David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson star in THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE, directed by Chris Carter for 20th Century Fox.

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

I can understand why Chris Carter and company made X-Files: I Want to Believe (though not the title), but I can’t understand why Fox produced it. The film was a significant bomb, even if it didn’t cost very much, and some critics dismissed it as an episode turned into a feature. It’s anything but… instead, it’s the most peculiar studio, potential franchise release, I’ve ever seen. I Want to Believe is an adult drama not about David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning to the FBI to look for monsters–instead, it’s about Anderson’s internal turmoil over trying an experimental, painful procedure on a young patient.

They do return to the FBI to look for (qualified) monsters… but it’s not very important. It’s not even as important as the complicated romance between the characters. Some of the complication comes from the script–Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz take most of the movie to reveal the basic ground situation between Duchovny and Anderson, probably because it works so well and they thought they were going to be rewarding returning fans.

I Want to Believe is far more a postscript–and I make this observation generally, discussing the idea of making a sequel after a reasonable absence (I didn’t watch the last few seasons of the show, only hearing about plot points from friends)–than an attempt at starting a film series. It’s very different and it’s rather wonderful in how delicately it treats Duchovny and Anderson. Carter’s never directed a feature before (he uses Panavision to great effect); he treats Anderson with a moving gentleness. When Duchovny’s on screen alone, it’s almost a jolt–like he shouldn’t be running the show.

As for the mystery, I’m guessing it occupies half of the film’s running time. It’s clearly unimportant–the final act, featuring the resolution to it, is much less important than the denouement. It does allow for a surprise cameo, which ends in another touching, odd manner.

There are some excellent action-like sequences in the film. There’s a great chase scene and Bill Roe’s cinematography gives the Panavision a lush, grandiose scale. Shots of people walking from cars in the snow have rarely looked so good.

The acting’s all good, with Anderson having the hardest job. Duchovny has it easier, while Billy Connolly sort of phones in his performance, sort of doesn’t. It’s the same performance he gives a lot, but given his character (a psychic, sex offender ex-priest), it comes off differently. Amanda Peet manages to make an impression in her smallish role–though most of the movie trailer moments are hers–while Xzibit does not.

I spent the entire film incredibly impressed with the score and it turns out it’s Mark Snow, who did the music for the series. For some reason, I figured it’d be someone more famous.

What’s particularly nice about the film is how little one has to know about the show to understand it. There are some references, but as long as the viewer has a working knowledge of the basic concept… it works. I think. And stay through the credits.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Carter; screenplay by Frank Spotnitz and Carter, based on the television series created by Carter; director of photography, Bill Roe; edited by Richard A. Harris; music by Mark Snow; production designer, Mark S. Freeborn; produced by Carter and Spotnitz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), Gillian Anderson (Dr. Dana Scully), Amanda Peet (ASAC Dakota Whitney), Billy Connolly (Father Joseph Crissman), Xzibit (Agent Mosley Drummy), Callum Keith Rennie (Dacyshyn) and Adam Godley (Father Ybarra).

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One thought on “The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008, Chris Carter)”

  1. I’m pleased to read that someone else shared my appreciation of this film as a character piece instead of another paranormal adventure. The film’s mystery is about as engaging as the average episode of the show, but it’s the changed relationship between Mulder and Scully that made me enjoy the movie. And I really, really did. Your suggestion that the film is more of a postscript than a franchise-starter is very apt — though I’m sure that isn’t at all what Carter and Spotnitz intended. I’m happy to have read it, though.

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