The X Files - Fight the Future (12)

Directed by Rob Bowman
Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau

The most successful tv drama series of recent years makes the big screen leap fairly well. The trick of any of these sort of movies is to make them accessible to non-regular tv viewers while keeping the devoted fans happy too. The X Files, perhaps more than many series, really does have a serial aspect, or what the producers call a mythology. That is, those episodes that deal with the existance of extraterrestrial intelligence, contact with these ETs, and the government cover up surrounding this contact. Linked with this is the more personal tale of Fox Mulder's sister's disappearece when he was a teenager, and the presence of various shadowy figures that are seeking to keep their secrets from Mulder, Scully and the rest of the world.

Surely just about everyone know that the series and this film is about a pair of FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully who are assigned to the so called, X Files, cases that have some feature that is unexplained, or just downright spooky. Mulder is the believer in things wierd and wonderful, Scully the pragmatist.
As the film open, Mulder and Scully have been re-assigned to the bomb squad and are in Texas when a very big goverment building goes bang. Of course it is not as simple as a bomber. The very first scenes in the film feature a strange entity that looks like a black oil, and enters peoples bodies, swimming across their eyes and making them act strange- regular fans will recognise this phenomenon although the movie SFX are more spectacular. Soon Mulder and Scully are on the trail of the secret behind the explosion, the link to the black oil and the people who are trying to cover it up. As always, Mulder has friends wanting to help- this time it is Dr Kurtzweil(Landau), who seems to be very well informed. Still, there has to be someone to help advance the plot. If you have seen the series, you will have a fair idea how Mulder's sources usually end up! We build to a spectacular climax in a hidden Antarctic research base as Mulder battles to save Scully and uncover the truth.

It is a tricky balance to appeal to all viewers, fans and more casual watchers alike. Producer Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman do a pretty good job, although there are a few clunky exposition scenes necessary to help explain Mulder and Scully's characters. However, the main strength of the film is the characters of Mulder and Scully- as is the case with the series really. In a slight expansion of the tv series, Mulder is allowed to be seen peeing in an alley and using the word shit, while one of Scully's early exclamations is "Jesus, Mulder." Mild profanities that don't get heard on the Fox network! Scully is also a little more playful with Mulder than the buttoned up character on the tv show. And of course, there is that almost-kiss. One of the favourite pastimes of some fans is to watch the UST(unresolved sexual tension) between the two characters. Carter has always resisted any move towards a romance for the agents, and the film teases but also resists- thankfully. Despite that, the bond between Mulder and Scully and the lengths they will go to for each other are part of the appeal.
Plot wise, the film doesn't have any great surprises. The conspiracy is one familiar at least in part to tv fans. The biggest difference is in the more spectacular effects and explosions- you can see the fun the director had with the extra millions. The black oil SFX are far more elaborate and disgusting! The bomb explosions and helicopter chases a further indication of the extra money spent. Production values on the tv show have always been one of the big features. Scully's trendier jacket and haircut are one of the more noticable differences. Familiar characters like Skinner and the Lone Gunmen make brief appearances, the cigarette smoking man is back, and John Neville- the well manicured man- has a much bigger and more sympathetic role. That fine character actor Armin Mueller-Stahl joins the conspiritors and further complicates things, while the ever present cell phones are once again to the fore.

Niggles- Scully gets kidnapped AGAIN!! Seems to be a bit of a cliche that she is the damsel in distress needing Mulder to save her. The plot is like many of the recent mythology tv episodes- a bit pointless because nothing is ever proved, and is never likely to be. If Mulder could prove the existance of ET life then the series would be over. The cliche of them seeing lots but having no proof has become over used. I love Terry O'Quinn, but he barely lasts 5 minutes! Martin Landau's character is a daft one. Why would he have this information and why would he really go to Mulder? The creature that the alien grows into is a horror creation- out of Alien the film. Exciting, yes, but the scenes with the predatory creature are out of place and seem gratuitous to add a bit of violent gore and a more traditional monster chase as seen in many big bucks sci fi movies.
Kudos- the opening scene with a pair of cave men tracking a strange creature through prehistoric snowy Texas is a strong one. Brilliant photography. We are definitely not in gloomy Vancouver, although it is a bit dis-orientating to see Mulder and Scully in sunshine. The story moves fairly briskly, and is full of the usual smart dialogue and sly wit from the two leads that are part of its charm. Duchovny in particular is a big screen natural- his underplaying is perfect, what sometimes seems lack of expression on the TV screen is ideal here. Anderson is also very good and doesn't seem owerawed in her first real film role.

For fans of the show, there are no real revelations, but it is still satisfying to see our heroes up there on the big screen and the expansion of the story and sets is enjoyable. There is not a lot of progress in Mulder's quest for the truth but the Mulder/Scully relationship is slightly opened out and there is the usual load of new questions to be answered- presumably in the next series. The film has been successful in terms of box office takings in the US and UK and around the world, so there will probably be another big screen trip for Mulder and Scully- two of the great tv characters of the 90s. 8/10

August 1998

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