Over the course of nine seasons and 2 feature films, The X-Files transcended its cult status, becoming a phenomenon and cultural touchstone. With a new series on the way, special agent Rick Shingler has accepted the assignment to rewatch the entire series from the beginning and provide detailed reports about his findings. Come with us now, as we complete our exploration of the mysteries of the complete X-Files. The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008) (w: Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz/d: Chris Carter) The critics love to dogpile on this movie, and I struggle to see a legitimate reason. Chris Carter’s biggest misstep was that he completely failed to make a summer event franchise movie. And, speaking as a fan, I don’t have any problem with that. I’m sure the pencil pushers at 20th Century Fox have a hard time seeing things the same way, but they need to keep those giant flood lights lit on the logo, don’t they? Still and all, the release of this movie was, frankly, mishandled. Nevermind that it was released in the shadow of the previous week’s The Dark Knight, which would continue to cast a long shadow from its top spot in the box office for two more weeks after I Want to Believe. One can’t help but think that no one at Fox bothered to check in and find out what Chris Carter was doing all the way up in Vancouver. The studio tried to prop this movie up as a summer tent-pole blockbuster, and it simply is not that film. Not by a long shot. It is a dark, somber thriller wrapped around a meditation on the nature of faith set in a snow-swept landscape. The performances are subtle and quietly understated. The darkened filters on the cameras make you want to put on a sweater when you’re watching, even if it had been the middle of the summer outside the theater doors. There are no giant robots, no world-shaking explosions, and no blistering high-speed car chases. It takes great care to present its story, even while hinting at deeper nuanced themes. In short, this is not a popcorn movie. This is a film for a midwinter’s night. It’s an award season buzz-generator. Gillian’s performance, the cinematography, the score, and the pacing of the story have all been given short shrift since the release. An FBI agent named Monica Bannan is investigating a series of missing person cases in western Virginia when she is confronted by two men. She attempts to defend herself, but she is overcome. When a task force led by ASAC Dakota Whitney and Special Agent Mosely Drummy arrives later to search for her, they are led to the severed arm of one of her attackers buried in the ice. The next morning, Dr. Dana Scully is meeting with the administration of the Our Lady of Sorrows hospital where she discusses the continuing care for her patient. Young Christian Fearon suffers from Sandhoff disease, a degenerative disorder that destroys the nerve cells in the brain and spinal column. The administration is ready to give up on Christian’s treatments. Scully, however, is still Scully and assures the boy and his family that they are going to continue their tests. As she finishes speaking with the family she is approached by Agent Drummy, who asks her to contact Fox Mulder for him. She tries to remain dodgy about her association with Mulder, but Drummy insists that an FBI agent’s life may depend upon Mulder’s help. At the end of her day, she drives home to the remote house she shares with Mulder. When she tells him about her conversation with Agent Drummy earlier in the day, he laughs it off as an attempt to flush him out. He’s a wanted man, after all. She tells him that they are offering to clear up the trouble between him and the FBI if he’ll help them with their current case. After a bit of carefully balanced ego-stroking and appealing to his sense of boredom, Scully convinces him to help. He insists that she come with him, though. In the FBI corridors, Mulder and Scully are met with hushed whispers and more than a few stares. They are quickly introduced to Agent Whitney, who is leading the investigation into the disappearance of Agent Bannan. She has been working with a self-proclaimed psychic, who has led them to their most recent clues. Father Joseph Fitzpatrick Crissman claims that God is filling his head with visions of these crimes as a sort of penance for the actions which led to his defrocking. Specifically, he had molested thirty-seven altar boys during his time as a priest. Once they’re all introduced, they get word of another woman’s disappearance. This one had been run off the road and taken from her car. Father Joe is called to help them look again, and he leads them to a frozen field littered with human body parts. As an added bonus, Father Joe cries bloody tears on the scene. Clues in the newest victim’s car eventually lead them to an organ transporter named Janke Dacyshyn, whose husband, Franz Tomczeszyn, was one of the thirty-seven boys from Father Joe’s list, coincidentally. They raid the organ donor bank where Dacyshyn works, but he escapes. In