I want to believe, too, but this movie did not make it happen. Six years after the record-breaking television series ended its run, this attempt to carry the franchise forward is unlikely to make any new fans or entirely satisfy the old ones.
The series made an advantage out of the disadvantages of television budgets and technology by recognizing that it is scarier to leave a good deal to the imagination than to give too much away. By deftly allowing the audience to project its own fears onto the show’s ambiguities, it tapped into its era’s skepticism and paranoia.
But its success means that expectations will be high, and so this movie disappoints with its familiarity and by simply giving too much away in both the dialogue and plot.
It still charts its course between doubt and faith. Five years have gone by and both Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have left the FBI. Scully is practicing medicine at a Catholic Hospital called Our Lady of Sorrows, desperately trying to save a boy dying of a rare disease. The FBI asks her to find Mulder because an agent’s life is at stake. His investigation into the paranormal has been discredited and he is living as a recluse, clipping out newspaper stories, but he and Scully are persuaded to come back to help the FBI determine whether a priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly) is really having psychic visions about the abduction of the missing agent or whether he is faking, delusional, or a perpetrator. Mulder thinks Father Joe is worth listening to, but Scully does not because of her natural skepticism and her revulsion at his record of child abuse. Still, as another woman disappears and Father Joe’s comments about the case — and one to Scully herself about not giving up — seem to have meaning, they continue to rely on him.
The question of giving up is a theme throughout the movie as several characters have to decide when future effort is pointless or too painful. But the theme is pounded too hard and too often — we end up wishing the film-makers would just give up themselves and move on to something else.
Duchovny and Anderson are magnetic personalities and gifted performers with great chemistry. A scene where they snuggle together under the covers has a welcome natural vibe that keeps us rooting for them. (Be sure to stay all the way through the credits for some additional insights.) There are some striking visuals, particularly in the first scene, with a row of black-suited FBI agents crossing a vast snowy field, stamping with poles as they follow Father Joe, in search of a clue. But part of what made the series work was the sense that the plots were almost or even about-to-be possible. This one is at the same time too pedestrian and too far-fetched. It can coast on the affection of its devoted fans, but won’t make believers out of anyone.
Parents should know that this film has violence with graphic and very grisly images (severed limbs, wounds), guns, car crashes, character impaled, character is a convicted pedophile and there are references to child sexual abuse, some innuendo, reference to death of children, serial killers, surgery, characters injured and killed, disturbing themes, and some strong language. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of faith but the clergy in the film are not the good guys.
Family discussion: Different characters have to decide when or if they will give up in this film. What factors do they consider in helping them make those choices? Be sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits and discuss what you think about the final image.
If you like this, try the “X-Files” and “Lost” television series.