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Friday, July 25, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (**)


** SPOILERS IF YOU STILL CARE ABOUT THE X-FILES **


The X-Files: I Want To Believe was like a reunion with old friends you now have nothing in common with. Yet you're stuck there for a couple of hours pretending like it's the old days until a requisite amount of time has passed for the ordeal to be over so you can politely excuse yourself and head on home.  

I Want to Believe is a dour, sleepy, unnecessary movie that fails to justify its very existence 6 years after the TV series limped to an end. Standing outside The X-Files' twisted mythology, with no aliens, black oil, monsters, Cigarette Smoking Men, Lone Gunmen, conspiracies, or even the X-Files division of the FBI, all we are left with are Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, two relics from the Clinton decade who look like they want to be there even less than we do.

Time has passed Mulder and Scully by. Mulder looks pasty and tired. The courageous nut who once had the ability to wittily coerce not just Scully but millions of audience members to follow him on whatever lunacy he was investigating barely musters any enthusiasm. Scully's attractively rigid face has only gotten frownier and more right-angular in the years since the series ended. Scully and Mulder live together in some shack in the woods, sleeping together and having long, boring arguments that they seem to conduct on autopilot. They used to have sexual tension that has since dissipated, but it hasn't been replaced with a new dynamic. Their ghosts from the 90's want to continue to argue and debate belief vs. skepticm while their flesh and blood selves go through the motions but couldn't care less. They had a son but now they don't. He's barely worth a passing mention in an awkward bedroom scene that was more about Mulder's Grizzly Adams beard irritating Scully neck than anything else. 

Mulder is now a fugitive recluse. Scully is a physician and apparently also a surgeon working for a Catholic hospital that doesn't seem to make enough profit to pay their electric bill because the lights are never on. It's a gloomy, depressing hospital of deep shadows and glowering doctors and priests. I imagine the suicide rate for patients admitted into such a forbidding place must be a cause for concern. Scully has a subplot of a young boy dying of cancer. She wants to operate on him with a dangerous stem-cell procedure. This subplot does nothing for the movie except give Scully reasons to argue with Mulder and refuse to accompany him on his quest to find a missing FBI agent.

Just when Mulder and Scully thought they were out, the FBI pulls them back in. Sort of. Special Agent Xzibit (his character name is Drummy but I swear, each time he said his name, I heard "Special Agent Dummy") doesn't really seem to want either of them there, but Special Agent Amanda Peet is a fan of Mulder's work on the X-Files (hey, aren't we all) and wants his insight on their missing colleague. Peet calls herself "not the most-popular girl in Washington" (what professional woman would describe herself this way?) and introduces herself to Mulder with the greeting, "Fox Mulder, I believe?" Who the hell says that? Peet also has a penchant for flirting with Mulder during FBI raids on suspects. She's also Special Agent Dummy and deserves what happens to her (nothing good). 

The FBI has been working with a psychic priest, Father Billy Connelly, who may or may not be a fraud but is most certainly a pedophile. As Scully puts it, he's "buggered 37 young boys", and I hope none of them was named Dennis Blunden. Scully hates this priest. Fucking hates his guts. He must bring back terrible memories for Scully of when she was a red-haired little boy.

There is a lot of gabbin' about God in I Want To Believe; whether or not He would actually speak through a pedophile and whether that means He forgives our balls-tickling priest. It's an interesting idea but the movie tackles the issue mostly through Scully barging into the priest's apartment in the middle of the night and yelling at him. Scully eventually uses the priest's advice ("Don't Give Up" - did Father Sodomy get this from God or from a Peter Gabriel song?) to save Mulder's life in the end. Scully saving Mulder from the killer pays him back for saving her from the alien spaceship in Antarctica (in the previous and superior The X-Files: Fight the Future ten years ago), only Scully's rescue was far less interesting. She bonks the killer on the head with an axehandle and that was it. She didn't even quip, "Let me axe you something." 

Walter Skinner shows up in the last 15 minutes in an embarrassing walk-on where I'm pretty sure writer-director Chris Carter expected wild applause from the audience when they see his familar mug. Even the crickets were too bored to chirp. Skinner tells some bad jokes, points a gun at the evil Russian surgeons who offer no resistence, and then disappears back to Stargate Atlantis or where ever he hangs his hat these days.

Since there are no aliens or monsters of the traditional sort, I Want To Believe turns out to be Mulder and Scully versus the villains from Turistas. The mystery Mulder and Scully unravel (sort of, she really only helps tangentially, which is one of this movie's many, many problems) involves organ harvesting, kidnapped girls, severed heads, Russian homosexuals, Leoben from Battlestar Galactica, and dogs. (Batman would have warned Mulder to stay away from the attack dogs, but Mulder wouldn't have listened anyway.) I shit you not, all of the blood and gore in the movie is about a gay Russian who wants to be a female Russian. Apparently, when Father Billy Connelly raped him as a boy, it turned him gay and made him want to be a woman so he and his boyfriend Leoben began Frankenstein experiments, first on dogs. They harvest organs and bodyparts and then attempt to graft a whole new female body using mismatched parts from girls they kidnap who swim at the local public pool. No, seriously. It's over for The X-Files. It's so over.

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