The X-Files: Fight the Future
Director(s): Rob Bowman
Writer(s): Chris Carter
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jun 19, 1998 - Wide
It’s amazing the questions people ask about movies. You would think that the highly-anticipated The X-Files: Fight the Future would generate a slew of meaty questions: What’s the true story of the Cigarette Smoking Man? What happened to Mulder’s sister? How much is the government hiding? What question did I keep getting? Do Mulder and Scully kiss?
Well, I’m not going to answer that here. I will answer “How’s the movie?” though. The X-Files makes a good jump from the small to the big screen. Basically the money ($60 million) and the larger screen size have given director Rob Bowman and writer/producer Chris Carter a bigger playground with better toys. They use these toys in a story that has many nods to their loyal viewers yet still manages to be understood by the casual or first-time viewer. I love The X-Files show, but it rarely squeezes into my schedule on a regular basis. I did not feel lost however.
The film opens with a humdinger of a flashback that shows us one of the first human contacts with an alien. We zip through the years to a small Texas town where government operatives are doing their best to cover up an inexplicable event. FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully would normally be out investigating that sort of happening immediately but instead find themselves helping their fellow FBIers locate a huge bomb in a government building. When the bomb goes off an FBI panel convenes to lay blame somewhere and Mulder and Scully are the prime choices. Facing the possible dissolution of his partnership with Dana, Mulder goes drinking and bumps into Kurtzweil (Martin Landau), an old friend of Mulder’s father and an author of conspiracy books. With the information that he passes on Mulder is propelled into one of his “I’ll tell you when we get there” adventures with Scully. Along the way they bump into such regulars as Skinner, the Cigarette Smoking Man, the Well-Manicured Man, and the Lone Gunmen.
The adventure and its execution is much bigger than we’re used to seeing on the TV series. The show has always been about intelligent, witty writing and what Carter has created here takes the summer action flick a step further. We’re used to exploding cars and giant ships in summer movies, but we’re not used to them having a clear cut sense of purpose that’s backed by the strong beliefs of the producer. There’s talk that the television series may soon be replaced by a series of movies. If this one is any indication, I’m sure the fans will follow along.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have no problem bringing their characters to the silver screen. Perhaps that’s because the show has always been a little more ambitious and stylish than most of the other fare on the tube. The alien-seeking pair also get a chance to stretch emotionally and the film does start to examine the dynamics of their partnership. This isn’t a James Bond flick. The characters are fleshed out with enough history and psychological background that their moves and decisions don’t seem shallow.
Martin Landau has great fun in his role of Kurtzweil, the author of several conspiracy books. As with many of the people that cross the path of Mulder and Scully, Kutzweil’s behaviour balances between the insane and the insightful. Landau achieves that balance very well with a man whose proclamations at times even make Mulder doubt. Blythe Danner, who said “I didn’t think I was cool enough to be in an X-Files movie”, is cool and icy as a no-nonsense FBI official investigating the actions of Mulder and Scully.
The show’s regulars also seem to have made the jump quite well. William B. Davis, as the Cigarette Smoking Man, has the room to be even more sinister than he usually is. He also gets to try and thwart Mulder and Scully with a bigger arsenal of toys and intimidation. John Neville, the Well-Manicured Man, brings a quiet yet powerful performance to the film. My only disappointment was the treatment of The Lone Gunmen, the show’s popular trio of conspiracy buffs. They make little more than a cameo appearance here and given the size of the film you’d think they would have had at least one scene where they could have used their expertise to help Mulder.
The appearance of the film matches the stylishness of the series. We get the extreme close-ups, the lights piercing through the dark, the what’s around the corner settings. Again Bowman and Carter have more money to play with here and they use it to make things more sinister and more incredible. The strength of the series has always been the audience’s belief that something’s out there matched with the hunch that the government is hiding it. With a bigger canvas, Carter has room to show that he believes the government is now a self-sustaining organism, serving itself and not it’s people.
On paper the film looks like a risky proposition. Will the show transfer to the big screen well? Will the core audience, aware of the show’s tics and nuances, be accompanied by enough newcomers to pay the bills? The answer to both of these is yes. As I said earlier the show has always had more wit and intelligence than most other shows. Rob Bowman points out that a movie audience is not a “…prisoner to the distractions of viewing something in your living room.” With more focus from the audience, the film is able to delve deeper into the X-Files mythology and end up with not only a great film but possibly a larger audience for the show in the fall.
Photo © 1998 Twentieth CenturyFox