120 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, June 19, 1998
Directed by Rob Bowman
Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Blythe Danner, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, John Neville, Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, Glenne Headly & Lucas Black
'X-Files' feature film not engaging enough for the big screen
Just so we understand each other, let me say right off the bat that I am an occasional "X-Files" viewer who, depending on the episode, finds himself often rapt and sometime laughing. I'm guessing I've seen the show maybe 10 to 15 times.
But I don't think even fans will think "The X-Files," the feature film, is all that different from the TV show -- aside from the fact that it's shot in more distant, exotic locations and includes some pretty expensive effects.
What's worse, despite all the buzz, it doesn't really reveal or resolve a whole lot that the show hasn't been hinting at for ages.
Yes, there's a global conspiracy. Yes, it involves aliens. No, the aliens aren't good guys. I think I can say that much without spilling my Coke on anyone's popcorn.
Not being an "X"-phile, this picture seemed to me like nothing more than an over-long episode of the series -- certainly nothing spectacular enough to justify Mulder's and Scully's leap to the big screen.
Although the film does a good job of laying the groundwork for the uninitiated, let me drop a little background here:
Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) are FBI agents who investigate cases that detour into the paranormal. Mulder is the believer (his sister was abducted by aliens when he was a tot), and Scully is the skeptic (she's a doctor).
Over the past several years they have, with good cause, come to suspect a massive government cover-up of not-so-benign visits from extra-terrestrials.
The film picks up just as the Big Picture is becoming clear.
Mysterious black goo (that's "black oil" to fans) has killed a kid and several haz-mat firemen in North Texas. To cover up the alien nature of this lethal substance, the government has arranged to dispose of the bodies in a terrorist bombing at a federal building in Dallas (similarities to Oklahoma City are no coincidence).
But Mulder is on hand to read conspiracy into everything, as he is wont to do, and before long he and Scully are following hunches, discovering a breeding facility for spreading black goo virus, running from black helicopters, and finding alien spacecraft buried in Antarctic ice.
I don't mean to sound flippant in my description, but "X-Files" stories always sound a little silly when you try to sum them up without revealing too many surprises.
Along the way to the exalted and much ballyhooed discovery (which still leaves ample of machination to keep the show going for several more seasons), "The X-Files" is infused with a bit of its trademark dark humor.
After being suspiciously shut out of an early investigation, Mulder drinks himself into a stupor at a Washington, D.C. bar, then unburdens himself on the bartender, rambling on about being the only guy on the planet who knows what's really going on before weaving his way into an alley and relieving himself on...a poster for "Independence Day."
As might be expected by the show's fans, the banter and spark between Mulder and Scully get some heavy play in the film as well, also to humorous results.
But in the end, the film is so much like the show -- in mood (dark), style (lots of shaft-of-light illumination) and plot (all the mysterious regulars doing all their regular schticks) -- that if it wasn't for the sense of urgency brought on by the season finale, I'd say wait for this one on video.
Much like "Star Trek: Generations," "The X-Files" movie is no better, indeed no different, than a two-hour special on TV would have been.