The X Files: I Want to Believe
I never did get around to watching the X Files on TV. Yes, I know the show ran for nine years and became such an inescapable part of the pop cultural furniture that you could barely move in its heyday without barking your shins on David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully.
But I was just too slow off the mark to ever become a fan, let alone a geeky, paid up, know-everything-there-is-to-know X-Phile. It may have been the must-see TV of the mid-1990s, but after only a few episodes it felt like too much effort to catch up, as tough as learning to skateboard over the age of 14.
Yet, six years after the series dribbled to a close, and 10 years after its only previous big-screen outing, seeing The X Files: I Want to Believe doesn’t make me feel I was actually missing out at all.
Where’s all the sexual tension that fans were always banging on about, the famous platonic-romantic sizzle between Mulder and Scully? The new movie demurely presents them as a couple and then contrives to keep them apart for much of its running time.
And when they do appear together, I’m afraid I don’t really get the supposed intellectual conflict between paranormal believer Mulder and sceptic Scully? To the uninitiated, it seems a bit blurred. Scully believes in God; Mulder believes ET abducted his sister? OK, so Scully is the woman of science and gets all huffy when Mulder goes off on one of his flights of paranormal fancy, but for most of the present narrative she’s left on the sidelines while her partner does all the snooping.
As for the story, at least it’s a stand-alone mystery and doesn’t require a PhD in the show’s convoluted mythology. But as mysteries go, it’s a pretty thin tale – involving the hunt for a missing FBI agent, body parts buried in the snow and a shaggy Billy Connolly as a defrocked paedophile priest who may or not be psychic – and feels like a TV episode that’s been stretched out of shape, like a badly washed jumper.
In the director’s chair, series creator Chris Carter tries to whip up suspense with increasingly hysterical cross cutting between the doings of our heroes and the activities of a bunch of bad guys with all the nous of villains out of Scooby Doo. But he does so without any real conviction. You get the feeling that he doesn’t really believe in this stuff any more. I may still be an X Files sceptic, but it seems he’s the one who’s lost his faith.