Saturday , March 2 2024
I've complained before about Fringe being a poor X-Files clone. Maybe I've had it backwards.

Rethinking the Fringe/X-Files Dynamic

Last night I sat down and watched the new X-Files movie, the one that was in theaters for all of a week this summer before quickly disappearing from everyone's radar. I was sorely disappointed, massively disappointed, hugely disappointed. I completely understand why it didn't do that well and why the reviews weren't great either.

I do think, however, that the film was great in one respect — it allowed me to really and truly enjoy last night's episode of Fringe. No, seriously, as I've said repeatedly, the two shows are inextricably linked together, and Fringe, for its entire brief run, has seemed like a poor clone of The X-Files. After seeing the second X-Files movie though, Fringe all of the sudden begins to look like what the summer's reboot of the original franchise could have been.

I think one of the main reasons that I stick with Fringe from week to week is one of the same reasons why I stuck with The X-Files back in the day — the long-term, crazy conspiracy stuff. On both shows those elements are so completely over the top and yet dealt with in such a serious manner that they are shockingly fun. Not only are the conspiracy elements intriguing, but they're funny — or, at the very least, the way the characters handle the situations are funny. This second X-Files movie didn't have that; it wasn't over-arching conspiracy-based, and unless I missed him, the Cancer Man (I'll always call him that and not the Cigarette Smoking Man) didn't even make an appearance. How do you try and reboot a franchise that thrived on its over-arching alien conspiracy stuff without doing alien conspiracy stuff?

The movie actually felt like some of the worst Star Trek movies, you know, the ones that ought to have just been a regular old episode (not even a double-episode), not a movie. The little things we were supposed to find funny with this new movie fell completely flat. Case in point: The X-Files theme playing when Mulder and Scully saw Bush's picture on the wall at the FBI office. I gather that the implication was that Bush's becoming President had some conspiracy elements behind it, but who cares? Why make that joke, what was the sense in it? It wasn't cute and it certainly wasn't clever. It strove to be both, but it failed… dismally.

So, I finished that movie, went directly to watching Fringe, and was just hugely impressed. I even found Walter amusing, and usually I just despise him. Massive Dynamic trying to bring back John Scott to get "the information" was hugely intriguing, and who doesn't like a good reference to the Fibonacci Sequence (okay, so I probably liked that because I recognized what the numbers were)? I did get the weirdest sense of déjà vu however with the going through the wall thing – I swear I just saw that in some other TV show or movie (with equally bad results for the participants).

Really, in the end, Fringe succeeded last night where The X-Files failed because Fringe kept its plot interesting and kept moving it forward; one just knows that all the story elements we saw last night are going to come back again later. The X-Files was a simple one-off thing (yes, there were some moments from the original series that informed it, but nothing hugely important); it was just another random bad guy doing random bad things for some random (never well-defined) reason.

I would love for The X-Files to exist as a movie franchise or even a new TV series (not that I'd place money on either happening), but if the only stories they have left to tell are ones like the one from this new movie, maybe it's better that they just go away quietly. It'll make me sad, but it might be better for everyone.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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