The X-Files: Fight The Future
A Major Motion Picture
US Release Date: June 19, 1998
Fight the Future might be better named Sheesh, Hubris, You Guys! A real-live-movie-film premiering between seasons 5 and 6 of The X-Files—what is that! What is that at all, a movie that airs during the run of a hit television program? A film that will both satisfy hardcore fans and entertain the average Joe Popcorn, you had to be a brave and bold showrunner to think that would work. And with so many expectations riding on this thing, it’s a miracle that Fight the Future holds up as well as it does.
Chris Carter wrote the script, crafting a story that is at times almost deliriously mytharc-y. X-Files newbies might not always follow the movie’s twists and turns, but honestly at this point, even hardcore fans have a tough time keeping up. So, so what if the audience zones out for a few minutes? At least it’s a nice-to-look-at movie filmed in not-Vancouver, where every scene is not dogged by rain and shadows. In the show’s five seasons, Carter has figured out how far an audience will bend before it breaks, and in Fight the Future he’s not shy about using what he’s learned.
So the plot is like this, there’s, once upon a time in the ice age, an alien and a caveman get trapped in a cave underground. In the present day, a kid falls into that same cave. Some firemen go after him and nobody comes out alive. FEMA arrives on the scene in the name of containing a virus, but what is actually going on—and what the Consortium slowly figures out, the horror dawning on their ragged faces—is that inside this cave in Texas is a time capsule, a glimpse of the future. That alien, once trapped, infected the caveman with its black-oil-life-force, gestating a brand new life form inside the furry human’s body.
Prior to all of this, the Consortium thought that the black oil was just used to possess a host, and that the aliens’ ultimate goal was just to hang out on Earth (I guess), controlling human bodies. The Consortium also thought that the various bargains they’d struck with the aliens were saving humanity. For instance, all that alien-human hybrid business? That was the Consortium trying to create a new race so that some of humanity would survive, un-possessed by the oil (something the aliens agreed to, apparently). The vaccine that the Russians created now takes on a new significance. It’s not just a means of resisting alien control, it’s a means of resisting a complete alien colonization.
This dot-connecting info-dump is delivered to Mulder by the Well-Manicured Man, moments before the Well-Manicured Man is blown up in a car (the bomb presumably placed by Consortium flunkies who didn’t like how agitated the Well-Manicured Man got when he realized how futile the Consortium’s bargains have thus far been). This scene is a perfect expression of Fight the Future‘s MO: yes, this movie has information to give true X-Philes, but it is gonna do it in a small, compressed space. And then it is going to blow something up. Everybody wins! The movie’s biggest set pieces are designed to buffer a new audience from thread-tying and breadcrumb-leaving.
For the most part, it works. Fight the Future is like the Broadway musical version of the show, with favorite themes trumped up and all of the familiar characters featured in just-so ways. (The Cigarette-Smoking Man: lighting a cigarette and glowering! The Lone Gunmen: standing by Mulder’s hospital bed, quips and exposition at the ready!) The scene in which Mulder and Scully are introduced is a clever little distillation of their entire relationship. They’ve been put on bomb squad duty, only Mulder’s got a hunch they’ve been searching the wrong building. Scully’s going on about facts and figures, Mulder is chewing sunflower seeds. They laugh at each other and acknowledge each other’s strengths. Then Scully plays a charming little trick on her partner so we know she’s not all that bad, and Mulder makes a joke at his own expense.
The only way this doesn’t really work, is, well. What’s been one of the show’s most dominant and not-so-fun motifs? Scully’s abduction. Scully as Mulder’s Achilles heel, as the one thing he can’t live without, as, if you take her away from him then it shows him what’s really at stake. So that happens in Fight the Future. A new Consortium thug named Strughold orders it, and then it happens, although the way it happens is weirdly indirect. She doesn’t get abducted at gunpoint, or taken by aliens, no, instead, she gets stung by a bee.
Because right, the bees. The other thing. The bees that we’ve seen before and that we know are linked to the Consortium’s various hybrid/immunization projects, they show up here in a gloriously lovely big screen scene, a cornfield in a desert set up so that the bees, the bees can live and breed there. Infected by the black-oil-virus, ready to be turned on the population. Scully gets stung by one of the bees in a scene that might be better named “Chris Carter Laughs To Himself Forever”—after being reassigned to Salt Lake City, she turns in her resignation and goes to Mulder’s apartment to tell him so. At first he’s angry, but then he sees how upset she is, and things get tender, and he’s totally about to kiss her and a damn bee crawls out of Scully’s collar and stings her. And she goes down. Infected, taken from him, unkissed.
It’s interesting to note that the movie was primarily filmed before Season 5 aired, with pickups and reshoots occurring throughout the season (did you miss Duchovny in “Christmas Carol” or Anderson in “Unusual Suspects”?). It’s fun, watching the movie, to speculate on how the film’s ongoing production might have affected the writing of the season’s later episodes. Scully’s jealousy of Diana Fowley seemed like a weird choice in “The End,” but it does support the exhaustion and regret that defines Anderson’s performance in Fight the Future. To her great credit, she manages to elevate this sad old story, giving everyone the sniffles as she confesses to Mulder that she feels as though she’s done nothing but hold him back.
The movie’s final set piece is totally the most baffling, a thing where Mulder travels to Antarctica to save Scully from some weird alien lab that the Cigarette-Smoking Man appears to be sort of in charge of. (Apparently burning the X-Files to bits did wonders for his career.) Inside the lab are pods; inside the pods are humans, infected by the black oil. Inside some of the pods are gestating aliens – which is confusing, actually, does that mean the Cigarette-Smoking Man knew the whole time that the black oil could do this? Because he seems really comfortable here, and the place seems to be loaded with mutating life forms. So maybe he does know?
Or, I don’t know, at this point in the movie you’re supposed to be entirely focused on the fact that Mulder is trying to save Scully, and he’s doing it really impossibly well, and he zaps her with the vaccine (totally not how vaccines work! Oh well!) and she gets better and they crawl out alive, barely. And all the evidence gets buried the end, and the X-Files get re-opened, and see? See that could have been a lot worse. It was actually sort of fun. Do you have any Sno-Caps left?