X marks the rot

I Want to Be­lieve is a dull fol­low-up to a se­ries long past its sell-by date, writes Don­ald Clarke THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BE­LIEVE Di­rected by Chris Carter. Star­ring David Du­chovny, Gil­lian An­der­son, Xz­ibit, Amanda Peet, Billy Con­nolly

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

15A cert, gen re­lease, 105 min ‘I CAN’T look into the dark­ness any more,” Gil­lian An­der­son whinges to­wards the close of the sec­ond X-Files movie. I seem to re­mem­ber say­ing some­thing sim­i­lar about 10 years ago.

Af­ter the first five or six years of the TV se­ries, it be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to con­tin­u­ing squint­ing at that soberly dressed cou­ple mut­ter­ing to one an­other in those ill-lit cor­ri­dors. “Inuit war­riors be­lieved that the spir­its of slain sea-li­ons came back in the form of tap-danc­ing wolves,” David Du­chovny whis­pered while Gil­lian cast her eyes to heaven. You re­mem­ber how it was.

When it first ap­peared, The X-Files looked as if it might come to de­fine the mid-1990s Zeit­geist, but, in an irony that Mul­der would see as sus­pi­cious and Scully would dis­miss as in­signif­i­cant, the show’s ram­pant para­noia and ob­ses­sion with con­spir­a­cies ac­tu­ally seem more at­tuned to the un­cer­tain era that has fol­lowed Septem­ber 11th, 2001.

Too at­tuned, per­haps. Chris Carter, the cre­ator of the se­ries, has ar­gued that the bruis­ing re­al­ity of the at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­tre and the Pen­tagon made the show’s more fan­tas­tic spec­u­la­tions seem a tad ob­so­lete. “We ended at the right time. Things had changed af­ter 9/11,” he said re­cently. “But now the mood is right once more.”

Un­hap­pily, I Want to Be­lieve, which ar­rives a full decade af­ter the first big-screen re­lease, turns out to be a big, fat bore. Carter, tak­ing hold of the di­rec­tor’s mega­phone one more time, has elected to tackle the sort of ho-hum mys­tery that would barely pass muster as the ba­sis for a mid-sea­son episode of the se­ries. There are no aliens, ghosts, were­wolves or war­locks. There is a psy­chic priest, but even he is un­re­mark­able enough to be played by Billy Con­nolly.

The plot sees An­der­son’s Scully, still a scep­ti­cal physi­cian, and Du­chovny’s Mul­der, still keen to be­lieve, but now bearded and un­em­ployed, be­ing in­vited by the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate Fa­ther Con­nolly’s dis­cov­ery of a sev­ered limb. As you may have guessed, Scully thinks the old codger – a con­victed pae­dophile – has inside knowl­edge, whereas Mul­der is will­ing to ad­mit the pos­si­bil­ity of a para­nor­mal ex­pla­na­tion. “Relics from an­cient Cale­do­nia tell of a bearded wise man – The Big Yin to his fol­low­ers – who will spread prophe­cies and jobby jokes through­out the land,” he doesn’t quite say.

As events progress and the mut­ter­ing in cor­ri­dors gets ever more heated, it be­comes clear that a con­spir­acy is afoot to thieve the or­gans of cit­i­zens with a par­tic­u­lar blood group. Doesn’t this sound more like a case for Quincy?

Any­way, X-Files fa­nat­ics will en­counter a few soapy twists to flesh out the char­ac­ters’ bi­ogra­phies and will en­joy watch­ing the un­de­ni­able slow­burn­ing chem­istry be­tween the leads be­ing briefly reignited. The un­aligned will, how­ever, dis­cover lit­tle here to win them over.

In­deed, if you come to I Want to Be­lieve as an X-Files vir­gin – or as some­body who gave up af­ter the first few se­ries – you may be some­what puz­zled by the amount of baloney Scully is now pre­pared to tol­er­ate.

The ginger sour­puss would, it is true, oc­ca­sion­ally mut­ter some­thing about God, and she has had the odd en­counter with ap­par­ent mir­a­cles. But, now work­ing in a Catholic hospi­tal, she seems on the point of fully em­brac­ing the faith of her fa­thers. Mel Gib­son might not en­joy Dana Scully’s in­so­lence to­wards the clergy, but he would, surely, wel­come her un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally open at­ti­tude to a be­lief sys­tem that cares lit­tle for proof or rigour.

Mind you, I Want to Be­lieve does find time to make an ar­gu­ment in favour of stem-cell re­search. So, if you’re a right-wing crack­pot, you might like to be­gin or­gan­is­ing your boy­cott right away.

As scary as it gets: Billy Con­nolly in The X-Files: I Want to Be­lieve

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