I held off on watching the new X-Files movie, I Want to Believe, as long as I possibly could. Well, not “possibly.” I could have scratched it altogether. But the X-Files are the only bit of pop culture I’ve ever been enthralled enough with – as a fictional world – to call a “fandom,” so I figured I should finally give it a shot.
Besides, it was free.
In short: I should have let it go. It wasn’t a wretched movie, but it was a movie that coasted on the series’ long-dwindled relevance and brought nothing new to the table. Spoilers ahead, of course.
I was never a Mulder/David Duchonvy fan. The character actually irritated me in a deep and abiding way, the same way I’m usually irritated at overconfident men who assume they’re always right and that their worldview is the perfectly correct one. I watched the show for Skinner, and the Lone Gunmen, and the cool monster-of-the-week plots.
And, of course, Scully. Scully is, to my way of thinking, one of the most complex characters in sci-fi television: a medical doctor who heals, an agent who kills. A woman committed to being the rational foil to her whackadoodle partner, despite being whacked upside the head most episodes with a whole lotta supernatural stuff. A committed Catholic who survives a terminal disease. A woman who fell in love with the most inappropriate partner ever – someone who will never stop tilting at windmills – and knows it.
Annnnd, unfortunately, I Want to Believe reduces her to a shrill (and I use that word deliberately) character whose entire job is to drag Mulder down, man. She’s the Bert, he’s the Ernie, and while he says over and over that he can’t do the job without her (and she and Skinner do save his life in the end), Mulder never even considers a speck of compromise. Yes, they end up in a tropical idyll once the credits have rolled – but do you think he’d keep hanging out in a cabana with her if someone told him there was a sea monster off shore? Nooo.
I am not going to get into fangirl details. I am not going to whine about how, um, when the show left off, Doggett had the X-Files. Didn’t he deserve a mention, a cameo? And how Skinner was woefully underutilized, and the FBI agents who looked up Mulder in the first place (played by Amanda Peet and Xzibit) didn’t seem hooked up to the greater FBI as a whole at all. Waah, waah, fanbulance.
But what I will say is that the movie took an interesting plot – a psychic who is also a horrifically damaged human being, a villian who is trying to keep his lover alive at grotesque and murderous cost – and drowned it in tension between two characters who, seriously, know each other better than this by now. Scully’s sub-plot to save her young patient seemed very much like Carter et. al. were trying to give her her own windmill to tilt at, and that could have been interesting – after all, Scully is no stranger to dogged pursuit herself. But it felt disconnected, and made the church she’s always found such refuge in an enemy, without really exploring that at all.
Sloppy writing, boring pacing. A missed opportunity.