert so much energy trying to convince everyone how ‘serious' they are.
Don't tell me about X-FILES being ‘tongue-in-cheek'. I know that some of them are (like the 3 that I liked) but the majority are not. After all, we are talking a bout a show that's won awards for Best Drama as well as Actor(??) & Actress (okay,I admit she's pretty damn good).
I didn't say all of this to try to convince you to not like the show. Being that it is a Sci-Fi genre movie, no critic can accurately predict how you'll feel about it. THE X-FILES means something different to each person. My goal was to give you an idea of the filter you should use on my comments. If it helps to know, the theater I saw it in was packed with ‘X-fans', and they all seemed to dig it.
Hey, "The truth is out there"...
...I'm just not sure you should pay $7 for what you see every week for free.
OH!! I just remembered the name of that tv show I was thinking of! It was FRI--- What? Who said X-FILES? ...No, no, it was FRIDAY THE 13th: The TV Series!.
Gee, nothing new under the sun, huh?
First, I am not a big fan of the X-Files TV series. I have nothing against it particularly, I just don't happen to watch it. Having said that, I can now say that I liked THE X-FILES pretty well. For us non-fans, there's nothing big going for it, but there are a lot of little things.
The movie opens on an ice cave in north Texas in 35,000 B.C. Two proto-humans enter the cave and find a space alien cocooned inside. The alien breaks free and kills one man in a struggle while the other is seemingly captured by the bloody ooze from the alien. The movie jumps to the same cave today where a boy (Lucas Black, from SLING BLADE) is captured by the same black ooze.
We then cut to FBI agents Scully and Mulder (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny), who have been pulled off of their previous assignment (investigations into the paranormal) and put onto the bomb squad detail. A caller has threatened a federal building in Dallas, Texas. On a hunch, Mulder checks out the building across the street, and, wouldn't you know it, he turns out to be right. The FBI finds the bomb in time to evacuate but not in time to defuse. Five people die in the blast, and when Mulder learns who the victims were, a light bulb goes on over his head.
The two agents team up to investigate, against FBI orders, the links Mulder has made. Their search leads them back to the north Texas cave, all across the country, and even to Antarctica as they get closer and closer to "the truth."
The plot, and "the truth," are uninspired. I got the feeling that what I learned was supposed to shock and amaze me. It didn't. The possible existence of aliens on Earth has been explored so many times before in movies that one could hardly count them. But the point of THE X-FILES is not what the truth is, but the extent to which it has been hidden. It's a slightly more interesting angle, but it still raises expectations about that "truth" too high.
If this were the whole film, I would say the movie was mediocre, perhaps even boring. But there are other qualities that make me like this movie well enough to recommend it.
The pacing of the film was brisk enough to hold my interest. Before the audience can get tired of one location, the agents follow a hot tip to another location, and so on and so forth. The locations are not all computer-generated sets, either. There are some artificial settings, but the desert night of Nevada, the edge of suburbia in Texas, and the endless fields of snow in Antarctica (actually somewhere in North America.) make this fantastic film feel more real.
Ward Russell's cinematography is very good. The overall look is dark and ominous, appropriate to the intended tone of the film's plot. Russell is able to make something as innocuous as a cornfield look foreboding. When the movie is set in darkness, the picture quality is still rich and detailed. Finally, and specifically, there is an incredible shot at night in which the camera CROSSES the tracks in front of a fast oncoming train. I don't know if the shot is faked in any way, but it looks dangerous, and it looks great.
The movie's soundtrack is also used to convey the dark tone of the film. (SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVE YET TO SEE THE MOVIE — THERE IS A SPOILER IN THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES.) During the opening prehistoric sequence, a howling wind dogs the soundtrack, never giving the characters or the audience an escape from the lonely terrible sound. In one of the movie's most effective sequences, metallic doors suddenly slam open to release a cloud of buzzing bees. The visuals of the scene are good, but what makes it so surprising and frightening is the sound.
There was no question as to who the movie's stars would be. Even so, Duchovny and Anderson are an interesting pair of actors and a good combination. Both are easy on the eyes and together, they have some good timing, banter, and energy. There is a hint of chemistry between them, but it never gets in the way of their professional relationship. They are like a couple of kids out exploring the empty lot at the end of the street. There might be some romantic interest, but for now they're more interested in their environs than they are in each other.
No single element really makes this movie outstanding — not even the sense of paranoia that makes the TV show so popular. But enough things were done right that THE X-FILES is one of the more interesting summer adventures to come along.
