Anyone who is a fan of the X-Files television series knows that the story revolved around a handful of major themes. They would have an alien abduction one, then a Scully Catholic faith one, then a random crime mystery, then back to the abductions, and round and round it would go. X: Files I Want to Believe turns out to be, surprise surprise, a Scully one, much more about faith, religion, science and love. Unfortunately for the movie and despite director Chris Carter’s daring departure, the ongoing saga of Fox Mulder’s alien obsession is still the thing the show, and now the movie, is most known for.
That made the X-Files movie a bit of a bummer for fans anticipating paranoia amid the stars. What they got instead was a love story between Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a gritty crime thriller, and another chapter in the ongoing struggle of Scully’s faith in God. That is why the new movie is so odd – it is much more a tribute to Scully, a character who had been mostly relegated to the sidelines while Mulder chased down his own obsessions.
Carter riffs on this a bit by having Scully and Mulder work this tension out in their own relationship. Scully has decided she doesn’t want the darkness in her life anymore, while Mulder can’t stop himself from pursuing that which can’t be explained.
The plot that is obsessing Mulder this time around involves a former pedophile priest who is suddenly psychic and is telling the FBI where the bodies are buried. Literally. One agent (Amanda Peet) enlists a reluctant Mulder’s help in finding a missing agent. Scully gets dragged back in and before you know it they are investigating a complex string of mysterious killings.
Meanwhile, Scully has become a doctor at a Catholic hospital and she’s trying to save the life of a terminal patient she adores. The head of the hospital wants her to leave it in God’s hands but Scully knows that science holds the answer. She wrestles with her dueling instincts, just as she did on the TV series.
It is quite unusual for a sequel to be made that doesn’t have an easy formula attached to it. That made this film an extremely tough sell but you still have to admire the kind of risk-taking involved. Even still, there is something wanting.
The X-Files was one of the best crime/Sci Fi dramas ever put on television. Each and every episode, but especially the early ones, have stood the test of time; the scary ones are still scary, the sad ones are still sad. Much of the magic from the show simply doesn’t translate into a big screen format, perhaps because it must extend longer than the usual hour.
Nonetheless, it’s difficult not to appreciate the film if you’re a true fan of the series and you care about Scully’s journey as much as Mulder’s. Here, she seems to be questioning her own once solid faith in light of such monumental cracks in the walls of Catholicism of late – pedophile priests and the banning of stem cell research; Scully is, above all, a doctor and a scientist. The film could have stirred up some controversy if anyone out there had been paying attention. It definitely could have used the publicity.