The X-Files: I Want to Believe
A Major Motion Picture
US Release Date: July 24, 2008
It’s been six years since the series finale of The X-Files and now there’s this movie. And you’re going to see the movie, that’s inevitable. You wouldn’t say you’re looking forward to it, but you’re going to see it. You’re a fan and all. It’s just, it’s been six years. Not to mention ten years since the last movie, can you believe that? Ten years? The release date of Fight the Future is forever burned in your memory; this one you just know is coming out “sometime this summer.” You don’t see the trailer, you don’t read reviews, you don’t even buy advance tickets. You just end up seeing it, one sticky summer day, in the basement of your least favorite theater in town.
But I’m not saying that expectations are low. Expectations are not low. You might tell yourself they’re low—you might tell yourself that even as you quietly buy the very same snack you bought when you went to see Fight the Future—but you’re lying to yourself. The X-Files has a hold on you. Distant, but deep. A scar except you’d say there wasn’t any pain. And wouldn’t it be great, you think, if this movie just blew the lid off of the tin on which it says what it does? Wouldn’t it be great if you wanted, again, to believe? There’s nothing wrong with that, after all.
So here is the movie. It’s six years later. Scully and Mulder live in the middle of nowhere, together, sharing a bed. Scully works as a pediatrician at a Catholic hospital. Mulder works in a room where he cuts out newspaper clippings and acts surly. The FBI knows where they are, but the FBI has left them alone until now. Now, when an improbably-named agent named Dakota Whitney (played by Amanda Peet with such snap that you forget the character is named Dakota Whitney) flags them down and asks for Mulder’s help. All will be forgiven if he comes in on this one, she says.
The case is: there’s an agent who has disappeared in West Virginia, and a convicted-pedophile-priest who claims he is receiving visions about her whereabouts. Scully convinces Mulder that this will be good for him, to consult on the case. This is nice of Scully, except it doesn’t last. Within like thirty seconds of Mulder being On the Case, Scully gets very skittish about the whole thing, starts making a big deal about how this isn’t her life anymore and she doesn’t want the darkness in her home etc. etc. etc. Scully is also really not okay with the pedophile priest. AND she is dealing with this thing at work, where she wants to do some stem cell therapy on one of her patients but the hospital administrator priest is not into it.
Basically, Scully has a lot going on. Much more, I would argue, than Mulder. Mulder is just, sort of, happy? Happy. Returning to the FBI invigorates him. He shaves his beard, he banters with the psychic, he gets flirted with by Amanda Peet. He’s not inactive—he does plenty of running around in the snow—but the movie very quickly shapes itself around Scully, and her crises of faith. This is apparently the first time their relationship has been tested since they ran off together, the first time Scully has had to reckon with the fact that she’s been living with a man in hibernation, a man who still believes that he can’t be fully alive unless he’s mucking around with pedophile psychics and serial killers.
So it’s good, then? An intimate film about faith and darkness, a rumination on love and loyalty? Ha ha no of course dammit no, sorry. There’s still this case. This gruesome, dull, problematic case. See it turns out that the FBI agent’s kidnapping is one of many, and that there is a rogue bunch of Russian/Eastern European-types who have been doing a brisk organ trafficking business. One guy cuts up the bodies, another guy transports the organs. But! The guy who cuts up the bodies is really sick, so the guy who transports the organs has sort of reorganized the whole operation and now what they do is keep the sick guy alive by sewing his head onto new female bodies.
Oh but why would the Organ Transporter go to so much trouble to keep his Body Cutting friend alive? Because they are not just friends, they are married to each other. And furthermore, Body Cutting Guy is one of the altar boys who was abused by the psychic-pedophile-priest, back in the day. Yep! Just take that in for a second! Given the opportunity to portray two homosexual characters, The X-Files goes with a murderous (literal) axe-grinding creep and guy who was abused by a priest and now is a gender-confused Frankenstein. Take that, The Celluloid Closet!
Also Skinner shows up, but only in the last twenty minutes. And by then it is just, there are all these body parts and the women are being kept in dog kennels and yeah okay fine Scully saves Mulder and then Skinner cradles him in his arms. Then Mulder and Scully reunite, he promises to walk out of the darkness, and in a post-credits sequence you see them in a boat, in bathing suits, in bright sunlight, but. It’s too late! The hope is gone! Except for one hope—my hope, my last hope—which is that they keep rowing. And never, ever stop.