the fracas, Agent Bannan’s severed head is found. Mulder and Agent Whitney follow Dacyshyn out of the facility and to a construction site. Agent Whitney dies when their prey pushes her down an elevator shaft. Back at Our Lady of Sorrows, Scully is meeting resistance from the administration as well as the parents of her patient. She wants to continue his treatment using stem cell therapy, but the church which keeps the lights lit and the pinging things making pinging sounds at OL of S have a fundamental problem with all things stem cell. It would seem Christian is being transferred out of her care and into a hospice facility, leaving his care and treatment essentially in God’s hands. At home, Mulder indelicately points out that young Christian is approximately the same age as their own son William whom Scully had felt compelled to give up for adoption six years earlier as a means of protecting him from UFO cultists who saw the baby as a fulfillment of an end-time prophecy. She knows that Christian is being sent to hospice to die, and she can’t do anything about it. Scully, realizing that the last thing Mulder needs is to risk his life with a case like this, mobilizes and goes to see Father Joe in an effort to get to the bottom of his connection to the case. Without informing him that Agent Bannan’s head had been recovered during the raid, Scully listens as Father Joe tells her that the missing agent is still alive. Scully knows that when it comes to psychics, there are misses and then there are misses. Her skeptic slips out along with her disgust at Father Joe’s crimes against the innocent. As they talk, she finds herself confessing to the former priest, which really pisses her off. Mulder has pursued his own investigation to a farm store in the vicinity of the abductions. There was a trace of animal tranquilizer in the human remains that have been recovered, and Mulder just can’t help but go off on his own. His visit to the store coincides with that of Dacyshyn. He waits for the man to leave and follows. Unfortunately, Dacyshyn realizes he’s being followed by the only other vehicle on the snow-swept road. Equally unfortunately is the fact that Dacyshyn’s truck is considerably bigger than Scully’s car. Mulder and the car are pushed off the edge of the road and into a ravine. Mulder recovers and clambers out of the vehicle. He’s injured, but follows the trail of the truck to a fenced compound. After encountering a two-headed dog, he sneaks into the converted barn at the center of the compound. Inside, he finds what Dacyshyn has been doing. His husband Tomczeszyn is dying and he is trying to swap his good parts with the borrowed parts of the abducted women. Which is pretty weird, from a gender-identity perspective, right? I mean, does Tomczeszyn identify as a woman, and his husband is carrying out his wishes? Or is Dacyshyn the one responsible here? Maybe his predilections have shifted, so that when Tomczeszyn comes out of the final surgery, hubby’ll have to say “Oh, hey, my bad. Still, you have a nice rack now, don’t you think? Wanna make out?” Father Joe’s sense that Agent Bannan was still alive is not entirely incorrect, as parts of her body have been used to build this new body for The Bride of Dacyshyn. Whatever the case, Tomczeszyn’s severed (but still alive) head is on ice awaiting the last stage of surgery, during which it will be attached to the torso of the last victim. This is the side-project to the black market organ trafficking organization which the team of doctors has been operating from this compound. Of course, Mulder gets caught. Mulder always gets caught in these situations. Meanwhile, Scully has called in the big guns. She and Walter Skinner find her car at the bottom of the ravine and travel on along the road looking for signs of Mulder. Following a hunch, Scully discovers the lane leading back to the compound. Dacyshyn is preparing to put Mulder’s head on the chopping block (literally), but Skinner’s well-timed gunshot prevents him from swinging the axe. Inside the barn, Skinner stops the operation before the second victim’s head can be removed to make way for Tomczeszyn’s. Scully informs Mulder later that Father Joe died at the same moment Tomczeszyn’s life support cut off the power that was keeping his head alive for the transplant. Because of their earlier contact, Mulder surmises that their lives were linked through psychic visions. Then Mulder and Scully go on a vacation to someplace sunny and tropical. Hey, it’s not like he’s a fugitive anymore, right? Speaking as a fan of nearly two and a half decades (wow, really?), a sometime critic, and frequent advocate for this franchise, even I have to admit that every once in a while this series would start to seem sort of like if Sting were to release a sex tape. Sometimes it begins to feel like it’s been going on for just a little too long, but everyone you’re looking at is quite beautiful. Then, just when you think you’re finally going to get that money shot you’ve been waiting for everything goes