Saturday, July 26, 2008

Belief Does Not Appear to Come Easily

Looking at the overall response to The X-Files: I Want to Believe, both critically and commercially, after only a single day of release, it appears that Chris Carter's return to the franchise that made him a household name is a certifiable flop.

Personally, I think it is still too early to see how things will play out for the film despite a lackluster $5 million opening night. Seeing as how The Dark Knight is still going strong and stealing almost everyone else's thunder, if I Want to Believe can hang on for a few weeks before slipping off the radar, it may still make its money back and turn a small profit. Hope for a green light on a third film is not completely dashed, just stretched to its uttermost limits.

I think the most damage to the movie is going to come from critics who seem to be very much in on the X-Files hate. I'm not sure which show they were watching 10 years ago, but the movie I saw last night was very much related to the show I watched religiously and loved, even after they switched leading actors. I know I sound like an apologist at this point, but considering how many downright lazy reviews I've read over the last 24 hours complaining about how uncool the new movie is and picking at it like a festering scab, I think I sort of have to be. I don't know what everybody else was expecting. A bigger, bolder storyline, I'm sure, with lots of monster stuff and flashlights in the dark. The two leads shouting their names across a gulf of shadow as the villain of the piece stalked one, or both, of the heroes?

Didn't we see that before? On the small screen? For 9 years?

After reading Roger Ebert's review of the film (which I expected to be exceptionally harsh but who is, in fact, the only 'esteemed' reviewer to date to actually get the picture) I think what people are ultimately missing is the whole freaking point of the movie.

He goes on at length describing the plot and points out how silly it all sounds, which is fair, but the part that truly stood out to me was this section here:

"The movie lacks a single explosion. It has firearms, but nobody is shot. The special effects would have been possible in the era of "Frankenstein." Lots of stunt people were used. I had the sensation of looking at real people in real spaces, not motion-capture in CGI spaces. There was a tangible quality to the film that made the suspense more effective because it involved the physical world."

He also goes on to competently address the film's themes and, surprisingly, compares what is essentially one of the three biggest failures of the summer (Speed Racer and Meet Dave being the other two) to one of the most successful movies currently around, The Dark Knight:

"What I appreciated about "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" was that it involved actual questions of morality, just as "The Dark Knight" does. It's not simply about good and evil but about choices. Come to think of it, Scully's dying child may be connected to the plot in another way, since it poses the question: Are any means justified to keep a dying person alive?"

And lastly, Ebert closes off with this:

"The movie is insidious. It involves evil on not one level but two. The evildoers, it must be said, are singularly inept; they receive bills for medical supplies under their own names, and surely there must be more efficient ways to abduct victims and purchase animal tranquilizers. But what they're up to is so creepy, and the snow-covered Virginia landscapes so haunting, and the wrong-headedness of Scully so frustrating, and the FBI bureaucracy so stupid, and Mulder so brave, that the movie works like thrillers used to work, before they were required to contain villains the size of buildings."

And that, my friends, is the most articulate (and possibly accurate) critique of the new X-Files film that seems to be taking a lot of flack for no othewr reason than the fact that it survived long enough in people's minds to warrant coming back for another go.

I'm genuinely curious to hear what others think about the film and the response it is getting in the media. Feel free to comment.

Believe Again!


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