You'll Want to Believe Latauro's Review of X-FILES 2 Is a Hoax...
Published at: July 21, 2008, 12:16 p.m. CST by mrbeaks
THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
Despite the fact that it was the 1990s and we were used to this sort of thing, and despite the fact that I was only about 14 years old, I still thought that the opening credits of "The X-Files" were a little silly. I mean "Government Denies Knowledge" and "Trust No One" or whatever floating across the screen? Why not just have "This Is Spooky" and "Cloyingly Self-Conscious and Non-Evocative Words" printed up there? But then, I got into it. And then I started to get it. It was camp. Not Kenneth Williams camp, but quasi-Ed Wood camp. It wasn't a serious show, no matter how seriously Mulder took himself, or how seriously Scully took everything except Mulder. Embracing that campness meant that I was able to enjoy the otherwise-ridiculous movie subtitles of FIGHT THE FUTURE and, now, I WANT TO BELIEVE.
Of course, a more appropriate title for this second film would be THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE A PAEDOPHILE PRIEST HAS PSYCHIC ABILITIES, because that is exactly what the title refers to. Nobody's really grappling with any inner moral arguments here, no matter how many times Dana Scully looks mysteriously at that priest. The plot of the film -- which apparently revolves around some FBI agent going missing and some excommunicated Catholic priest somehow having a psychic connection to her -- is really all about whether the priest is telling the truth or not. Nobody changes. Of course they don't. As they learned in the original series, Scully can only decry supernatural being for so long before they need to play a new tune (and to be fair, they did, and to be fair, they do here too). Mulder, on the other hand, states that he's always been like this, even before the series started, and he's right. Big props to them not selling out the character by giving him some forced arc that betrays everything we've seen of him previously. On the other hand, there was room for a natural arc, and it wasn't there. So, with neither of our main characters really changing all that much over the course of the film, why am I watching? Oh yes, some FBI agent I've never heard of has gone missing. Hm...
There was some speculation that THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE has been kept under such tight wraps because we're in for something special. That, amongst the hype of DARK KNIGHT and whatever else has come out this American Summer, X-FILES 2 was going to be a big sleeper. Well, it sort of is, in that I almost fell asleep in it. In actuality, I believe that Chris Carter kept the plot a secret from not just the fans, not just the press, but the cast and crew as well. This is one of the most passionless affairs I've seen on the big screen in a while, like a B episode of the show. You know how when TV shows make their transition to the big screen, their modus operandi is to make everything bigger? (On that note, buy me a beer and I'll tell you why STAR TREK: INSURRECTION is the most successful Trek movie. No, seriously.) This X-FILES movie feels like a smaller version of the show. An episode with less scope, less imagination, and even less budget. How did they manage this?
Before you paint me as an X-F hater, I'm actually biased in the other direction. I'm not a die-hard fan, and I don't have the DVDs, but I loved the original seasons of the show, and I'm actually one of the few people who enjoyed the last couple of seasons. Really. All that shit with Dogget and the baby and Annabeth Gish, I was lapping it up. (Though, I will confess I've not revisited those episodes in case I see what everyone else is talking about -- liking season nine is what makes me special.) Bottom line is that X-FILES has to fall a very long way before I decry it. And I am definitely decrying it.
I have no problem with them leaving the arc stuff behind and focussing on a monster-of-the-week style of threat. As someone who usually prefers arcs over standalones, I always thought that "X-Files" was better when it was doing its standalones, almost as if its debt to anthology shows like TWILIGHT ZONE made continuity seem a bit out-of-place. However, the way they handle the actual arc stuff is a bit heavy-handed. "Isn't it great the FBI have stopped pursuing us even though the charges haven't been dropped?" I can handle, but "Hey, my baby's dead" is one of the most plodding excuses to not have a main character burdened by a child when she has to go running about at the drop of a hat... and yes, I paraphrased that dialogue, although it might have been better if they'd used my quotes verbatim.
But we haven't even come to the worst part yet. I wasn't being anti-Catholic when I made the paedophile priest reference beforehand (Happy Youth Day everybody!). Billy Connolly's priest is a convicted paedophile, and every time they discussed this, I sunk further into my chair. It's not that I don't think someone like Scully should hold a particular hatred for such a man, and nor do I think that someone like Mulder should allow him the opportunity to redeem himself, but this topic is not delved into. It's a weighty issue, and if you're going to deal with it, you need to deal with it well... you don't deal with it in the offhand way that, say, a 1990s show that featured alien abductions and werewolves would. It's a pretty big misstep, and I think that's why we're seeing Billy Connolly in the role.
Now, I love Billy Connolly. I grew up on his comedy, have paid a lot of money to see him live, and think he is easily one of the funniest and most brilliant men on the planet. If only his agent was as well. For some reason, he always tends to end up in complete garbage (with some exceptions), and even though this film doesn't work at all, I'm kind-of impressed that he took it on. This is because Father Joe was clearly designed to be their big name cameo. This movie is essentially the SILENCE OF THE LAMBS formula, with the priest being Hannibal Lecter, reacting to people who deal with his own crimes as he helps to catch another criminal. As I listened to the dialogue, I could picture an offer going out to Anthony Hopkins... then to Christopher Walken... then Tobin Bell... Terry O'Quinn... Paul Hogan... I can see the producers getting more and more desperate as all the character actors typically associated with giving meaty performances when they play total psychos all receive a script depicting a psychic paedophile priest in an X-FILES movie, and rejecting it faster than a metaphor does something speedily.
I don't know what else to say. I really don't. Dare I dwell on the miscasting of Xzibit as an FBI agent? Or the near-humourous sequence that passes for a third act? The "jokes" that Mulder keeps spurting? The bizarre and useless subplot of Scully's administrative adventures at a hospital? The worst moment of direction I've seen this year involving a picture of George W Bush, a picture of J Edgar Hoover, a comical "X-Files" theme sting, and some big-time gurneying? (I swear I didn't make that last one up.) Or the clearly-accidental, but utterly-unavoidable subtext (and my use of "sub" is kind there) that victims of paeophiles are more dangerous than the paedophiles themselves?
This film has been kept secretive because nobody knows what to do with it. It's so utterly awful, that it's probably a better idea that we pretend it didn't happen, because when we all come to make our Worst of 2008 lists, I doubt we'll even remember this one came out.