Originally written for SCROOMtimes.
The X Files. Unless you’ve been living in a jar for the last few years (and an opaque jar, at that), you’ve almost certainly heard of the new Dynamic Duo, FBI agents Mulder and Scully. I, like most of the country, have seen the show. In fact, I was a rabid fan for quite a while. But I was a little skeptical about a movie. Remember the first Star Trek film, I muttered. Still, the draw of seeing my favorite characters on the big screen joined forces with my curiosity, and I saw it anyway. It was fun, in spite of the fact that I hadn’t seen more than a handful of episodes in the last two seasons. Fun, yes. A great film, no.
The X Files movie had its good points, sure. It was a fun ride while it was happening. It brought people who (like me) hadn’t seen the last season or so, but knew the show, up to date and kept the dark atmosphere the show has become famous for. Martin Landau is wonderful as a doctor-author so kooky that even Mulder is skeptical about his theories. The acting was strong, the suspense was well-handled (especially in the hairraising opening sequence), and there were the right number of chuckles, especially if you knew the series.
Unfortunately, people who aren’t familiar with The X Files will probably be left in the dark. Characters appear without explanations, and a great deal of knowlege is simply assumed. Those familiar with the show will be fine, but the uninitiated may well feel a bit left out.
Other problems become apparent after the adreniline conjured by the last twenty minutes wears off. I expected some questions to be left unanswered, but there were too many, even for the X-Files. What exactly happened in the last scene? What is the status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship now? There’s an emotional breakthrough at one point, but no trace of it exists by the end. And that’s just a partial list. When my non-fan mother started asking just those questions, I found myself unable to answer, and in the uncomfortable position of trying to justify someone else’s work. A bit of uncertainty is wonderful, but only if it’s based on enough clarity to believe that the answers do exist somewhere.
Perhaps my biggest complaint is the way many of the secondary characters were used. Most of the secondary cast from the show appears at some point, even if for no apparent reason. Both The Lone Gunmen, a delightfully mismatched trio of conspiracy theorists, and Assistant Director Skinner, our heroes’ boss, appear so briefly that one is forced to wonder why they’re there at all. Was it because of their fan following? If they were going to throw characters in just because the fans love them, why didn’t they include Krycek, one of the greatest villains the show has ever seen? But why not simply use these more minor characters to advance the plot or provide some comic relief rather than simply sticking them in? Another major problem is the plot thread which concludes the film: Mulder rushing off to Antartica to save Scully. Again. Why do they always pick on poor Dana Scully when one of our Dynamic Duo has to be in jeapardy? There’s some wonderful suspense in the race to find her, but the ending is unclear and confused, even more so than usual. It wasn’t even clear enough to make partial sense.
Then, of course, there is the scientific blunder made part way through the film. Part of the plot hinges on bees pollinating a field of corn with genetically engineered pollen. But corn is pollinated by the wind, not by bees! They could have used any other crop which is pollenated by bees without losing the feel of those scenes. Or they could have mentioned that they had to engineer corn that was pollinated by bees. But assuming the audience won’t notice a scientific fallacy like that is insulting to fans of the show.
So what is the bottom line? If you’re curious about the film, like the show, and don’t have anything better to do, it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours. But if you aren’t familiar with the show, go with an X-phile friend to explain things to you, if you go at all. This is not, sad to say, a must-see film.
Maybe they’ll follow the Star Trek pattern, and make a much better sequel.