Nothing to believe in

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Director: Chris C. Carter
Screenwriter: Chris C. Carter
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Xzibit , Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly
Release Date: 2008-07-30
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Science fiction

It might be enough for the most devout of X-philes out there, but TV-show creator Chris Carter’s return to the paranormal is so inundated with murky concepts and symbolism, it becomes impossible to notice any plausible evolution of the sci-fi series in The X-Files: I Want to Believe.

It’s been an entire decade since the first film premiered and six years since the small-screen X-Files concluded, and Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Anderson) couldn’t have changed less. It’s a comfortable homecoming, however, for fans of the show who are used to an emotionally reclusive Mulder exchanging philosophies with an always skeptical Scully (after 15 years you think she would realize she’s usually wrong).

No longer working for the FBI, Scully has moved on (as she will remind us numerous times throughout the film) to become a surgeon at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital (could the name be any more uplifting?) while her significant other (finally!), Mulder, avoids public life as a fugitive. He hides behind a scraggly beard, cutting out newspaper clippings like any legitimate conspiracy theorist.

But when an FBI agent goes missing and a priest–turned-pedophile (Connolly) begins to have psychic visions of her whereabouts, Mulder darts off the bench faster than a backpedaling Brett Favre. His heart is still in the game, but Scully’s isn’t. She’s found a new calling and hopes to prove her faith when one of her young patients is diagnosed with a rare brain disease. Her humanitarianism efforts are a second storyline that doesn’t mean much except on an obvious metaphorical level (reference movie title, post-colon).

Meanwhile, Mulder has teamed up with FBI agents Dakota Whitney (Peet) and Mosely Drummy (Joiner) to follow the prophetic Father Crissman through the snows of West Virginia. Their trek leads them to the discovery of hacked-off body parts, none belonging to the missing agent. While Mulder has no problem accepting Crissman’s eerie limb-detecting talent, most of the FBI is reluctant, and they think the ex-priest might have something to do with the kidnapping and possible murders.

Don’t think Scully is going to miss out on all the phenomenal fun, either. Mulder needs Scully like George needs Wheezy, so she inevitably joins the hunt despite protests of “I’m done chasing monsters in the dark” and “I can’t look into the darkness again.” While Scully spouts cliché dialogue, Mulder counters with inspiring verbiage better suited to motivational posters.

Carter makes sure we all know that the characters are struggling to believe in something and drives the point home with an obsessively thematic script worthy of a few edits. In keeping with the Frankensteinian twist the film takes in its third act, Carter has stitched together parts that just don’t quite match. Without the extra, surprising jolt the early seasons of the TV series used to deliver, Believe doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

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