Sunday, July 27, 2008

A note on the X-Files movie

[No spoilers. You're welcome.]

It appears that the X-Files movie is receiving a pretty thorough drubbing from reviewers -- and, while I disagree with those reviewers' sentiments, I can't say that I'm all that surprised by them. Even as I was sitting in the theater, thrilling to every mournful, low-key minute of I Want to Believe, I kept thinking to myself, "My God, so many people are going to hate this".

The film defies all Hollywood logic as to what a big summer release based on an established property should be. There is not a single explosion, nor are there any instances of flashy CGI effects. Instead, in an impressive feat of risk-taking, Chris Carter has taken the opportunity to deliver a meditative, bittersweet postscript to the series he created, and in the process provide us with an intimate view into the lives of his beloved protagonists, Agents Mulder and Scully, these six years on from when we last encountered them.

There is an emotional honesty -- as well as a very unspectacular everyday-ness -- to this portrait that feels almost discomfitingly personal within this context. Furthermore, it's wrapped around a story that is about as terrestrial as could be, rooted in the indiscriminate betrayals of the human body, the extremes that people can be driven to by the fear of loss, and the desperate questioning of faith that those things can inspire. It's a slow-burning narrative, one that evidences, on the part of its creators, enough confidence in its audience to take the occasional pause to speak to the mind and heart, rather than just the gut.

Given this, it's understandable that the film will come as an unwelcome slam on the brakes for many of us riding the non-stop rollercoaster of thrills that this summer's offerings have been so single-mindedly delivering. Hey, I've been enjoying that ride myself, and I Want to Believe definitely demanded an unexpected amount of reconfiguring of my expectations. Still, as a fan of the series (an important deciding factor in whether you will love or hate this movie), I ended up -- after an initial brain sputter -- not only welcoming that demand, but being thrilled that it was being made in the first place.

The way things are looking right now, I'm bracing myself for the inevitability that I Want to Believe is going to be widely referred to as a "failure". But the film is in every sense such an anti-blockbuster -- right down to its desolate, wintry setting and borderline despairing tone -- that it's impossible to imagine that those involved had their sights set on an Iron Man-scale success in the first place. Rather, given the messy implosion that the original series suffered during its final seasons, it feels like Carter is finally gifting fans of The X-Files with the opportunity to give Mulder and Scully the proper farewell that they deserve. And that's something to be grateful for.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Your post is the first thing I have read about the film that actually tells me something interesting about it.
I was doubtful if I wanted to see it, if it was all that bad, but as you describe it, it's exactly the X-Files film I have hoped for.

(And really, the opinion of non-fans doesn't matter here anyway. Says someone who would even defend the last two seasons of the show.)

Todd said...

It's really sad that some fans of the series, who I'm confident would find a lot to love in this movie, might be dissuaded from seeing it by the negative reviews -- which in many cases, as you indicate, are written by non-fans who simply don't get it. You should definitely check it out. I honestly don't think you'll be disappointed.