tantric and the good stuff gets internalized. And that’s more or less what we got with this particular installment. Even though that sounds like a complaint, it really isn’t. The value of this sort of story is in the journey, not the destination. Even though that sounds like a fortune cookie, sometimes the clichés become cliché because they’re true enough to bear repeating. With that said, I honestly only have one problem with this film. It’s really a rather minor scrutiny, yet it poses a challenge to a fundamental basis of this story’s events. Namely, I can’t find a way to wrap my head around the argument Agent Whitney could have used to justify the deal that is offered Mulder to bring him out of exile. Let’s pause to rewind five or six years. When we last saw Mulder and Scully, they were on the run after escaping a military stockade where he was being held awaiting death by lethal injection, a judgment passed after sitting through a kangaroo court over his alleged murder of a marine. A marine who, by the way, turned up after the escape in pursuit of Mulder and Scully, at which time he was to be actually killed by exposure to a large deposit of magnetite, the sole Achilles heel of alien/human hybridized super soldiers in the world of the X-Files. Got all that? The series had ended in 2002 with Mulder and Scully departing for the unknown world at large, trying to remain one step ahead of the government that was now pursuing them. I realize that six years is quite a long time, and that it’s probable that Kersh, Skinner, possibly Doggett and even Reyes could have been instrumental in assuring that the manhunt for Fox Mulder was eventually mothballed. I can accept that Scully’s role as an accomplice in his escape could have been ignored, allowing her to openly reenter the medical profession. Heck, it’s even possible that a relatively small Catholic hospital like the one where she practices might serve as something of an insular place where she can go about her business largely unnoticed by the world at large. But the fact remains that Mulder was found guilty of the murder of a Marine while breaking into a high-security facility. I’m no lawyer, but I feel safe saying that the statute of limitations on murder and treason is considerably longer than six years. But Agent Whitney brokered a deal for him, right? I’ll accept that. Except the reason for brokering the deal just doesn’t jive for me. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of anything about this case to warrant a justifiable need for the federal government to exonerate the guy. Sure, the investigation has resorted to dealing with a psychic in the hopes of cracking the case, and Mulder has a history of handling such folks. But Father Joe is not proving that unmanageable for them, is he? It’s not like we’re dealing with another Luther Lee Boggs, who would be playing them all against his own agenda. At worst, working with Father Joe is probably distasteful. It would be difficult to work alongside someone with his particular predilections. But even so, he seems to be cooperating with them to the best of his abilities. What feels unclear and slightly contrived to me is Agent Whitney’s need to flush Mulder out of exile to babysit their pet psychic. I understand that she’s something of a fan and was likely thrilled to contrive an opportunity to meet this whispered legend of the bureau. And maybe enough time had passed that the other members of the tribunal which tried and passed judgment on the former agent just didn’t care anymore. They all knew it was a trumped-up charge, and have had to live with their own consciences for the last few years over their respective roles in the attempted destruction of this dedicated investigator. The super soldiers who had regarded his work as threatening have most assuredly moved far enough forward with their plans that they would no longer regard this fallen agent as intimidating. I suppose it’s possible to explain this element away, but it rather nags at me and I just wish a line or two had been offered by way of justification. Jeez, I’m starting to sound like one of those professional haters. You know, those sharks that see a low-grossing opening weekend as chummed waters and proceed to try to drag it further under until its failure is assured? Yeah, I sort of hate those sharks. I never trust a critic who claims to consider any work entirely upon its own merits. And with all the holdups that beleaguered this production, the waters were well and truly chummed before a single screening ever even happened. For years we had heard from the lips of Duchovny, Anderson, and Carter that everyone was merely biding their time until they could reopen the X-Files. Carter had wanted to get to work as soon as the ninth season wrapped for a release sometime in 2003. But it kept getting held up. Inexplicably. After a couple of years, the stars’ schedules began to suggest that it was never meant to be. The promises and assurances started feeling hollow. This writer was still making a wish