Honestly – who gives a shit? Another movie based on a TV series; a dearth of ideas buoyed by cynicism and desperation. Even David Duchovny looks detached from it… bored, listless, delivering his lines like a fax machine. Time was, The X-Files was a monster hit for Fox (the faceless multi-national corp., not Mulder). But that was the 90s. We were young. We thought shell suits were cool and that The Happy Mondays would last forever. Seeing The X-Files now – in light of Lost – it looks old. Those gormless 10.23pm West Virginia-subtitles, Duchovny’s complete and lasting inability to act his way out of a paper bag…that cheap, icy theme tune.
It sort-of starts well. A long line of FBI troopers are searching in the snow, led by Billy Connolly. The mere presence of Billy Connolly might seem to connote doom for the movie, but the sequence is brisk (the one and only time The X-Files has pace in this second movie) and the payoff is gory: a severed arm is found, perfectly preserved. It’s a man’s arm, but the Feds are looking for a woman. Connolly is a psychic who claims he knows where she is. For reasons I don’t quite understand, the FBI calls in Fox Mulder and Dana Scully for help with the case. Mulder has a lot of experience with weird cases. But wasn’t he fired? And didn’t Scully resign?
David Duchovny wears perhaps the false-est beard in movie history for about a third of this movie, and its shear, brazen fake-ness is mesmerizing. Not so Duchovny’s acting schtick. I well remember a lot of talk when The X-Files first started, about how intelligent Duchovny was, how he’d studied under Harold Bloom, how he wrote poetry. But, um, would it have hurt for him to act once in a while? Duchovny’s minimalism is so minimal he makes the average tree look like Marlon Brando. He speaks like he’s busy eating. There’s a parking lot in his eyes. He’s so disinterested in Mulder in the early scenes of The X-Files, his beard out-acts him.
Gillian Anderson looks like a nun. Or at least Scully does. Anderson has to have something devout about her in order to make Scully tick, because after a decade of seeing aliens, psychics, werewolves and goblins, Scully really has to believe there’s nothing out there in order to deny the truth. It’s a silly part, even sillier than Mulder’s after all these years. Scully doesn’t grow. She is not changed by her experiences. She just denies, denies, denies, as Anderson atrophies under pursed lips. Her chemistry with Duchovny is sort-of there this time round – but it’s the chemistry of two people trapped on a desert island, not two against the world. They look lonely together.
The plot tramps on as Duchnovy has a shave. Whenever we get too excited, director Chris Carter switches to a Scully storyline based around a sick kid she’s treating in hospital. This effectively strangles the thriller plotline – and any pace the movie had – but Carter seems to be aiming for the contemplative mood of a mid-season filler episode. The movie has a deathly quality… a phoned-in atmosphere, like everyone’s waiting for their paycheque to clear. Amanda Peet dies and no-one seems to notice.
If you’re going to make a movie, make it like the world was ending. The X-Files is irritating precisely because no-one in it cares. The supporting cast – a crappy rapper, an aging comic, a kohl-eyed woman who coulda been a contender – bear witness to the limited-ness of Chris Carter’s vision. The plot is anaemic, a photocopy of a photocopy of a plot done better in the TV show. The X-Files (the show) stopped when its viewers lost interest in conspiracies. Carter figures he can re-launch the franchise by wilfully ignoring the past. But having Mulder forget that he died, and making Scully forget… well, everything, is a cheat’s way out. This movie is pointless.