- Author: Matthew Brissette (e-mail)
- Rating: **** 1/2 (out of *****)
In any case, the answer is no. I am not a fan of The X-Files, I only watch it when nothing else is on and I prefer Millennium. However, since the Fox network as been so kind as to air several key episodes for several weeks before the movie's opening weekend I took that opportunity to test the movie. I taped all of these episodes and watched them only after seeing the movie, I am glad to report that I learned nothing new. Everything you need to know is explained to the viewer by Duchovny and others. I know I am going maybe a bit too far to make my point but everybody should get the chance to experience this movie.
Warning: Major Spoilers Follow! Please do not read to fully enjoy this movie, you must not be able know what is coming, what exactly is over that hill and what that weird "hummm" sound is all about. You have been warned.
The X-Files is what a summer should be. Exciting, scary, great special effects (unlike other summer movies the effects do not take over the movie and are only there when it is really necessary) and good performances. This is coming from a guy who thinks David Duchovny is the human equivalent of a wooden plank. From start to finish, this movie does not let go of you. When I compare it with last summer's movies the best way to describe it would be: take the excitement and great score from Face/Off and the deadly use of sound from Event Horizon.
This flick is scary, not in a B movie kind of way where you always know where and when the critter will jump at our heroes. In fact, the first time the critter in this movie makes an appearance it is totally out of the blue. You might as well bring ear plugs because this thing is louuuudd! The last time a monster scared me that much was when I first saw Aliens as a six year old kid. You know, when you are afraid to put your feet on the floor because the creature might be under the chair, or when you keep trying to cover your throat with your shirt?
So yeah, the X-Files is scary. And guess what? You never even have to see the monster but your imagination works overtime and it sure beats having to watch a flawed, computer generated, Babyzilla, it looks like you could walk right through it not even scarier than your grandma in undies type of monster. Do not think that The X-Files is a monster movie. In fact, the creature is there for maybe three minutes total.
No, The X-Files is definitely a Mulder episode of the series. Scully is at his side, of course, but Gillian Anderson gets maybe half the screen time. She has a couple of good scenes with Duchovny, but she gets kidnapped during the last half hour of the movie so she does not get to do much. No, this is Mulder's time in the spotlight.
By now, you have heard of the scene where Mulder "showers" Independence Day. If you have not then I will not spoil it for you, let's just say that due to recent events Mulder should be "showering" Godzilla instead. To those of you wondering if Mulder discovers that the truth is indeed out there... who cares!? If he did find it the series would over anyway so what are you complaining about?
The dialogue in interesting and the director is marvelous. The camera is almost always looking over the shoulder of our heroes so we feel as if we are right there with them when they open a door or climb a hill. The script is spotless, every thing that happens happens for a purpose. If you are confused by something, do not worry because it will all become clear later on but, and I cannot stress this enough, PAY ATTENTION!!!
Unlike most summer movies, the dialogue is twice as important as the effects. Miss one vital piece of information and, like most people who talk during movies, you will go home and tell all your friends how this movie made no sense. Also, to those people who need to go to the bathroom during movies... DON'T! The person who watched the movie with me had to go twice and twice she missed an important conversation.
There is no time to take a breather between scenes because, again unlike most summer movies (Godzilla anybody?) The X-Files does not need to fill scenes between the suspense and the action with useless subplots, every scene is crucial and serves a purpose. Who needs to see the blond chiouaoua have a "big emotional scene" between Godzilla attacks?
So far this summer I have seen only one movie who ranks higher on my list of movies I'd recommend and that is the Truman Show but it only wins by a nose. But The Truman Show is not what I would call a summer movie, The X-Files is. What more do you ask from a summer movie other than the chance to be excited? Cool effects? It's got some. Pulse pounding? Hell yes!
Strangely enough, I think that fans of the series will hate this movie while non-fans will have a good time. It does not provide answers to the show's many questions, the status quo remains nearly the same and, no, Mulder and Scully do not get together.
Rating: Four and a half out of Five stars for the best movie yet this summer, several jump right out of your seat thrills, many "Whoah, I never saw that one coming!" moments, four "Holy Shit, where the hell did that come from" and one heck of an ending.
You may wonder where this movie lost half a star. Well, I swore never to give a movie the full five stars so I had to find something about The in his ice truck, the tracks it leaves in the snow behind him go on for several miles but then they just stop. It's pretty obvious the film's makers drove the truck for several miles to give the appearance that Mulder had been driving for a long time, but in the end it looks like Mulder just dropped from the sky and started driving.
Nitpicking, I know. So sue me!
Play safe and have a good time.
