Cinemalphabet: X is for The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
With nearly universal critical and audience disdain the long-awaited X-Files movie sequel sulked quietly out of box offices and into the kind of infamy reserved for far more appalling fare. The reviews were enough to scare me away from this film when it was originally released, despite being a HUGE fan of the original series and first film. I was devastated by the lackluster reception of the film and disheartened by the unending critical scorn heaped upon what I found to be a graceful, careful character study that happened to have a mystery to solve. Here is a sampling of the critical beatdown The X-Files: I want to Believe received from film reviewers:
- “The second big-screen spin-off of the cult TV show is a “stand alone” that nonfans can follow without knowing the series’ fiendishly complicated backstory. The problem is that only a fan would be inclined to tolerate this dunderheaded mystery…”
- “Beyond its threadbare (at best) connection to the series, I Want to Believe is just plain poorly made. Virtually all of its plot developments rely upon a degree of coincidence that would be improbable at best if they existed alone, but which together feel spectacularly impossible, not to mention creatively lazy. Are we really supposed to believe that Scully saw something on a mailbox through the window of a moving truck that is driving at night in the snow?”
- “. When a blustery FBI agent named Drummy (rapper Xzibit, saddled with a name I find hard to believe myself) approaches her in search of her old partner Mulder, she reluctantly agrees to seek him out in the remote cabin where he now lives, alone with his beard and his flying-saucer poster. Soon the chase is on. Keep those hopes curbed, though.”
Is the film perfect? No. The plot is rather derivative, but that doesn’t guarantee it is by default worthless. Even as a true believer, I am not in denial about the narrative deficits of the film. That said, I feel they are necessary compromises because the character exploration contained within the film is fantastic, disturbing and engaging. While did find it baffling that Scully had abandon pathology to care for the nearly dead, I didn’t find many of the issues cited by critics to be particularly bothersome. In fact, I found this meat-and-potatoes thriller incredibly tasty and satisfying. I found the acting measured and restrained. I thought the plotting was effective and the story reasonably compelling.
And oh yeah, I was thoroughly impressed by Xzibit. I didn’t know what to expect from him as actor, but I was excited by his casting. I thought his performance was solid and he has some serious screen presence that ought to be mined by other filmmakers. No, he’s not oozing with the kind of craft precision of Gillian Anderson or Mitch Pileggi or Brian Connolly, but Xzibit kept up with all of them.
So forget the critics and haterlicious audiences. If you find yourself with a couple of hours and consider yourself even a cursory fan of the original series the film is worth a view. It is wonderful to see Anderson and Duchovny reprise their iconic roles and see how those characters have grown and changed. The X-Files: I Want to Believe may not be a perfect film, but it is a respectable coda for a series that was often provocative, frustrating, but ultimately not for every palette.