Reviewed by: Bill Williams
Vicious alien attacks from the dawn of time. The bombing of a federal building. Government conspiracies. Alien viruses. A mysterious black oil that threatens human existence. A group of bureaucratic officials at the heart of the matter. A quest for the truth. Sound like supermarket tabloid fodder? No, just the latest movie based on a TV series, in “The X-Files: Fight the Future”.
Now I have to profess a certain level of ignorance in never having seen a single episode of the entire series, so maybe that’s why I went into it with a certain level of objectivity and non-bias which far exceeds the fan community of approximately 20 million who watch the series on a weekly basis. Like “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “The X-Files” smoothly makes the transition to the big screen and maintains the continuity first established in the popular series.
For those like myself who haven’t seen the series, a brief refresher is needed: Two FBI agents—Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson)—regularly investigate paranormal sightings, UFO and alien mysteries, and government conspiracies. Created by Chris Carter in 1993, the series has challenged the way we look at the world and ourselves by respecting the people’s intelligence while positing the notion that maybe the world isn’t what it seems, and maybe people really are afraid of the truth.
The movie follows in the same vein, after the close of the fifth season and the burning of the X-Files division. How do an alien attack, the bombing of a federal building, a killer virus, and government conspiracies all add up? That is what Carter (who wrote and co-produced the story in his feature film debut) and director Rob Bowman (who has directed 25 episodes of the series since the beginning) manage to pull off with a certain style that keeps the viewer guessing. Duchovny and Anderson maintain the partnership that has been the heart of the series, and maybe the lack of any romantic relationship only heightens Mulder and Scully’s compatibility. Even when threatened by the government’s closure of the X-Files division and Scully’s reassignment, she and Mulder hang in there for the long haul. When her very life is at stake, Mulder sacrifices everything he knows to save her. And there are enough references to give both the fans and first-timers information as to who’s who. Even the series' popular catch phrases—“The truth is out there” and “Trust no one”—work their way into the mystery.
Like “Star Trek”, maintaining the continuity of the series cast is essential to making “The X-Files” work, and each member’s involvement is critical to the story. Why is the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) at the heart of this conspiracy? What does the Well-Mannered Man (Sir John Neville) know? Why are the Lone Gunmen onto the government? In the new movie, Martin Landau only adds to the mystery as a doctor whose past ties in with Mulder’s father, and Blythe Danner’s role as a FBI trial judge contributes more government conspiracy than she lets on.
But the exposition of graphic and often bloody alien attacks, autopsies, and explosions, and needless profanities by the characters sometimes distracts from what could be a really great film. Two or three attacks are shockingly out of “Alien” and are in there purely for the shock value.
All in all, “The X-Files: Fight the Future” is a respectable debut for the popular series, but there’s one thing that Mulder and Scully seem to have forgotten: the series' often quoted catch phrases have failed to accept a simple truth. The truth has always been out there for the last 2,000 years, that there is still someone we can trust, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lived for us, died for us, and is planning His return for us. And that’s something no fearful government conspiracy can hide from us.
Year of Release—1998