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X-Files May Work for Fans, but not Newcomers

  • Christian Hamaker Contributing Writer
  • 2008 26 Jul
<i>X-Files</i> May Work for Fans, but not Newcomers

DVD Release Date:  December 2, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  July 25, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for violent and disturbing content and thematic material)
Genre:  Science Fiction, Thriller
Run Time:  104 min.
Director:  Chris Carter
Actors:  David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly, Amanda Peet, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner, Adam Godley

In chapter nine of Mark’s Gospel, a man asks Jesus to heal his son. The boy has been possessed by a spirit since childhood that robs him of speech and throws him on the ground. Jesus’ disciples had been unable to cast out the spirit. A conversation ensues:

“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” the man pleads. “‘If you can’?” Jesus asks. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” The man immediately exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

The new X-Files movie, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, explores the gulf between skepticism and true belief, as well as the journey between the two. Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is the true believer—an expert in psychic phenomena who once worked for the FBI on cases involving the paranormal, but who now lives in seclusion. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), another former FBI agent currently working as a doctor at a Catholic hospital, is the skeptic. She believes in science and has found her calling in the world of medicine.

Asked by the bureau to assist in tracking down Mulder, Scully recruits him to help in the hunt for a missing agent. Mulder has only one condition: that Scully join him in the investigation. The only thing the FBI has to go on is the testimony of a psychic priest who claims to have received visions that will help determine the whereabouts of the missing woman.

And so Mulder and Scully reunite to solve the case, reviving an X-Files franchise that spanned nine seasons on TV (the series ended in 2002) and one previous theatrical film (The X Files in 1998).

Billy Connolly plays the psychic, Father Joseph Crissman, but his vision of the victimized agent leads the FBI team only to a severed arm of unexplained origin. He insists that the agent is still alive, but the team, led by Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and Agent Mosley Drummy (Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner), grows more frustrated as the hours tick by. As Scully notes, the chances of finding the agent alive are slim to none.

But Scully’s skepticism is based on more than mere percentages and probabilities of survival. She knows of Crissman’s past as a pedophile priest convicted of molesting 37 boys. “Maybe it’s not God doing the sending” of visions, she tells Mulder, although he exhibits complete confidence in Father Joe’s claims.

A separate story line involves a young patient of Scully’s whose only chance for survival is a risky stem-cell treatment. After the expensive procedure is rejected by the hospital’s board, Scully finds herself leaning heavily on the blurted words of Father Joe, “Don’t give up,” spoken to Scully without context or prompting. Was it a message? Should she persevere in her efforts to treat the young boy, despite the board’s decision?

Scully wants to believe. “I’m a doctor,” she tells Mulder. “I can’t look into the darkness any longer. I don’t want that darkness in my home.”

“I think maybe the darkness finds you,” he tells her later. But as Scully opens herself to the idea that God is communicating with her—even through a pedophile priest—her eyes begin to fill with hope.

Such ideas will be challenging to Christian viewers as well. We believe God uses weak human vessels to serve himself, but when confronted with the vileness of Father Joe’s crimes, how easy is it to let our suspicions overtake those convictions? The X-Files:  I Want to Believe, is at its best in examining Scully’s slow awakening to the idea that God may be trying to tell her something.

If only that element of the story were more central to the plot. Instead, we get a thriller involving Russians, dogs and human organs that gets less interesting as it unfolds, culminating in a lengthy climax that drags and slackens, rather than growing taut and tense. The end result is a lackluster story that never grips viewers as it should. Its few moments of humor are effective, suggesting that director and series creator Chris Carter may have profited from a more light-hearted story and approach to the material, rather than the grim, serious tone that echoes nearly every popular TV crime series that’s aired since the demise of The X-Files.

Fans of the series will find pleasure simply in seeing Mulder and Scully team again to solve a crime. Duchovny and Anderson are comfortable in these roles—maybe too comfortable. Neither shines in this latest incarnation of The X-Files, but neither performer looks less than comfortable on screen. The sight of the two actors assuming these well worn roles will be enough for true fans of the series, although those who are new to the franchise may, based on the evidence of this latest installment, find themselves wondering what drew people to The X-Files to begin with.

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  • Language/Profanity:  Lord’s name taken in vain; a few uses of foul language; crude references to pedophilia.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Experimental drugging of people and animals; Father Joe is a smoker.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Two people lay in bed, side by side but covered; a couple of kisses; reference to gay marriage.
  • Violence/Disturbing Imagery:  A woman is abducted; severed limbs and body parts are shown; a truck runs other vehicles off the road; dogs attack humans; a person falls down an elevator shaft; a man refers to self-castration; a woman is imprisoned in a box.
  • Religion:  Depictions of a pedophile priest and his victims; the priest also claims to receive messages directly from God and is labeled “psychic”; he appears to shed tears of blood; Proverbs 25:2 is referenced.