As fans of the show (X-philes, as they are known) such as myself are aware, The X-Files centers on Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully's (Gillian Anderson) ongoing investigations into paranormal phenomena-cases called, yes, X-Files. Of course, Mulder and Scully are mismatched partners. Mulder is a true believer in the fantastic after having witnessed his sister Samantha's abduction by aliens when they were young; medical doctor Scully is a skeptical woman of science who was paired with Mulder by FBI superiors to debunk his work. In a move that, surprisingly enough, does not alienate any X -virgins, the film (unofficially subtitled Fight the Future ) begins where this past season's cliffhanger left off, with the X-Files closed and Mulder and Scully reassigned to standard FBI duty and a seemingly standard case: the investigation of a terrorist bomb threat in Dallas.
The operative word there is "seemingly," for some suspicious circumstances surrounding the case thrusts Mulder and Scully neck-deep into the ongoing conspiracy that has served as the backbone of the series. Much effort has been made by Fox and the X-Files cast and crew to keep the plot under wraps, so I will not divulge any specifics here. What I will reveal, however, is that this time around Mulder and Scully find some hard answers to questions that have long lingered in the series, such as the true nature of the conspiracy and the "black cancer," the oily alien goo that infects human hosts. It should be noted, however, that many of the series' focal mysteries, such as the identity of the enigmatic conspirator known as the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), remain unanswered when the end credits roll.
What I just wrote may sound baffling to X newcomers, but series creator and screenwriter Chris Carter (working from a story he devised with Frank Spotnitz) accomplishes the impossible--making the knotty story accessible to new viewers. Mulder and Scully's backstories are efficiently explained in succinct passages of dialogue, as is all the background knowledge required to follow and understand the conspiracy. A few bones are thrown to appease the X faithful, such as vague allusions to the harrowing ordeals Scully has gone through in the series, and a cameo by the Lone Gunmen, a trio of conspiracy freaks that often assist Mulder and Scully. But by and large, no one is likely to be lost. In the lobby following the screening, I overheard a fan answer a newcomer's questions, and his queries were about issues that are irrelevant to the general understanding of the film.
A large part of what makes Fight the Future satisfying to all audiences is the highly suspenseful story Carter and director Rob Bowman tell. The plot is as intricately structured and unpredictable as the conspiracy itself, and while there is a greater emphasis on action and spectacle here, those sequences are integral to the story and free of gratuitous violent shocks. Bowman is a veteran of many X episodes, and as such, he knows how to milk the maximum amount of tension from Carter's labyrinthian scripts. He also handles the film's increased yet still modest-by-Hollywood-standards budget quite well, employing some imaginative effects to create some truly scary creatures. Bowman's huge miscalculation, however, is one that could have been easily sidestepped: the virtual absence of Mark Snow's (who also composed the film's score) memorably eerie theme music. A single bar of the theme's trademark whistle accompanies the film's first frame, and an upbeat interpolation is featured in a sequence where Mulder and Scully drive. But that unmistakable X theme is featured more in the trailers than the film itself -- a fact that is sure to irk even the most casual of X-philes.
For all the scary aliens and other creatures that pop up in The X-Files week after week, the key to the show and, now, the movie's success is its leads. Duchovny and Anderson's natural rapport shines through even stronger on the big screen, and apparently Carter recognized this, for the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully reaches unprecedented heights of palpability in Fight the Future . I won't spoil anything, but Carter comes up with a clever way to have his cake and eat it too, one that will please all series fans. The solid work of the other series semi-regulars, Davis, John Neville (the Well-Manicured Man), and Mitch Pileggi (FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner) carries over to the big screen; however, members of the Pileggi "Estrogen Brigade" are sure to be disappointed with Skinner's diminished role in the film. Martin Landau (filling the Deep Throat/X/Marita Covarrubias "informant" role) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (as a conspiracy figurehead) join the ensemble, and they appear very much at home in the X world.
For a big screen, interseason episode of a series that is still running strong on the small screen, the satisfying X-Files movie is remarkably self-contained. Yet it should come as no surprise that, in addition to the existing unresolved questions, some new ones arise--ensuring plenty of fodder for many more TV seasons and feature films. As one character declares, "One man cannot fight the future."
- Author: Michael Redman (e-mail)
- Rating: *** (Out of ****)
Is there anyone left who trusts what the government tells them? As we prepare to exit the 20th Century, we live in a nation of people who believe that there is a conspiracy behind every door. What has Bill Clinton really done? Where did AIDS actually come from? Did we fight the last few wars for the oil industry? Is everything going to collapse on January 1, 2000? And then there's always that lone gunman thing.
