X Files: Fight the Future
It's like a great episode, but much bigger, much longer, and thankfully, at least as much fun.
And 'The X Files: Fight the Future' certainly falls prey to the same temptations that have sunk lesser crossover attempts. Expensive, eye-popping special effects, generous pyrotechnics, exotic locations and elaborate sets.
But fortunately, the bigger budget doesn't detract from the stars and stories fans of the series have grown to love.
The good news is, 'Fight the Future' doesn't waste any time reintroducing the characters or the basic premise of the show, simply picking up where last season's finale left off. That's also the bad news, as 'X Files' virgins will easily be left scratching their heads.
In grand 'X Files' tradition, the story picks up in a neighborhood far, far away. Really far away. 'North Texas -- 32,000 B.C.' reads the dateline. Obviously, we've got a long way to go. For a minute, it looks like a tribute to '2001,' and one fears a twenty-minute prelude of monkeys scratching themselves. Fortunately, Something Big happens quickly, and we're in the present day in no time.
Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Sculley (Gillian Anderson), having been relieved of their alien-chasing duties, are now plain ol' FBI grunts, scurrying around Dallas in those boring blue jackets. They're exchanging the same wry banter, but job satisfaction's at an all-time low.
Then, boom. As usual, they're in the wrong place at the wrong time, and as usual, it's Mulder's fault. But in the ensuing federal investigation, a figure (Martin Landau) steps out of the shadows and tells Mulder that by cool coincidence, he's closer than he's ever been to what the 'X Files' was meant to uncover.
For a film not quite promoted as an action flick, there's more than enough of it to go around. Just as in the series, there's a lot of running, a lot of Mulder yelling 'Scully!' and a lot of Scully yelling 'Mulder!' (Disappointingly, Mulder continues to come to Scully's rescue more than the other way around.) And it seems like someone must have observed, 'Why, what big speakers movie theaters have,' to which the producers replied, 'All the better to startle with!'
By the end of the movie -- which is just a tad longer in coming than it should have been -- Mulder and Scully have criss-crossed the globe, digging up a few answers and a few more questions. But it's a thrilling ride, one that should please most devoted fans and maybe even win over a few new ones.
Episodes in the television series range in tone from gloom and melodrama to hilarious self-parody. 'Fight the Future' definitely aims for the former flavor, and does a decent job.
It's unfortunate, however, that Duchovny and Anderson -- actors who don't exactly get along off the set -- weren't given a better opportunity to shine with the unmistakable chemistry that made the show a hit. Apart from a few token one-liners, our intrepid agents don't crack a smile after the first half hour.
Also woefully ignored are the show's quirky fringe characters, from the übergeek Lone Gunmen to the all-knowing Cancer Guy (William Davis), who only drift in and out while we're left blinded by director Rob Bowman's unsubtle grasp of the dramatic use of light. Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) gets to do little more than look really annoyed.
Finally, the rare moments in which the story does stop so a character can rattle off some background are at best distracting, and at worst, hopelessly confusing.
Yet 'Fight the Future' succeeds as a movie despite these flaws, perhaps because it retains the essential essence of the TV series. Bowman has directed a number of great episodes, and show composer Mark Snow, whose work is essential to the hair-raising drama of the 'X Files,' clearly holds his own even with a considerably larger canvas.
And with its conspiracy theories and ambitious effect sequences, the film is certainly well equipped to do battle with other summer blockbusters. (One scene will undoubtedly unsettle the folks in Oklahoma City.) At times it's part 'Alien,' part 'Star Trek,' part 'Men in Black,' part 'JFK' and even a little bit Alfred Hitchcock.
Oh, right. Do Mulder and Scully kiss? Who dares to ask? Millions want to see their lips locked, even though that would surely be the death of the show. Well, if you must know the answer, it's yes. And no.
You'll have to see 'Fight the Future' to see what I mean.
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