The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Posted on July 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Violence with graphic and very grisly images (severed limbs, wounds), guns, car crashes, character impaled, character is a convicted pedophile and there are references to child sexual abuse, some innuendo, reference to death of children, serial killers, s
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 25, 2008

I want to believe, too, but this movie did not make it happen. Six years after the record-breaking television series ended its run, this attempt to carry the franchise forward is unlikely to make any new fans or entirely satisfy the old ones.
xfiles.jpgThe series made an advantage out of the disadvantages of television budgets and technology by recognizing that it is scarier to leave a good deal to the imagination than to give too much away. By deftly allowing the audience to project its own fears onto the show’s ambiguities, it tapped into its era’s skepticism and paranoia.
But its success means that expectations will be high, and so this movie disappoints with its familiarity and by simply giving too much away in both the dialogue and plot.
It still charts its course between doubt and faith. Five years have gone by and both Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have left the FBI. Scully is practicing medicine at a Catholic Hospital called Our Lady of Sorrows, desperately trying to save a boy dying of a rare disease. The FBI asks her to find Mulder because an agent’s life is at stake. His investigation into the paranormal has been discredited and he is living as a recluse, clipping out newspaper stories, but he and Scully are persuaded to come back to help the FBI determine whether a priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly) is really having psychic visions about the abduction of the missing agent or whether he is faking, delusional, or a perpetrator. Mulder thinks Father Joe is worth listening to, but Scully does not because of her natural skepticism and her revulsion at his record of child abuse. Still, as another woman disappears and Father Joe’s comments about the case — and one to Scully herself about not giving up — seem to have meaning, they continue to rely on him.
The question of giving up is a theme throughout the movie as several characters have to decide when future effort is pointless or too painful. But the theme is pounded too hard and too often — we end up wishing the film-makers would just give up themselves and move on to something else.
Duchovny and Anderson are magnetic personalities and gifted performers with great chemistry. A scene where they snuggle together under the covers has a welcome natural vibe that keeps us rooting for them. (Be sure to stay all the way through the credits for some additional insights.) There are some striking visuals, particularly in the first scene, with a row of black-suited FBI agents crossing a vast snowy field, stamping with poles as they follow Father Joe, in search of a clue. But part of what made the series work was the sense that the plots were almost or even about-to-be possible. This one is at the same time too pedestrian and too far-fetched. It can coast on the affection of its devoted fans, but won’t make believers out of anyone.

Parents should know that this film has violence with graphic and very grisly images (severed limbs, wounds), guns, car crashes, character impaled, character is a convicted pedophile and there are references to child sexual abuse, some innuendo, reference to death of children, serial killers, surgery, characters injured and killed, disturbing themes, and some strong language. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of faith but the clergy in the film are not the good guys.
Family discussion: Different characters have to decide when or if they will give up in this film. What factors do they consider in helping them make those choices? Be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits and discuss what you think about the final image.
If you like this, try the “X-Files” and “Lost” television series.

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17 Replies to “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”

  1. Nice enough review — but please be professional enough to spell character names {Mulder} and actor names {Duchovny} correctly — it gets in the way of your crediblity, and the names of character and actor are easily tracked-down.

  2. Well, they spelt Duchovny’s name incorrectly because of a Christian agenda on this site — and Duchovny (Mulder) is jewish. So there you have it.

  3. I am not sure how a typo can be considered as anything other than an error but I understand that X-Files fans may be inclined to conspiracy theories. The rule is that anyone who finds ten mistakes gets a free copy of my book, so you only have nine more to go. Thanks for posting and if you have further evidence for the “Christian agenda,” I’d be glad to hear it.

  4. Thanks — anyone who finds 10 errors gets a free copy of my book so keep checking! Just a reminder to both Eric and Hmm that the rule for comments on this site is that respect and courtesy are expected at all times and that it is always best to assume the good intentions of the person you are responding to. I welcome your comments and criticism but hope that you can keep that in mind.
    I had to write this review very quickly as they did not show it to critics until Wednesday and I left at 7 am on Thursday for Comic-Con. Sorry for the mistakes.

  5. Weird – “Mulder” is spelled correctly in the tag, but it comes up as “Muldar” in the article. Cue the X-Files theme. Or not.
    Anyway, I’m really glad I skimmed this article (with a very wary eye for spoilers, because I’ve been burned once before this week as regards the future of Desperate Housewives). If nothing else, I now know to stay for the credits, and that’s interesting. I also know to be excited about the religious elements. (I love religious elements.) I think the point about “less is more” letting us project our own fears is clever, too. But I’m not going to trust the conclusion that the film is disappointing based on it, because I’m a scary-obsessive fan and scary-obsessive fans would not misspell “Mulder”. My point being . . . die-hard X-Philes will probably see the movie differently than non-Philes.
    Plus, I’m obsessed with The X-Files – trust no one.