Why do we think that there's a hidden truth behind the public statements? Millennium Fever has something to do with it. That we no longer have the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire to blame everything on and have turned on ourselves factors into it. Of course the fact that we've found out that our government makes a habit of lying to us doesn't help matters.
It's no wonder that one of the most popular television series is one that plays into the belief that we can never know what is going on around us. Mulder and Scully are stand-ins for us as they attempt to get at the truth each week. And it's as we fear: the truth is out there but it's unknowable, wrapped in plots within plots within plots.
At the end of last season, the FBI unit devoted to investigating the unexplainable had been closed down. Without the X-Files, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are sentenced to solving mundane crimes. The film picks up shortly afterwards as they fail to prevent an Oklahoma City-like bombing. In the process of analyzing the situation, they discover clues that lead them back on the alien invasion conspiracy trail.
It's almost impossible to talk about what happens during the film without giving away too much. It's safe to say that somewhere between 35,000 BC north Texas and 1998 Antarctica we do find out whether there are aliens and who's behind the conspiracy. Unless it's all another red herring.
There are two very different audiences for the film: the 20 million fans who follow the series and movie-goers who aren't familiar with it. "X-Files" big daddy Chris Carter (writer, producer, creator) has stated that he wants the movie to satisfy both. In some ways he has succeeded, however it falls a bit short for either.
I can't imagine someone who hasn't watched the television show understanding some of the scenes. The Cigarette-Smoking Man (William Davis) is probably a mystery to them. (The conspiracies are so deep that many of the characters don't even have names, but are referred to as the [Something-Something]-Man.) The three conspiracy buffs have a walk-on that will make fans smile, but others will be puzzled. Mulder and Scully's relationship makes sense to the novice, but is much more interesting to those that know their history.
On the other hand, aficionados have to sit through a few scenes that they already know by heart. Major characters have bit parts because there are too many of them to explain to the newbies. Others are left out entirely.
So what is this exactly? It's a two-hour between-the-seasons episode with a big budget. It doesn't tell us everything that we want to know, but there are some major revelations. It changes the relationship between the two agents. Not only are there more hints that they may be heading towards more than just friendship, but now one of them knows that the other was right all along.
If there's a problem with the movie for devotees, it's that there's not enough amazement. It's a good episode, but not a remarkable one. While it's fun to watch, you won't leave the theater feeling much differently than you did on Sundays at 10:00 when the weekly shows were over.
There are many unanswered questions. Why are the members of the conspiracy involved in what they are doing? What do they have to gain? What do the corn fields have to do with anything? Why do Texans react complacently when a biohazard containment operation sets up camp next door?
Although the "X-Files" takes advantage of our national paranoia, I find it difficult to believe that everything is a conspiracy. In my experience it's difficult to keep a secret if more than one person knows about it.
(This Michael Redman is the same person who started writing this column 23 years ago. That's his story and he's sticking to it. Send your favorite conspiracy to email@example.com. We won't tell anyone.)
[This appeared in the 6/24/98 "Bloomington Voice", Bloomington, Indiana.]
- Author: Nathaniel R. Atcheson (e-mail)
- Rating: *** 1/2 (out of ****); 8/10; B+
The X-Files is the film that continues the story where the season finale left off. The film is like a two-hour episode, except that there are a lot more special effects, the plot is thicker, and the resolution is more satisfying. This is a terrific film, both for fans of the series and for those who have never seen it (I imagine that viewers unfamiliar with the show will find the film to be solid and riveting entertainment). I expected to like it more than any episode I've seen, and my expectations were met. Actually, the film takes a few risks in its story and plot devices, but, thankfully, the makers managed to do it right.
When the finale ended, the FBI branch known as the X-Files had been destroyed, and our heroes, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) were left stripped of five years of hard work. The film picks up soon after; and Mulder and Scully have been reduced to field agents investigating a bomb threat in a Federal building. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. The film actually opens in the ice age, about 32,000 years prior, during which a couple of prehistoric guys get attacked by a vicious alien.
The alien's blood infects them (fans of the show will certainly remember the Black Cancer), and the story jumps into modern times, during which a young boy is also infected with the cancer. It turns out that the bomb was planted to kill the boy, and Mulder and Scully uncover the cover-up despite the fact that Scully has resigned from her position in the FBI. Soon, they find out that the whole thing has to do with aliens. As I've written before, it's not easy to write plot summaries for films like this, because everything needs to be a surprise.
