The X Files: I Want to Believe
Glum Feebs and creepy dweebs mark this dull filmic comeback attempt.
reviewed by Mark Burns
An FBI agent is abducted from her home in the mountains of West Virginia, and her would-be rescuers at the Bureau are flummoxed. Their only break arrives in the form of allegedly psychic revelations of Father Joe (Billy Connolly: Open Season), a priest turned pariah. Head investigator Agent Whitney (Amanda Peet: The Martian Child) needs help wrangling the psychic talent, so she reaches out to former agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny: Californication) via Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson: The Last King of Scotland). The former X pair reunite and look into the dark once more, pursuing ghoulish criminals with the aid of a tainted holy man.
This is a far less ambitious leap to film than the first X Files movie, released 10 years ago. That one was Mulder’s audacious I-told-you-so, a perfect storm of government conspiracy and alien intervention that was far out even by the standards of ardent Roswellians. I Want to Believe, on the other hand, leaves the grand scheme behind for a more skeptical, tentative delve into psychic phenomenon and malicious medical strangeness.
At best, this film is a return to basics. It’s a tense, small, shadowy mystery with a tweak of the paranormal and elements of classic horror combined in echo of earlier X Files episodes. Mulder defies the ire of conventionalists to prove the truth of strangeness, while Scully acts as mediator to the daylight world, the skeptic in a strange land. Series creator Chris Carter takes the director’s chair and dials back from the extremes of the last cinematic attempt in an apparent effort to welcome home old-school fans.
But the formula has gone stale. For starters, it’s been 10 years since the last encounter, and Carter has done little to evolve his characters. Mulder is Hobbitted away in some farmhouse living as a bearded, sloppy bachelor surrounded by questionable news clippings. As for Scully, she’s quit the FBI for a surgeon’s post at a Catholic hospital. Her hairstyle is updated, but her perspective and worry furrows are as fixed as ever. The biggest difference? Both actors are distant from the roles they once inhabited, lacking confidence and chemistry.
The reunion of Mulder and Scully is a summary full of gaps. Their rekindling lurches stupidly from I don’t talk to him anymore to let’s work together to cuddlysnugglekins and onward. Witticisms are dim. Dialogue is unintelligent and too frequent, overpowering the action, strangeness and menace with bore. As a result, the film is ponderous in pacing. When flashes of criminal counterpoint do pop up, they are mediocre shocks seemingly derived from the Saw series.
In summary, it’s a disappointment. Even fans would probably be happier renting the series DVDs.
Poor • PG-13 • 105 mins.