Surprisingly well, actually. It is a far cry from the megabucks 1997 movie- there are no aliens, no conspiracy, no spaceships, and not one bit of the scale of that earlier film. What we have here is an old fashioned X-Files caper that is unashamedly an extended TV episode. Its extremely low key storyline and minimal set pieces and effects explain why it took such a short time to make (It was only shot in December, and post was completed quickly on it). Some are yelling that it is too subdued, too small scale, but I say that this is a necessary thing to reintroduce the characters of Mulder and Scully to the current audience.
The story, involving a missing FBI agent, stolen body parts and a psychic priest with a terrible past (played to unsettling effect by an astonishingly creepy Billy Connolly), is secondary to the matter of getting the two leads back together for another outing and to set up the third film that |Chris Carter has talked about, intended for release in 2012 and featuring a full scale alien invasion. For now we have I Want To Believe, and for those of us who loved the standalone classics of the series, this is a welcome return to form. It is a self contained and gripping tale that not only serves as a fitting epilogue to the series, but also sets us up well for another adventure.
Interaction between the two leads is strong, although I’m not sure how Gillian Anderson coped with David Duchovny’s comedy beard for the first half an hour of the film. The beard deserves its own film. That aside, it is great to catch up with the characters’ lives after the end of the big X-Files arc and have them caught up in an old school runaround in search of a missing FBI agent who may be fair game for medical experimentation.
There are a number of fan pleasing moments, but I do think that the piece is so very low key and minimalist that it will turn off a good portion of moviegoers who wanted to see spectacle instead of suspense. Billy Connolly’s Father Joe character is an uncomfortable addition to the cast, but it is that discomfort that works in his favour and makes him such an uneasy presence.
Chris Carter’s direction is a little conservative- this really does feel like an episode of the early X-Files era put onto the big screen, but that works here. The world isn’t at stake, the effects shots that there are tend to be suggested rather than huge money shots, which is also great to see in this age of overblown CG epics. The comparatively tiny budget has been used here to secure a sterling cast (even Xzibit is pretty good) and bring us a nicely rounded, nicely handled story that is resolved tidily and brings the notion of the two investigators Mulder and Scully back into the public consciousness with dignity and surprisingly little fanfare. An enjoyable return for two much loved genre icons. I just hope it does well enough to warrant the production of the next one. Thankfully, with such a small budget for this one, it should gross enough for that to happen.
Incidentally, I picked up the soundtrack album after getting out of the cinema- Mark Snow’s score for the movie is really, really good. Unkle’s retooling of the X-Files theme (which plays over the closing credits) is great, and adds some real majesty to those six immortal notes.