Apparently the lamentable last season or two of The X-Files and the 1998 mega-episode film Fight the Future wasn't insult enough to the show's legacy as a groundbreaking, mythopoetic phenomenon. No, yet another film had to be made, some six years after the series ground to a halt, in order to further degrade one's memory of the once-respected pop-culture totem. That film is The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and far from making believers out of the audience, it does everything possible to turn them into staunch realists, not to mention people who might then wonder, What was the big deal about that show, anyway?
That hollow, echoey feeling of Is this all there is? is in fact just about all that remains after this inexcusably dull and completely unnecessary retread of a film has faded from the screen. The purpose behind the Fight the Future film was simple to divine: The series was near the height of its popularity and the alien invasion storyline could better be explored with the increased running time and expanded special effects budget of a major studio film. Whatever that film's failings, it made sense, just as David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me did in that it wrapped up some loose storylines and gave hungry fans a rewarding big-screen dessert. But the storyline behind I Want to Believe is so deadly pedestrian that it's not only shocking that David Duchovny
, Gillian Anderson
, and creator Chris Carter
would have bothered trekking back up to British Columbia to film it, but that 20th Century Fox would make so much noise about keeping all the plot details a closely kept secret. Article continues below
In I Want to Believe, Anderson's Dana Scully is long gone from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, unhappily plying her trade as a doctor at a Catholic-run hospital whose bean-counting administration sorely tests the last tattered shreds of her once-staunch faith. Still the rational foil for Duchovny's Fox Mulder -- the sardonically wide-eyed conspiracist whose deadpan mutterings launched a million fangirl crushes -- Scully is recruited by their old employers at the FBI to track Mulder down. An agent has gone missing and a spooky old moth-eaten priest claiming to be a psychic (Billy Connolly
) is the only potential link to find her. Since apparently the FBI has never dealt with wannabe visionaries afflicted with a delusional in their extrasensory abilities, Mulder must be brought back into the fold to shine his flashlight into the unknown.
In a sad effort to introduce yet another of the series' distracting love-triangle complications -- whereby Mulder is chased by some dark-eyed sylph while Scully looks on in disapproval -- the FBI's manhunt is headed up by an ice-hued Amanda Peet
, employed simply to make eyes at Mulder like a schoolgirl, awed at his X-Files past. Pimp My Ride rapper Alvin "Xzibit
" Joiner somehow plays Peet's partner as infinitely more believable, a hierarchical stiff in a suit, sick of following a psychic through the snow and quite ready to be done with these alien-hunting has-beens, just as viewers are likely to be after about 20 minutes.
The mystery that Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz came up with to prod the listless plot along can't of course be explained here, so as not to ruin the un-surprise, but what can be said is that it's not only barely enough to hang an entire film on, it would barely sustain a mediocre, hour-long episode of the series. Of more interest to Carter and Spotnitz appears to be exploring the somewhat matured relationship between Scully and Mulder and examining the nature of faith, whether it's Scully's belief in God and her medical oath or Mulder's devotion to figuring out why things go bump in the night. The script dutifully trots out one leaden confrontation after another as the two characters stagger through their spiritual dilemmas in only the most blundering and obvious manner, saying things like, "This stubbornness of yours, it's why I fell in love with you." Meanwhile, the "mystery" of the missing agent and the psychic priest limps along, well after it becomes clear that the only mystery worth answering here is: Why did they bother?