The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Last updated 17:37 01/08/2008
The X-files: very much like the TV show rather than a movie.

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DAVID LYNCH learned the hard way that a sequel based on a cult TV show of his own making won't necessarily be adored by all.

Released just a year after the end of Twin Peaks in 1991, Fire Walk With Me was a commercial failure and a critical pariah. It was booed at Cannes and even polarised hardcore fans of his revolutionary 28-episode network serial.

However, without Twin Peaks, The X-Files would be little more than a glint in the eye of an alien. Before Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost hypnotised audiences into tuning in religiously to the wonderfully twisted world they'd unleashed, American TV was boring and formulaic.

Following Twin Peaks' success, the paradigm shifted significantly and networks were willing to take chances on unconventional shows. Arguably the initial fruit of this was Chris Carter's The X-Files, a fact tacitly acknowledged in the pilot, with Laura Palmer's prom queen portrait shown on Mulder's desk.

Although sci-fi shows were hardly new to TV, The X-Files combined themes like conspiracy theories, spirituality, mistrust of the government and exploration of both paranormal and extraterrestrial phenomena to present a detective show that wasn't bound by the same rules as cop dramas like Steven Bochco's Hill Street Blues.

Midway through The X-Files' nine-season run from 1993 to 2002, Carter and his team made an eponymously titled feature film. Focussing on the series' "mytharc", it satisfied fans, media and new audiences alike. Written as a link between seasons four and five, it was both engaging and entertaining.

Six years after Mulder and Scully finally went their separate ways - or so it would seem - Carter has brought the dynamic duo literally back out of the cold to investigate another case in a new film, though it's quickly apparent any FBI agent worth his or her training would have sufficed.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe is what the makers term a "monster of the week" episode. Although it delves into the paranormal, it's actually a horror/thriller like two-thirds of all X-Files episodes. For this reason, it's very much like the TV show rather than a movie.

Our heroes are carving different paths (Mulder as a recluse, Scully as a surgeon) when they're informed that a colleague has joined a host of missing persons. They're reluctantly drafted in to join the investigation, bizarrely assisted by a paedophile priest, Father Joseph (Billy Connolly), who cries tears of blood as his psychic powers overwhelm him.

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The film's relatively conventional plot is a clever ploy on Carter's part to keep the franchise alive without "alienating" a potential younger audience less familiar with the TV show. Clearly, he's building up to a film in 2012 in which an alien invasion hinted at on the show will occur.

For that reason, this film serves its purpose. As solid entertainment, it fails miserably. The story is unremarkable, the performances are flimsy and the little in-jokes merely distracting. We do see Mulder and Scully being intimate, though one of the series' triumphs was tantalising us with the sexual tension without ever delivering.

Since The X-Files was the first show released on DVD, wait to rent this one. And hold your breath for an imminent alien invasion.

(M contains violence) starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly, Amanda Peet, Xzibit. Directed by Chris Carter. 105 mins. Showing now.
THE PITCH: The truth's still out there, somewhere.
WATCH OUT FOR: A two-headed dog. Woof! Woof! 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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