Directed by Chris Carter; Written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotniz
There’s something wistful about watching youthful vigor grow stale and old, to see idealism give into cynicism “because of the times”, and in the case of The X Files: I Want To Believe, witness something special falter and become another rote entry in an unfortunate zeitgeist.
On television, The X Files invited audiences into the mysterious guided by two lovable opposites whose sum was greater than their respective parts, and now, for the second time on the big screen, The X Files proves itself incapable of living up to the good will its early seasons earned it – the flesh of the peach has withered away to reveal the ugly stone within.
It’s winter in Virginia, and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), personas non grata with the FBI, are drawn back into the darkness when a female agent goes missing, and a psychic witness proves the only lead the mighty investigative bureau has to lean on. Only Scully drags her heels in getting involved again, preoccupied as she is with her new job as a medical doctor, where a boy’s mysterious, but life-threatening, disease demands her attention.
The X Files: I Want To Believe premiered six years after the series’ original run. Six years where nordic noir clad the world in white snow, black morals and forced its misogynistic violence on audiences. Emerging from its hiatus, X Files’ creatives Chris Carter and Frank Spotniz slip into the mire and lose their grip on what made The X Files what it was. The senseless violence, women hunted for no other reason than being huntable, and nihilism has taken the place of human curiosity and compassion – all that’s missing is Mulder in a dubious Icelandic sweater.
The film is a dark graduation of sorts, as Carter and Spotniz reach a creative nadir that began in the show’s later season. It culminates here with caricature villains with unexplained motives who indulge in Soviet-era Frankenstein experiments that bring torture-porn to plain ol’ America, and this transformation into a creative copycat is the final evolution of a show that ran out of ideas towards the end of its first run.
Now, in I Want To Believe, they’ve produced something truly disappointing and not fit for preservation in any medium, least of all in the memory of those with love in their hearts for Mulder and Scully.
Duchovny and Anderson, and their chemistry, remain the only redeeming qualities of the film, as Mitch Pileggi shows up as their FBI minder Skinner in what’s a glorified cameo, tacked on as an afterthought in an act of fan (dis)service. An even greater disservice is the inexplicable casting of Xzibit (yes, Xzibit) as grunt FBI agent Drummy, whose chief mode of communication is scowling, and alongside him is Amanda Peet as Agent Whitney, who brings Mulder on in the first place. Her role’s a little more than a MacGuffin to enlist Mulder, because she is soon after relegated to wide-eyed bystander and another victim made to suffer alongside the viewer.
God help those who saw this and still believed.