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X-Files: I Want To Believe

Film Four Stars

Another Filmstalker reader headed out to a press screening and delivered a review from it, this time it was the X-Files: I Want to Believe screening, and it's a very interesting review that will nicely balance mine when it comes. That's because this is from Gia Milinovich who is a big X-Files fan.

So here's the review, have a read and see what you think, it's over to the lovely Gia for her X-Files: I Want to Believe review.

This review needs to be preceded by a disclosure:

I have been a fan of the X-Files since the beginning. I own everything on DVD as well as X-Files books, trading cards and a Scully doll. I've even coloured my hair red. Yes. It's true. I'm a 'Phile.

I was also hired by Fox as their 'Fan Liaison' for the film. My role is to represent the fans within Fox and represent Fox within fandom. I am the only person in Europe who has read the script. I have been living under a non-disclosure agreement preventing me from talking about specifics of the film (three of them actually) since April. My contract ends on the 1st of August. I cannot reveal spoilers until my contract is finished. As of this writing I'm still bound to secrecy. Boring, but true.

And now my review...

X-Files.jpgDuring the nine television seasons and one previous film of The X-Files, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, the two main characters, between them, have:

  • Been abducted by aliens
  • Had family members abducted by aliens
  • Dealt with psychics, freaks, murderers, medical experimenters, vampires
  • Murdered a vampire
  • Had family members murdered
  • Murdered each other (wait, that was just a vision that some ghosts gave them)
  • Been impregnated with an alien foetus
  • Been infected with an alien virus
  • Found abducted family member
  • Found out that abducted family member is a clone and the original is dead
  • Been purposely given cancer
  • Been cured of that cancer
  • Found huge government conspiracy which threatens the whole entire human race
  • Wait, it's working to save the human race
  • No, I was right the first time, it's threatening the human race
  • Wait... is that right?...
  • Been chased everywhere by shapeshifting alien bounty hunters
  • Whose side were they on again?
  • Had a child
  • That child died
  • Had another child
  • Gave that child up for adoption because the bad guys were after it
  • Bees, what was it with the bees? Oh yea, something to do with smallpox
  • Found Black Oil
  • Given immunity to Black Oil
  • What's Black Oil? *sigh* Let's just get this finished, OK?
  • Super soldiers. OK. Were they bad guys? I've got a headache.
  • Found out that abducted family member, now dead, was only a half-silbling
  • Oh no wait, it was a full-sibling because the person they thought was their father wasn't and instead the bad guy is their father
  • Wait, is he a bad guy or is he really a good guy?
  • I think he may have been good...
  • Or bad.
  • Or not really their father.
  • Became an alien-human hybrid
  • Been court-marshalled
  • Went on the run...

I can't go on.

How exactly do you go about making a new X-Files film and stay true to all of that? You could start by thinking about what Mulder and Scully have been up to for the past six years. After all of that insanity- the aliens, the deaths, the conspiracy, the court-marshalling- what is their life like now... today... for real?

There's not a lot of fun and games, make no mistake about that. They've both been through far too much to not be living with the scars of their past.

Mulder has been, well, let's just say he's been "resting". He's clearly lost his mojo and has been living a reclusive life away from the world. Though he's evidently still interested in the paranormal, he doesn't seem to really believe in it anymore. Scully, the sceptic who was originally hired to de-bunk Mulder, has retrained and is working as a medical doctor in a Catholic hospital. Along with such a quick change of career, she is now struggling with her religious faith. Yes, things have most definitely moved on since many people stopped watching in Season 6.

This new film deals with Mulder and Scully's dark, dangerous and inexplicably bizarre past by forcing them to keep it all inside. Only tiny bits of it leak out- a mention of Clyde Bruckman and Luther Lee Boggs here, showing the pain of William's adoption in an expression on Scully's face there- but never too much to scare away new audiences. And that's exactly how it should be. In some respects the writers, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, should have been slightly more bold and not tried to reference the past at all as new audiences don't really need to know those things and X-Files fans are already well aware of, for example, what Mulder's sister meant to him.

