Sunday, August 03, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (Carter, 2008)

At long last, The X-Files returns, 6 years since the show ended and a whopping 10 years after the first film. Needless to say, I'm a massive fan and so am ever so slightly biassed about this film. However, I will try very hard to provide a balanced look at what's a very risky outing.

With very little of the film's plot revealed beforehand, even the most die-hard followers of The X-Files are in for a surprise when they see the film. I was. With what little information I had, I was completely off the mark with how I thought the Mulder/Scully dynamic would be. As much as I didn't mind the scenario I had imagined, I've never been happier to be wrong.

This would appear to have been in an attempt to attract newcomers to the phenomenon. Emphasis has been placed on the film's 'stand alone' nature in relation to the TV series and conspiracy-based first film. For the casual viewer or newcomer IWTB is a decent thriller. A casual viewer might be surprised by the concentration on character than action, and I fear that won't sit well with a lot of people who go see the film.

As a fan, though, this film is something else. I've seen it three times (and planning on seeing it once, maybe twice more tomorrow) and the thing that continues to strike me most is how much the film is for the fans. Never mind that it's standalone, never mind that it's accessible - this is a $35 million love letter to a group of the most dedicated people in the world. There are in-jokes galore, references to episodes (without being alienating - pardon the pun) and an end-credits sequence which is so damn surreal it works.

Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are a massive and essential part of this. Their chemistry hasn't changed one bit, and it ignites the screen as effectively as it ever did. The film shows us a very different Mulder and Scully, but they are nonetheless challenging to each other still. They bring the emotion and trueness to the story which is really about them. The paranormal element seems almost like a subplot, in a rare move which has the film focus on character than action and for me, it works.

The secondary characters seem assembled from the most random selection of actors - Billy Connelly, Amanda Peet and rapper Xzibit - but they all perform well. Connelly has the most to do, but Peet and Xzibit do their best which what are essentially simple characters. The supporting cast is a treat, full of past X-Files stars, many of whom are instantly recognisable. Most exciting of all - the one which has elicited either loud cheers or silent squeals each time - is Mitch Pileggi as Walter Skinner, even if his appearance is an extended cameo.

This is all testament to the brilliance of Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, who have constantly been appreciative of their fan support. Carter's direction is as tight and as exciting as any of the other summer blockbusters, which is impressive considering the film's apparent disintrest with big action set-pieces. The duo's love for these characters is clear.

Completing the feel of this film is Mark Snow's unsurprisingly wonderful score, feeling just like the TV show only big enough for the big screen. Included on the soundtrack is the song 'Broken' by Unkle, which has lyrics which are as applicable to the film as they are to whole fan experience.

So, this film might not be perfect. There're a few dud lines of dialogue. It might be a bit slow to someone not as invested in the characters as others. But I surely don't care, and I'm not sure other fans will either. The film's weakest point has been it's marketing - what very little marketing there has been has promoted the film as an action blockbuster. It's not. It's a suspenseful paranormal sci-fi drama. It's a slow burn about a pair of wonderful characters, who are just like old friends to a hell of a lot of people. For fans, it's all about the love.

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