  6. Thanks for a great comment, Iris! I try hard not to disclose spoilers. And as you saw in my review, I think fans will like this film better than those who are less familiar or new to it. When you see it, let me know what you think! And I’ll correct “Mulder.”

  7. I really meant no offense, Nell, and I’m sorry for that.
    I’ve had several jobs involving copywriting and proofreading and learned through bitter experience and a few gaffes to check and check again [My own worst — I listed a very-thin Swedish dancer in a production of EVITA as “Bulki”, which is the spelling the someone-else’s-handwritten list I was working from employed; her name was “Brocki”. One does not call a dancer “Bulki” — it was insulting to her.!!!]

  8. Well, I really enjoyed this film – X-files growing up. 😉 I was hesitant giving the reviews and questionable preview. But the film worked. And I totally agree, X-file fans will enjoy it. Folks not fans or fimilar with the series might not enjoy it as must because they don’t have anything invested in the characters.
    However, it didnt deviate too far from the formula. My fear was they would go so far off that it wouldnt be the same thing that attracted us to the series in the first place.

  9. Thanks, Eric, and I loved your story! Yesterday at Comic-Con I attended a panel of 1970’s comic book writers and artists and there was a lulu of an almost disaster that occurred when a writer had a line of dialogue that was perfectly fine until without telling him the editor decided to change all of the character names and did a global search and replace, not realizing that it turned the line into something not fit for a family audience. I think my all-time most embarrassing correction was when I mis-remembered the color of the Oompa-Loompas! Thanks so much for posting and I hope you will return and comment often — remember, you only have nine corrections to go to get a copy of my book! I am lucky enough to have my readers as my copy editors.

  10. I also enjoyed the movie. Having been somewhat familiar with the characters, made the show more interesting. However, for me, it seemed to deviate from what I remember as always chasing some alien being or event. I found it to be suspensful and found an interesting take on the clergy being less than favorable, and at times a bit gruesome. Overall, however, I enjoyed it. And for me, I thought the last image went along with the theme of never giving up which to me meant towards their relationship.

  11. I think the emphasis on not giving up was just right.
    Faith cannot be understood without doubt. Characters find it hard to believe how God might be working through even the most sinful individuals because that would mean those sins were forgivable to God even though they are highly punishable by man. So the characters are told, “Don’t give up.” The characters want to believe. Yet at times, God is speaking and no one is listening.
    Forgiveness becomes the only way to overcome the doubt. The need for forgiveness is powerful and is also the very thing that provides Father Joe a chance at redemption, through his paranormal connection.
    Sometimes one is compelled to act on the basis of trust. But sometimes it is on the basis of faith in God, seen only through forgiveness’ “dirty glass.”

  12. Regardless if you are a fan of the TV show or not, this movie is about one thing: Intelligence.
    If you have been brainwashed into expecting all movies to be about CGI, explosions, or sex scenes, then you will be disappointed.
    This movie requires thought, intelligence, and an understanding of common sense.
    I realize most of our generation and the one below it do not have these abilities anymore, but if you think you can try, go see the film. Enjoy it.
    If however you can not or will not try the above, help out other fans by buying a ticket for the X-Files and seeing something else once inside.

  13. “This one is at the same time too pedestrian and too far-fetched.”
    The scary thing is that the movie concept is not far-fetched: the experiments on transplanting dog heads has actually happened, and stem cell research is making all sorts of things possible (such as regrowing nerves and tissue) that once seemed like science fiction. The beauty of this movie is that it raises all kinds of important ethical questions: How far would you go to save a human life, especially of someone you love? How great is God’s forgiveness? If God can forgive even the most heinous sinner, can we? This movie isn’t a big, summer, shoot-’em-up movie (thank God)–it is a smaller movie, designed to make you think. And the storylines are so carefully and densely intertwined that it’s hard to catch everything the first time around. For anyone who wasn’t so sure about it on the first viewing, I highly encourage you to give the movie a second chance.

  14. Thank you so much for these illuminating insights, very helpful. As I noted in my blog post about the donation of X-Files artifacts to the Smithsonian, Chris Carter bases the storylines in current scientific research and then asks “what if?” It wasn’t the transplants I referred to as far-fetched. But I do not want to give away too much for those who have not seen the movie. I agree with you about the the movie’s willingness to engage in the big issues of risk and sacrifice and forgiveness, one of its real strengths.

  15. This is a smart film. Don’t go expecting special effects by the tons, explosions, CGI and whatnot because it has none. It’s not what one would call a blockbuster summer movie. Instead it’s a thinking film, it actually requires the viewers to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
    The audience has to think and make up their own minds on what they see – whether they believe or are skeptical, about what’s right or wrong and whether the main characters are flawed for believing what they believe in or if it’s that very belief that pushes them forward, never giving up.
    Give it a chance, you won’t regret it.
    And STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS – there’s a SURPRISE at the end.

  16. I agree with you in stating that the show made the best out of TV budgets & technology by recognizing that it is best to leave it up to the imagination than giving tooo much away.

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