“So you believe in these kinds of things?”
“Let’s just say that I want to believe.”
Creator/producer Chris Carter makes his directorial feature film debut as main characters Fox Mulder and Dana Scully return to the big screen in X-Files: I Want to Believe. It’s pretty tame when compared to most current thrillers and that’s the film’s strength. It's nice counter-programming that explores the familiar themes of science and God/religion in a mature, intelligent manner. The end results satisfy, they just don’t really entertain on a high level.
This solid film has some moments, but the low key results fail to capitalize on the show’s two main elements – “little green men” and fanatical conspiracy theories. It certainly could’ve used a dazzling plot twist or two to liven up the proceedings a bit, though some early references like pictures of George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover in a government office provide some referential chuckles.
David Duchovny stars as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson also headlines as Dana Scully. This duo has certainly endured many dynamics during the television show’s nine-year run. This installment occurs ten years after its predecessor hit theaters at a key point during the show’s run. The time separation offers filmmakers opportunities to shake up the establishment, but instead they stay the course.
Carter’s plot, co-written with X-Files producer/writer Frank Spotnitz, mostly concentrates on Mulder and Scully amid morbid drama and some disturbing and ideological themes while boosting the romance between this enduring couple. Scully’s profession as a specialized doctor and Mulder’s discreditation yields more suffering for the couple as they toil behind the scenes in their work.
The plot slowly builds on the meaning of life with very personal themes instead of personal redemption or closure. “Why bring a kid in the world just to make him suffer,” Scully says about one of her patients who is slowly slipping away. The bulk of the plotline arrives when a skeptic Scully teams up again with Mulder in the field for a federal investigation centering on a missing government agent and a psychic named Father Joseph Crissman, played by Billy Connolly.
Psychic events have occurred in the TV series before (see the 1995 episode "Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose" featuring the late Peter Boyle). In this film, the psychic links push Mulder and Scully’s relationship to new levels as they’re both thrust back into a world that needs their unique insight. “It could have been you or me,” Scully says to Mulder to justify their involvement. The deeper they get, they more they realize how simple their actions become. They don’t have to rely on their considerable intelligence, experience, or research, only their hearts.
Scully continues to help others in the face of doubt while Mulder continues to believe these “unexplained events” deserve honest, public explanations. These actions create a simple base of operations for the duo where they act on their beliefs of hope and goodness in the world. Every challenge usually has a sacrifice, in this case, stress on Scully and Mulder’s relationship. At a breaking point, Scully tells Mulder she fell in love with his stubbornness. “That's why we can't be together,” Mulder answers.
Ultimately, this relationship slowly discovers its own answers and impending plans after the pair escape the dangers that arise in their unique investigation. The action elements are reduced mainly because Mulder and Scully are not agents anymore. Even fellow agents played by Amanda Peet and Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner don’t get much gunplay.
The plot makes some turns, and then meanders into vague territories amid some impressive snowy settings set up by yet another X-Files veteran, cinematographer Bill Roe. Cameos and past plot mentions, namely Mulder's sister, Samantha, and their son, William, only get minimal exposure. The film never engages overly dramatic scenes while centering on the main characters’ beliefs and resulting choices. The film keeps the tone of the television series, especially by shooting in wintry Vancouver where the beginning television seasons were filmed.
The long wait between X-Files films diminishes chances for a wider audience, but still provides good memories and references for fans. As Scully and Mulder tire of “chasing monsters in the dark”, audiences seem to have tired of the characters as well by responding with a tepid 10 million dollar opening weekend that opened on more screens then Step Brothers, but made only about one-third of that comedy’s tally. The reported 30 million dollar budget, low by Hollywood standards, helps offset any box office risks in revisiting this successful television series.
More dramatic surprises, extended reconnections with the past or new revelations would’ve recharged some of the verve of this series’ apparent finale (see the ending credits… not sure if the helicopter was meant to appear). Recommended with reservations and rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material. The film is dedicated to former X-Files casting director Randy Stone who passed away due to heart failure in 2007.