The final installment for X-Week's look at The X-Files arrives in fashion with two (yes, two!) X-Files reviews for the just released I Want To Believe and the recently released X-Files comic book from Wildstorm. The critics have been harsh towards the new film, but did it satisfy this fan?
The X-Files: I Want to Believe (Fox)
If you have been reading what some of the critics have been saying about the second X-Files movie, you might be a bit disheartened. Both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes have amassed numerous negative reviews. The local Charlotte Observer summed up their loathing for the new film by starting out their review be asking, "This is it?" I must admit that I am a bit of a whore when it comes to reading reviews of films. Try as I might, I sometimes get a bit discouraged when I read them. The undercurrent to much of the venom was the fact that this film had very little to do with the myth-arc story of aliens. I think that is what people expect from an X-Files story. If this is indeed what you expect, sorry. They sell fine DVD's at your local entertainment warehouse or via this thing called the World Wide Web.
Despite the critical reviews, I was quite surprised with how well the film played out. I think an important thing to look at here is the balance between audience; were Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz trying to win over converts to the overall concept of The X-Files or was this film aimed at the fans? I think fans will largely be pleased with the result, while the uninitiated may not have the same connection with these characters, and therefore may be left wondering, "What's the big deal?"
What is the deal? A defrocked priest is receiving visions of people being kidnapped and the FBI have to involve ex-agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Much like this summer's Indiana Jones movie, it takes a few minutes to get back into the groove of the characters, but once the actors settle in, the movie hits it stride. The monster of the week portion of the film is a modern day retelling of Frankenstein, but the real thrust of the movie is an exploration of faith and trust. Billy Connoly does a great job playing the pedophile priest that makes Scully and Mulder question the trust of each other and Scully's own faith as a physician and Catholic. It is an interesting theme that is oddly out of place for the summer blockbuster season. I can't Help but think this movie would have played out better if it had been released in the winter, the setting of the actual film. The cold nature of this personal quest of balancing faith, trust, and belief while solving a diabolical series of abductions was a mismatch from the start for the whole affair.
Many of the things that The X-Files did well from the show translated favorably to the screen. The use of music by the original eerie music producer Mark Snow gave a familiar and chilling air to the film. The humor fans were so accustomed to in the show was used to great affect here, lending natural levity to the serious situation around them. And for the liberals in the crowd (full disclosure, myself included) there's a killer George W. Bush joke at the beginning. The theme of believer versus skeptic is also plays out on screen, with Scully reverting back to her role as disbeliever, all the while being faced with the possibility that belief is a matter of perspective.
There are a few odd and clunky aspects to this film that no doubt contributed to the poor reception by the critics. The subplot of Scully trying to help find a cure for a young man is a bit forced and slows the flow of the main plot. Carter and Spotnitz try to tie this in with the pursuit of faith, but it is hampered by the far more interesting abduction/Frankenstein plot. While the removal of all doubt about the relationship between Mulder and Scully is finally laid to rest, once established, the filmmakers dwell on the fact for far too long.
Overall, this film was for the fans of the show who appreciate the monster of the week diversions that made up over three out of every four episodes in the show. It is always hard to return and time always creates fonder memories of cherished characters. Living up to expectations can be a difficult task, one that the filmmakers did not meet or exceed. But few do. Enjoy this film for what it, an exploration in findijng faith in darkest corners of life.
X-Files #0 (Wildstorm)
Wildstorm fortunately brings back The X-Files to the funny book pages with this "zero issue" of a new series. The story focuses on a girl kidnapped in 1991 showing up dead seventeen years later in a murdered man's house having not aged a day. The story deals with the classic X-Files concept of possession. It is written by Spotnitz and features excellent art by Brian Denham.
The ongoing series will be based between seasons 2-5, an interesting choice with the focus of the movie was on the future. It's also an odd statement since this story takes place in 2008. This may have been simply a misprint in the issue, but if you do the math that the murdered girl is abducted in 1991 and is found seventeen years later, this poses a conundrum with X-Files continuity since Agents Mulder and Scully have been out of the FBI for five years and are not reinstated on screen in I Want to Believe (in fact, quite the opposite; they are seen as being far away from the FBI after the credits).
Despite this small complaint, this is a great beginning to the new series. Let's hope Wildstorm avoids some of the legal and editorial issues that plagued the excellent Topps series. The X-Files is a property that is well-suited for comic books, especially given the success of other televised cult properties like Buffy and Angel. But it goes beyond just having a built in audience. Comic books are a great venue for exploring the fantastic. The X-Files works great within the scope of the medium. This issue does what X-Files does best. It tells a compelling, scary story that entertains and asks questions, offering few direct answers, leaving the reader wanting more.