The Ex-Files: Longing for the Past

I WANT TO BELIEVE | But it’s just not there

Back in the days when wife Lee Ann and I used to schedule our week so that we wouldn’t miss an episode of Fox’s “The X-Files,” the payoff was predictable: about a third of the episodes were classic examples of great writing and true excellence in episodic television; about a third were worth the time invested, but not much more; and a third elicited responses like, “Well…now THAT was a bit of a rip-off…” or “that was SO weird.” The goose bumps and joyful satisfaction of the former two made up for the disappointment of the latter. When “X-Files” was good, it was simply superb. The occasional misses were tolerable.

At some point, though, about the time FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder (portrayed by David Duchovny) left the show, so did we. The consistency in writing and production fell off and the replacements for Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) were shallow and lacked chemistry with each other and with the audience. The storylines became confusing and oddly repetitive. I just gave up. I don’t remember it going off the air; I’d compare it to finding out an old girlfriend’s getting married and not registering any emotion.

Still, I cherish many of the episodes from the first five seasons, particularly the “stand-alone” shows – those which introduced an eerie problem and ended with a neatly-tied-up solution. I watch “Post-Modern Prometheus” four or five times a year and cry every time. Whenever I need a good laugh, I’ll pop in “Bad Blood” and marvel at the range of the abilities of the show’s writers, creator/producer/director Chris Carter and the talent and spark between Duchovny and Anderson.

So when I found out there was a new movie, I was pumped. No more.

Ppppppppppppffffffffffffffffhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….

That sound you hear is the air being let out. I went to tonight’s 7:45 showing in Sanford and walked away with much the same kind of feeling you get when you arrive home with your family’s take-out supper and you realize the order of one of your children is missing entirely and the grilled chicken ceasar salad you picked up for your wife is missing the grilled chicken. Everyone still gets to eat, but it wasn’t what you were planning on – and at least two people are pretty unhappy.

It’s not a case of too-high expectations. Earlier today I read the review of our own Neil Morris, and then read the Plugged In Online review (which you can see here.) Neil gave the film a “D” grade, and Plugged In Online essentially called it pornographic. Those bad reviews, combined with the secrecy surrounding the script (which in Hollywood – or in this case, Vancouver – usually means it’s a stinker) made me lower my sights quite a bit.

I would give the film a C-, and that’s generous. It wasn’t as bad as most reviewers made it out to be…it’s just that it wasn’t that good. The story isn’t compelling and the writing is spotty. Six years since the last episode aired, and this was the best that Carter and veteran producer Frank Spotnitz could come up with?

Non-fans of the show have little reason to see it. Major fans, like me, will still probably go, but they’d probably agree that it’s twice and long, and half as good, as the “average” X-Files episode from the series’ heyday.

I wanted to believe. About two-thirds of the way through, I wanted to be leaving. But I stuck it out til the end…poorly-done as it was. I don’t regret seeing it, but I’m going to have to watch “Bad Blood” or another of the classic episodes on video this weekend to get the bad taste out…

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