Fans of the show will know what to expect, and I seriously doubt any of them being disappointed with the film. Director Rob Bowman has done a great job expanding the eerie feeling of the show to the big screen, making small adjustments and minor changes to utilize the possibilities that film allows over television. There are some truly suspenseful and well-created scenes here (late in the film, when they're in the alien spacecraft, you'll see one of the better action sequences in recent cinema). The special effects are very good, and the production design by Christopher Nowak is fantastic.
What I find interesting is that The X-Files is actually a great way for series neophytes to get into the story. Our heroes are given subtle introductions (we're not expected to know them on the outset), and the film explains enough of the story that prior knowledge of the series isn't required to understand the film. There are, of course, little elements that the makers have included as payoff to the fans, but I'll keep those as surprises. It takes a lot of thought and understanding of the series to create a film using roots as complicated as the ones that the series provides, and then create a coherent film that anyone can understand clearly.
The series is strong for a lot of reasons. It's original (though it has many ties to "The Twilight Zone" and owes some homage to Hitchcock), and impressively eerie for a television show. What really makes the series shine, however, are the actors. Duchovny has so much presence, and is just a fun guy to watch. He has that confidence that will someday make him into a bankable leading man. Anderson is equally good, and paralyzingly beautiful; she's also a strong actress. Both performers have acted in little more than their series, however, though I think they'll both get their chances to prove themselves very soon.
I enthusiastically recommend The X-Files, both for fans and non-fans. 1998 is a summer filled with disappointing blockbusters, and this film should satisfy where most of the others leave you completely dry. It's an intelligent film, and takes you places that you might not have been (or, at least, might not have seen so many times that they feel familiar). The X-Files is impressive in concept, as well: fans of the series are likely to be highly critical, and to take the premise beyond the series is a risky move. It's nice to see a risk pay off for a change. Actually, it's nice to see a risk at all.
This is how it is: everyone's favorite FBI agents are once again down on their luck, the eponymous files having been closed. But Mulder (David Duchovny) is contacted by an old friend of his father (Martin Landau) who explains that he is aware of a high level conspiracy to unleash a plague on mankind. Knowing this will at the very least explain the final season of "Space 1999", Mulder cons Scully (Gillian Anderson) into donning an awesome pair of heels and rekindling their unresolved sexual tension. Equipped with their trusty torches, mobile phones and clothes in every imaginable shade of black, our conspiratorial duo investigate a bomb blast and a mysterious excavation site. It's not long before Scully is conveniently taken prisoner and Mulder has to trudge through snow to save her.
There's a lot to admire about "The X Files" as a TV show. It keyed into a previous unmined vein of interest in conspiracy and paranoia, paid a long overdue visit to the horror genre, managed to laugh at itself while telling some fun and well-directed stories. It's a very likeable show. This may explain why after seeing the movie there is this vague feeling of guilt that you didn't like it more.
The beginning is admirable, drawing you in with a great subtitle for a hookline: "North Texas - 35000 BC". After this creepy opening sequence, we see the two discredited agents working a case in Dallas that features a great explosion and the movie's sole point of parody (which revolves around Mulder's wooden expression). Things then get very busy with secret meetings, internal agency hearings and help crawling out of the woodpile at every turn. To be fair, it's only near the end that you realize that you are just watching a two hour episode of the TV show.
Is that so bad? Movie and TV can be very different experiences, if only due to length. "The X Files" shows a few scars gained in the move. The soundtrack blairs stridently in too many scenes. A rollcall of characters parade past the screen and then disappear. The malevolent Cancer Man gets no chance to work his evil and those paragons of geekdom, the Lone Gunmen, are on screen for a full 20 seconds. But worst of all, over a two hour period the movie is sufficiently drawn-out to let you dwell on plot intricacies. (Plot intricacies and Scully's magnificent pumps. Excuse me.) At the end of the day, the plot makes little sense. In a conspiracy the viewer should be convinced that while motives may be unknown, the action is in some light be consistent and plausible. But "The X Files" slowly but surely breaches this barrier. The unseen conspiracy cannot make sense. The actions of some characters seems to come out of a vacuum. And at the end of the movie, we are back to square one - the X Files are re-opened and conspirators and whistleblowers are at work again, with no ground gained or lost.
Hardcore X-philes will race off to see the movie immediately and probably get a decent bang-for-buck out of it. More casual fans will still enjoy it but can proceed more leisurely, maybe waiting for video (which I predict will not be long). Those who have never seen "The X Files" will have trouble understanding any of this. Conversely, the hoopla over having to know the last few episodes to understand the movie is severely overstated - a nodding acquaintance with the main characters and issues is all that is necessary. [**/ok] and unmarked helicopters on the Sid and Nancy scale.