It's hard to believe that "The X-Files" started 15 years ago. The series, while certainly a marvelously entertaining and often riveting production, began to run out of steam in its final seasons after stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson essentially were replaced by new characters John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). 1998's "X-Files" movie, which was reportedly set to reveal secrets about the show's mythology, was entertaining, but really didn't reveal all that much. While I loved the best of what the series had to offer, the show has - at this point - started to fade from memory, as I would guess it has for some others.
The second film, "X-Files: I Want to Believe" is certainly a different film from the Summer blockbuster the original was intended to be, and it's clear the production is working with a smaller budget. The story is also a one-off tale, not having anything to do (aside from a couple of quick mentions of elements from the show) with the plots from the series. This time around, the film opens with Mulder and Scully living together in a small home in the wilderness.
The two have clearly moved far away from their former lives, but soon after the film opens they are called in to investigate the case of a missing field agent. A former priest named Father Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly) has been experiencing psychic visions about the case, and agents Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and Mosley Drummy (XZibit) believe that Mulder and Scully are best suited for the case, given their history.
However, while Mulder is willing to listen to Crissman's claims, Scully believes he's nothing but a fraud and heads back to the Catholic hospital where she's been fighting the hospital's administration to save a child with a serious illness. It's rather odd that the plot of the film was kept under the kind of lock and key that "Cloverfield" was, especially given that there's really no surprises on a grand scale, like the series was known for. In fact, it feels like a really expensive two-part episode of the show, and not one of the better episodes.
Earlier in the year, creator Chris Carter reportedly discussed a desire to make a third film that refocused on the alien mythology of the series, but it would be dependent on the success of this film. That film should have been done first, and then after a grand wrap of the mythology, the characters could be brought back for one-off stories like this one. I'm not against the decision to do a one-off movie, I'm simply disappointed that there were quite a few better one-off episode stories during the show's run.
While the plot wasn't as involving as I would have hoped, creator/director Chris Carter, along with "X-Files" cinematographer Bill Roe, composer Mark Snow, production designer Mark Freeborn and some gorgeous Canadian wilderness all work together to create a film that looks and feels eerily cold and desolate. However, the film's spooky look can only get it so far - this a remarkably low-key movie, and given the lack of much action, the chilly and distant tone starts to slow the pace to a halt at times, wandering towards its conclusion. While the script is the problem here, I also have to wonder if a different director would have brought something to the table.
The performances are fine enough, but Anderson and Duchovny have been away from these characters for years, and it feels as if the two weren't able to get completely back in character (although they still have some nice moments together.) A major character besides Mulder and Scully is brought back, and while it's nice to see that character again, the character's entrance feels random and the small part really goes nowhere in particular.
I really (really) wanted to like this film, and while the atmosphere is certainly there and the performances are decent, I was hoping for something more grand and bold than this after 10 years since the last film. This edition offers both the extended/unrated edition and the theatrical edition.
VIDEO: The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by 20th Century Fox. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered average image quality, with acceptable sharpness/detail and some pixelation and shimmering. However, this is still not the final copy and I'll hope that the retail copy offers improved image quality.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Those who are expecting a more aggressive sound mix along the lines of what the first film offered should prepare for something much more subdued. The surrounds are used more noticeably on a couple of occasions, but the rear speakers are otherwise silent or provide minor ambience. Audio quality is fine, although given all the whisperered dialogue, be sure to crank the volume more than a little bit.
EXTRAS: The first disc offers commentary from director Chris Carter and producer Frank Spotnitz, as well as featurettes on the film's "green" production and effects. We also get a gag reel (which is largely people trying to deal with the Wintery setting - not too amusing), 3 deleted scenes, music video, PSA and galleries.
The second disc offers the 3-part, feature length (90 min) documentary, "Trust No One: Can The X-Files Remain a Secret?" A large part of the documentary offers a discussion of the lengths that the production went (some of the workers were even unaware that they were working on "The X-Files" movie, and one worker asked another if they had heard "The X-Files" movie was filming in town - not realizing they were working on said movie), to keep the screenplay top secret and again...I'm really not sure why they needed to go this far. When the documentary isn't talking about how the production kept the story a mystery, we do get a good deal of information about post-production, as well as development, effects and cinematography.
There will also be a digital copy included with the Special Edition, as well.
Final Thoughts: I was quite excited about the return of these characters, but it's disappointing that "I Want to Believe" is the result after the lengthy wait. Fans of the series should try a rental first.
The Film C+