The love (and the obsession) the fans have for the series isn't ignored, however, as the film is absolutely littered with Easter Eggs, which are being collected on fan sites around the world as I write:

  • Did you notice the Chris Carter cameo sitting in the hallway at the hospital holding a white urn (apparently, it contains the ashes of his dog Frankie)?
  • What about the actress who played Mulder's sister Samantha who passes them in the hallway of the FBI offices?
  • Agent Monica Bannan was the waitress who pours coffee on Mulder in Post-Modern Prometheus.
  • The "Gaunt Man" was in Jose Chung's "From Outer Space, Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose and Humbug.
  • Mulder's still eating sunflower seeds.
  • Is the hospital's name anything to do with Scully?
  • What are the names on Mulder's phone?
  • Did you stay until the end of the main credits?

And the list goes on and on. From actors who've been in the series before, to people, places and things named after crew members, from a host of clippings and photos relating to their previous cases on Mulder's wall, to scenes and shots which mirror previous episodes, the whole film is full of little winks and nods to the die-hard fans. This film is a love letter from Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz to the fans.

But does it stand up as a film for non-fans?

Well, if you only care about running after aliens, things blowing up and guns, there isn't a whole lot for you in this film, I'm afraid. This is a delicate and emotional film which treats Mulder and Scully as real human beings who have lived an unreal life. We find out who they've become, what they are doing, how they are handling life, how they are coming to terms with their past. And that part of the film is perfection. Mulder and Scully have evolved into full, deep and rounded people that are are no longer the "comic book" characters from the series. After you see the film, then think back to everything the characters have been through in the series, it's clear how far they've evolved in the intervening six years.

The film is an old-fashioned thriller, it's not a whizz-bang-pow-blam-summer-CGI-testosterone-fuelled-holy-shit-it's-great-to-be-a-man blockbuster. Unfortunately, for the filmmakers that's what cinema audiences seem to want more and more these days. Which is a shame. 'I Want To Believe' is a film which requires you to think, to appreciate the remarkable acting by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson and to enjoy the well-crafted script. This is a grown-ups' movie. It's not for young fanboys.

I went to see the film with three different people: a diehard fan and two people who'd seen a few episodes, but didn't know a whole lot about the X-Files. When the film finished my friend who is a fan immediately said she loved it and was going to see it again on opening night. I expected that reaction.

I wanted to hear the verdict from the non-fans as I felt I was too close to the film and wanted their 'fresh eyes'... They loved it, too. They had heard the film had been getting bad press and so were expecting a total stinker and were very pleasantly surprised. They said they found it tense, thrilling and suspenseful, and the acting by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson was outstanding. They were completely engrossed in the film throughout. The main downside for them was Billy Connolly's performance, which they said, compared to Duchovny's and Anderson's, was flat and lacked depth. I actually had to stop them talking about the film an hour later.

Don't believe the anti-hype, X-Files: I Want To Believe is a really good film. It's not the best film ever made (which film is?), nor is it the best stand alone X-Files (for me, that's Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose). It is, however, a cinematic, very well-written, beautifully acted stand-alone thriller which bridges nine seasons of one of the most ground-breaking television series in history and, hopefully, a future film franchise. This film leaves us with a Mulder and Scully who have dealt with their issues, have grown stronger and are more able to save the world in 2012 than we were left with at the end of Season 9.

[Richard] Thanks once again to Gia Milinovich for a superb review, now I'm really keen to see it myself and see how much I enjoy it. Let us know what you think once you've seen it.

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Good review Gia, and although I agree with most of what you said I'm going to have to disagree with you on the story.

Things seem to be going well when the film starts but then it soon trails off into a place where things no longer matter, leaving key plot points to be unexplained and confusing, leaving me feeling let down and baffled by what I’ve just seen. By the end you’re left thinking was it all necessarily?
For me the film focused too much on the boy in the hospital than those committing the murders and their motivation and reason for carrying out the experiments, which we find out, is for… well we don’t find out, and that’s the problem I have with this film.

I saw this film with three friends and we all agreed on the same thing. Me and another thought the film wasn’t bad (which it isn’t), but the other two didn’t like it at all, and I can understand that. I’m not left wanting more, because who wants more from something that is half baked?
I did get sucked into the film’s (shallow) depth, which I enjoyed, but it’s like running down a street only to find it has a dead end. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are great, but what do you expect from actors who have had years playing the same roles?

The only thing this film has going for it is it’s title, apart from that it has a clichéd and empty story, with well written characters going to waste.


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