The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Case: A number of young women have gone missing, and Scully and Mulder are offered an
important reward if they'll help to find them.

Destination: Somerset, West Virginia

The second X-Files movie did not receive a lot of love when it came out, but I really, really like it. Let me tell you for why.

For some fans, one of the biggest issues with the film was that it told a standalone story and didn't touch on the show's major mythology arc at all. For me, this is entirely a positive. I always preferred the standalone stories, even way back in the day when the myth-arc still made some kind of sense - by 2008, when the movie came out, the alien myth-arc and long since passed the point I paid it any attention.

While some fans might have enjoyed seeing a story that, like the first X-Files film, tied in to the series' bigger story arcs, it's hard to get a cinema audience engaged in something they're supposed to have watched nine years of a TV series that had been off air for six years by the time the film was released in order to fully appreciate. To appeal to a wider audience, the film simply had to tell its own story - and I think it was all the better for it.

Of course, if that story had been stronger, audiences might have responded more warmly to it. There are certainly flaws here. The supernatural element is under-played; Billy Connolly's abusive priest has visions relating to the crime because he abused someone involved in it. The series had covered this sort of territory before, in some excellent episodes, but as the key element to grab movie audiences, it's a bit bland. A haunting, a psychic, or simply something more visually arresting like Mark Shepherd's ridiculously badly Irish accented fire guy would have been better choices.

And so the story is basically a police procedural with a few visions thrown in. But get past that, and it's a pretty decent police procedural. Amanda Peet's Agent Whitney is totally wasted, but Skinner's heroic appearance near the conclusion drew quiet cheers from my friend and me, and the case itself is interesting and gory enough, if not exactly ground-breaking.

Then there's just the general awkwardness of seeing these characters in very different roles after six years away, and the slight shoe-horning in of Scully's issues with her faith through a fairly pointless sub-plot about a young patient of hers and Connolly's abusive Catholic priest. But as a long-term fan, I enjoyed seeing where these characters are after six years, and Scully's conflicted feelings about her faith have long been a part of the show - this film does them more credit than some of the episodes focused on the same theme.

And then there are the things I just really like about the movie. It's beautifully shot in snowy somewhere-claiming-to-be-Virginia, for a start. Connolly, a great comedian, is very good in a deeply serious role (though, honestly, I would have preferred him to be able to be funny - the man is hilarious!). Heroic Skinner is my favourite brand of Skinner, and the film provides much better closure on the series than the season nine finale had - a point that may be moot now, after seasons ten and eleven, but you can still choose to stop at this movie if you want to.

And then there's the final closing shot - not the end of the movie proper, but the post-credits sting. Mulder and Scully on a boat near a tropical beach somewhere, committing to a life with each other, first and foremost. It was a long time before I jumped on the original Shipper train - as a teenager watching the show, I preferred the idea that their relationship was intense but platonic. But as the years went by, the series wore me down, and by the end, a romantic relationship was canon. That being the case, I want them to have a happy ending. That single, beautiful shot satisfied both sides of my X-Files shipper-dom. The romantic aspect of their relationship didn't over-shadow the film too much, but it was acknowledged, and a happy ending implied. For years I thought that was the last image The X-Files was going to leave me, and honestly, I was really happy that way.

Other Thoughts

 - OK, this seems a pretty weak basis for the FBI to suddenly decide to forgive Mulder and let him come out of hiding. But honestly, that just needed to happen so they could get back to story-telling. I don't really care about the plot mechanics of how they got there.

 - Dakota Whitney? Weirdest name ever. But maybe that's the Brit in me coming out!

 - Snow really is pretty. Snow with blood on it has a dark, Snow White-esque, fairy tale quality to it.

 - Seriously, what was with the fridging of Amanda Peet anyway?!

Quotes

Mulder: I can feel you thinking.

Mulder: I think maybe the darkness finds you, and me.

Scully: This stubbornness of yours, it's why I fell in love with you.

Skinnner: We will find him. I know Mulder. He'd get to a phone and call first. He wouldn't do anything crazy. Not overly crazy.

Final Analysis: I like it and I don't care what anyone else thinks! Three and a half out of four tropical boats.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

A lovely review, Juliette. I remember enjoying this movie, although I don't remember much about the story.

And with this, our X-Files reviews are officially, finally complete!

TheShadowKnows said...

I might be extra touchy about this, but West Virginia is actually an entirely different state than Virginia. :op

(Although you're right about the "claiming to be" part. As a native, I wasn't exactly convinced by the scenery.)

TheShadowKnows said...

Just as an example from the picture you used in your review, there is nowhere in this whole state where snowcapped mountains like that are visible. The "mountains" are more like hills, and barely noticeable because the state as a whole is on a sort of raised plateau.

You have to leave the state and descend into Maryland or Virginia before any proper mountains are visible.