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The X-Files: I Want to Believe (Chris Carter, 2008)


     Chris Carterís The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the second feature film based on his once-popular television series, fails to provide a premise gripping enough to convince people that this franchise needs to make a comeback. Itís hard not to think about the film in commercial terms, because itís so crassly designed, from the ground up, to exploit whatever residual audience goodwill might still exist toward the brand. Clearly made on the cheap, with seemingly little commitment on any creative level, the movie feels like an obligatory bore. The main problem is that nothing seems to be at stake here. The actors arenít especially invested in the material, and despite the thematic weight present (the film is primarily concerned with faith and death), the urgency alluded to in the subtitle never materializes as the action unfolds. The plot comes off like a watered-down Silence of the Lambs, as potentially offensive as that film ever was, but with little of its psychological texture or ability to shock (the PG-13 rating is a liability, to be sure). What results is a movie that feels utterly unnecessary. It is merely unambitious product created to cater to a fanbase, and while that might appease some of them, it leaves the rest of the audience out in the cold.


     I Want to Believe doesnít betray the spirit of the television series that spawned it. Unfortunately, since The X-Files was originated in the early 1990s, the resulting film feels hopelessly antiquated. Pathetic attempts to make the series seem relevant are introduced. Thereís a coy reference to President Bush, and a plot that concerns both stem-cell research and gay marriage. The movie doesnít spin this topicality into any sort of creepy conspiracy, though. Its attempts to step out of its comfort zone are merely desperate. Worse yet, since Carter is a weak director, he is never able to turn this television spin-off into something that feels cinematic. The first X-Files movie had an impressive sense of scope. It told a story that seemed bigger than most television shows would dare. This entry in the series is more intimate, but also far less compelling. Its snow-draped setting is nondescript, and its mysteries are garden variety. I want to believe this latest X-Files film was created for a reason other than financial reward, but I find it difficult to guess at what that reason might have been.



Jeremy Heilman