The X-Files: I Want to Believe
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If we learn nothing else from the painfully forced attempted re-insertion of the X-files universe into pop culture that is The X-Files: I Want to Believe, it is that when one is forced to go seclusion for six years after being targeted by the very organization you used to work for, the thing to do is to grow a beard.
And that’s about it.
Or at least that’s how Fox Mulder does it.
Actually, we learn several things from this latest X-Files movie, unfortunately very few of them any good. Mostly we learn how disappointing a big screen adaptation can be – and that’s coming from someone who never saw the show more than a handful of times, not even enough to consider myself a real fan. So it’s not that I’m disappointed in how the film compares or doesn’t compare to the TV show, but more just about how dull and uninspired it is.
We learn how far (or not far) a 30 million dollar production budget can go for a film. Reportedly shot for around that amount, I Want to Believe looks and feels painfully cheap and small scale. The problems are both on the page and the screen; one would think that a case big enough to bring Mulder out of hiding and back into the FBI would have to be pretty darn big…but here it’s just the case of one missing FBI agent and a convicted pedophile priest who purports to be psychic trying to help track her down (even though most FBI agents want nothing to do with the disgusting kiddie toucher). This “intimate” mystery really makes the screenplay feel like any old episode of the TV show, perhaps a season premiere at best. Weighty ideas and themes are bandied about constantly, but with scant resolution or even development these lengthy conversations do little but further slow down an already sluggish storyline. If you took Mulder and Scully out of the script and made it an FBI procedural film with new and unknown characters, it still wouldn’t be good enough to go up on the big screen - and with characters that have their own rich history added in, the plot becomes downright unacceptable.
And series creator Chris Carter’s direction doesn’t help matters either. Clearly more of a writer than a director, his filming style and editing skills are inert, uninteresting and by the numbers. There isn’t a single shot or scene transition that could be classified as “artistic” in any way, and the ending just seems to occur, without any build-up of tension in a climatic sense at any point in the entire film. The film really boasts only one true “action” scene - a brief chase - and even these welcome few minutes of excitement manage to feel out of place, as if all involved realized at the last minute that this film needed something a little more than a bunch of people standing around talking.
Like any episode of the show that I have seen, the mystery of what’s really going on here is fairly interesting and unique, but certainly not good enough to make up for the film’s many other faults. I Want to Believe is not a disaster, but it’s certainly not destined to be a hit, either. Disappointingly mediocre, the film fails utterly at bringing any interest back to a mythology that unceremoniously faded from the airwaves six years ago. No easy feat for any film, but this one looks like Fox (the studio, not the smarmy main character) wasn’t even trying.