Friday, August 15, 2008
A MAN ALONE?
I think I'm the only person in America who saw THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE.
If you've been reading this blog for even the shortest amount of time, you know that I'm a HUGE X-Files fanatic. I've been looking forward to this flick for months. Well, I finally broke away from Eurekaville and caught a late show last week.
I enjoyed the hell (heh) out of this movie. As a fanatic, it gave me exactly what I wanted: intense and intimate scenes of Mulder and Scully six years down the road, some big philosophical questions to ponder, some action, and an awesome ending with a BIG SURPRISE. Like I said, I just DUG this flick. If you are an X-Files fan, go see it.
The performances by David & Gillian are just phenomenal. I read reports that they were having trouble re-connecting with their characters after being away from them for so many years. OK... maybe so. But in the intervening years, they've also become even better actors. This, plus the added time to fine tune performance that comes with making a movie versus the daily-speed-grind of television ultimately equals some acting that just blew me away. Honestly... there's a scene in the middle of the film between Scully and the ex-preacher dude (Billy Connolly) that's just like a master acting class. Awesome stuff.
As for the story itself... it reminded me of something from Season Five or Eight. Very dark. Gruesome. But with a human cause ultimately as the root of the horror. My only big complaint with the film is the fact that the most horrific elements of the plot are not revealed until HALFWAY through the movie. Sorry folks... but in a horror movie, that's a bit too long. That's not to say that there aren't scares early on. In fact, I love the (SPOILER ALERT) opening sequence which intercuts the opening kidnapping with the grisly discover of a body in the snow. There's also a cool action/chase sequence in which (SPOILER ALERT) one of the film's leads dies in a shocking and unexpected manner.
My favorite part of the movie is the film's climax.
(MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD -- YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!!). Not only does Mulder have to be rescued by Scully -- a nice reversal from the first X-Files movie, FIGHT THE FUTURE, in which the exact opposite occurs -- but SKINNER shows up (Yup, the "hyde!") to kick a little ass. And after all this, the big philosophical question raised in the film -- does Scully believe in science or faith -- is left COMPLETELY OPEN. You get to make up your mind as to what action she takes. Now, as a fanatic, I KNOW in my heart what choice she makes and why. But you might think differently. That's the beauty of the ending. It asks US to choose, engaging us as viewers and letting us participate in the drama. As a result, I found myself pleasantly haunted by the film's ending... I just kept thinking about it for days, contemplating all the thoughts that must have gone through Scully's mind before she did what she did.
It's just great, subtle, but emotionally engrossing writing. And yes, I'm jealous.
OK. What if you don't like The X-Files? Will you like this movie?
Unfortunately, I don't think I WANT TO BELIEVE is going to win any new fans. Not now. I think it will fare much better with time, and 5 - 10 years from now folks will see it as a great coda to the series. But right now it's just going to get misunderstood and ravaged by people looking for simple, big-budget, loud, action-oriented Summer fare. Which, BTW, is not an unrealistic expectation. I believe that this film should have been released in October for Halloween, and that doing so would've added another $20 - 30 million to the U.S. box office receipts. That's because it would have given horror fans who can't stand the thought of seeing SAW 5 an intelligent horror alternative. (And no, that's not a knock on the SAW-franchise, because I saw the first one and loved it, and even saw--no pun intended--the second one, too.)
But in the end, none of this matters... because I'm gonna buy this DVD the day it comes out.
So what's my recommendation for the casual viewer?
If you like "arty horror" or Alan J. Pakula flicks, GO SEE IT in theaters. If you're expecting a more traditional horror-action movie, wait to catch it on DVD where your expectations can be tempered by the comforts of home. And, hey, watching the final bow of this great pop culture achievement in the luxury of your living room might just be more appropriate anyway. After all, the X-Files started life on the small screen. Maybe that's the way you should bid a fond farewell to it...
Finally... I just want to say "THANKS" to Mulder, Scully, Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, and anyone else who helped bring me so much joy all these years. It's been a great ride for me, too.