Saturday, July 26, 2008

The X-Files: Trouble Believing

By David Luhrssen
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 Mulder is hiding and Scully is a doctor in a Roman Catholic hospital. When an FBI agent goes missing and the only clues come from the visions of a disgraced Catholic priest, someone in the agency has the good sense to call the old team out of retirement. Scully knows where Mulder lives and Mulder is the FBI’s only expert in the paranormal, even if they succeeded in silencing him.

That’s the premise of The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a disappointing coda to Chris Carter’s long running television series. Believe isn’t overly long but sometimes seems that way. It rambles and lacks the tight drama of the show’s best episodes. An interesting idea or two stumble along with the movie as it zigzags along the icy back roads of West Virginia, where strange things are happening in the night.

One thing Believe has in abundance is moody atmosphere. The lonely countryside is snowbound and wrapped in the gray itchy mantle of winter. Only a little less chilly are the emotional bonds between the two protagonists, who still call each other by their last names. Scully is tired of gazing into the darkness alongside Mulder. Obsessed by the loss of his sister, abducted by aliens years before, he has learned to see in the dark.

“The X-Files” TV series traded on the growing suspicion that we are being lied to, that the government keeps secrets and covers skeletons under a topsoil of lies, that science crops reality to the dimension of a digital snapshot and the media similarly views the world through an aperture the size of a prison cell window. The problem was “The X-Files” ran too long and into too many tangents, with monster of the week episodes amid the larger conspiracy theory of aliens in league with the rulers of our world.

I Want to Believe suffers from mission fatigue. Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) both seem weary, albeit that may be a function of their roles as ex-agents whose throats became sore after years of whistle blowing for an audience that was deaf as well as dumb. Urgency is lacking, even as bodies and body parts surface on the icy fields and the protagonists debate the veracity of a pedophile priest, confined to a group home for sex offenders. How could God speak through such a broken man, wonders Scully, the skeptical Catholic. For Mulder the question is less important than the reality of the old man’s insights and the vague itch he feels to get back into the paranormal game.

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