The X-Files joins the ranks of television shows moving to the big screen, but (in a rare occurence) it is doing so in the midst of its popular television run. Though this might serve to boost its audience, it only has a detrimental effect on the film, which ranks as an adequate episode of the series…nothing really worth the trouble of a feature adaptation.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, The X-Files are a division of the F.B.I. which investigates unusual cases (particularly those that are of a paranormal nature). The two agents who have been assigned to the X-Files are Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), the smart-alecky true believer, and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), the level-headed skeptic. The pair had begun to uncover a government conspiracy involving aliens. However, they came too close, and their office was burned and the X-Files were shut down.
At the opening of the X-Files movie, Mulder and Scully have been reassigned to an anti-terrorist detail. But that pesky alien conspiracy just won’t leave them alone. Even when assigned to a routine detail, such as evacuating a Dallas federal building after a bomb threat, can turn mysterious when these two are involved. And sooner than you can say “extraterrestrial biological entity”, they’re hip deep in the paranormal again.
Most of the standard X-Files supporting players are here. On the good guy’s side, there’s Mulder and Scully’s semi-supportive boss, Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), and Mulder’s three conspiracy obsessed pals, The Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, and Dean Haglund). In the Syndicate, the evil secret government organization behind the conspiracy, there’s Well-Manicured Man (John Neville) and the ol’ favorite Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis). And of course, no X-Files cast would be complete without a mysterious informant. This time around, Martin Landau plays Kurtzweil, a man who passes some critical information Mulder’s way.
The strengths of The X-Files movie are the same as the series. Duchovny and Anderson are very engaging leads, displaying the same great chemistry here as they do on the tv show. Plus, the picture has a wonderfully paranoid atmosphere, which so enthralls the audience that they’ll willingly follow along even the most ludicrous plot.
However, the film is also hamstrung by the series. Since the series will continue next season, there can be no ultimate conclusion to the film. Everything must continue status quo for the series to resume. As a result, the movie feels more like a two-part episode of the series rather than a big screen spectacle.
From a purely narrative point of view, The X-Files movie falls apart. The entire plot is driven by an unlikely set of coincidences. Both sides, the good guys and the bad guys, cast their fates into the wind and let pure luck decide their outcomes. The underlying conspiracy is hopelessly convoluted, with even more loose ends than plot twists. Even in comparison to the overall series plot, the movie fails (actually altering a major component of the series “mythology” to conform with more cinematic tastes).
For novices to the X-Files, the movie would be very confusing to follow. The movie assumes a base familiarity with the key characters, and even with some of the details of the overall conspiracy (which are summarized, but too briefly for newcomers). Devoted fans of the series will find that they are being treated with utter contempt. Not only does the movie fail to answer any relevant questions, but the movie’s bungled mishandling of the Mulder-Scully romantic angle is sure to displease both ‘shippers and anti-‘shippers alike.
The X-Files movie might have worked well as a television episode. As a movie, it generates a good atmosphere and has a pair of good performances from the leads…and that’s about it.