When an FBI agent is attacked and taken hostage and the only lead is provided through the questionable help of a psychic priest (Billy Connolly), the Bureau call on former agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in a bid to bring some clarity to the perplexing case. Accompanying him is former agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), now a doctor, fighting her own battle to treat a young boy with a seemingly untreatable brain disease. With Scully doubting the Psychics ability, given he is a convicted paedophile, Mulder is left to challenge his own beliefs: is the psychic a fraud or can he truly help find the missing agent?
Given the X-files has been absent from the screen for 5 years, it’s hard to not be disappointed by the return of paranormal investigative FBI agent’s Scully and Mulder. It’s not because it’s a terrible movie, on the contrary, it actually stands alone as quite a good murder mystery, despite some instances of incoherent and sloppy storytelling, and brings some ethical debate to the table. It’s not the performances either, as the chemistry between the two leads is as potent as ever, albeit surprisingly underused. It’s hard not to love the boyish charm and wit of Duchovny as Fox Mulder, who slips back into character like he never left. Perfectly countering the optimism of her partner is Dana Scully, convincingly brought back to the screen by Gillian Anderson. However, Scully spends too much time preoccupied with the films sub-plot, which pits her duty as a doctor against her superior’s, and her own, religious beliefs. It’s a thought provoking ethical diversion, but it takes away too much screen time from the main story arch and the chemistry between the two leads that is key to the series success.
Given that the intriguing story is guided by strong performaces, it begs the question; why do I still classify the film as a disappointment? Well, it’s because the film has “X-files” in the title. This becomes an issue when I rarely ever felt as though I was watching an X-files movie. The film’s departure from the TV series story arch and complete absence of anything otherworldly seems to me like the complete wrong way to go about reviving interest in the series. It’s as though director Chris Carter though that the chemistry of Scully and Mulder was enough to justify the title, and for a 40 minute TV episode, he’d probably be right. But this is a feature film that has been half a decade coming, and for that reason alone, he should have given the audience more “X” for the price of admission.
Just imagine if Christopher Nolan took the “Bat” out of “Batman Begins” when reviving the series in 2005, turning it into a film where Bruce Wayne never becomes the caped crusader and instead just takes on criminals in a court of law for an hour and a half. I have enough faith in Nolan’s ability to say it would probably still be a decent film, but it’s sure as hell one way to isolate the long standing fan base for the franchise. This is what Chris Carter has gone and done here, taken the “X” out of “X-Files”, turning the film into nothing more than an above average crime drama that leaves you questioning whether Scully and Mulder accidentally switched their police files with the cast of CSI. It’s worth watching, but not for all the reasons it should be.
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