every time the clock read 10:13, but even this hopeless optimist was beginning to lose faith by the time the announcement of a release date was finally made official. At long last, we would get to delve back into this shadowy labyrinth that would lead to the extraterrestrial colonization of the planet. After all, that deadline of December 22, 2012 which Mulder read in a high-security bunker was beginning to loom large. But then, Carter began insisting that this would be a completely stand-alone monster-of-the-week story. And he delivered exactly what he had promised. Watching it now in retrospect and with the promise of a new event miniseries impending, it is much easier to sit back and enjoy it for the engorged X-Files episode that it is. At the time of its release, however, the lack of advancement in the show’s mythology was a bit harder to swallow. As was stated above, three or four lines of dialogue acknowledging the impending colonization date or even a throwaway comment about super soldier would have gone a long way to reassure the long-time fans. But it’s understandable that Carter wanted to create as much distance from the show’s complex mythology as possible in order to allow this story to stand on its own. After all, there were some seasons of the series where we would go through months’ worth of episodes without any sign of a continuation of the saga of the black oil, government experimentation, the Syndicate, or even a UFO flyby. Heck, a stand-alone vampire story snugged itself in the middle of the run of episodes when Scully had been abducted and Mulder was furiously searching for her. This was a show that was famous for breaking away from its arching episodic story to hunt for monsters with a sometimes frustrating frequency. And then there’s the story. Sure, on the surface it enters into gory B-movie territory by the end. But I honestly think that the Bride of Frankenstein story was secondary to the actual story Carter and Spotnitz set out to tell. With Mulder and Scully’s relationship finally out in the open, it was necessary to dedicate some time to exploring it. The years of seclusion have taken a toll on the passion that used to make Walter Skinner clear his throat uncomfortably whenever he was in a room with them. Mulder’s boredom in his exile is every bit as honest as Scully’s concern for him. They have settled into a domestic life wherein she gets up and goes to work every day while he stays at home and lumbers around his cave. The call from Agent Whitney is like a deep sigh of relief for both of them. At least until Mulder realizes how much he relies on Scully to be there backing him up. Scully, on the other hand, faces a twofold inner crisis. For one, her scientific acumen falls into direct confrontation with the trappings of her faith. It’s an interesting dilemma for her. As a scientist and medical doctor practicing in a Catholic Hospital, her suggestion of stem cell therapies as the only option to save her patient is an open defiance of Rome’s stance on the subject, which considers such research to be directly related to abortion and the destruction of the innocent. The other side of her crisis actually serves as a reflection of the first. Encountering Father Joe, she finds a man of faith, a priest no less, who maintains that faith despite surrendering to his incredibly harmful desires which in turn endangered the lives and well-being of innocent children. Over the course of seven seasons of the X-Files (it wasn’t really dealt with in the final two seasons, so I’m not counting them), Mulder and Scully found their individual faiths to be tested, fractured, broken, and reintegrated time and again. Mulder’s faith in the existence of extraterrestrials utterly fell apart at one point in the series. Scully’s faith in science, often at odds with her more traditional Catholic faith, didn’t waver nearly as much as it allowed extra space for the extraordinarily reason-defying things to which she kept being exposed. Her religion would remain a source of comfort for her, but even it lapsed into little more than an icon hanging from her neck at times. Through it all, these two people found each other despite their wildly varying ideologies. As their bond grew, they pulled together bits and pieces of their individual beliefs to roughly stitch together a common ground. Sort of like how that guy was stitching together his love with bits and pieces he had collected. Only without the creepy experimentation and killing innocent people. In the end, The X-Files: I Want to Believe is worth a second visit, even if you were disappointed the first time around. It’s quiet and as big summer blockbusters go, might have been a bit of a misfire on Carter’s part. But if one takes the time to appreciate the broader strokes being made, it is a worthy addition to the expanding X-Files canon. See larger image X-files Fight+believ Bd Df-sac [Blu-ray] Includes: X-Files the Future and X-Files I want to Believe. New From: $14.66 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.