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
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