So this is why X-Files creator and impresario Chris Carter strove to keep secret the plot of The X-Files: I Want To Believe: No one bothered to come up with one.
Watching so many scenes unfold in snowstorms is apt. Drifts of disconnected, topical nonsense bury the scares, smarts, self-effacement and suspense of the TV series and 1998 film.
The spookiest thing about Believe is watching Carter (who co-wrote with Frank Spotnitz, along with producing and directing) slap the tag of his life’s work on a series of half-formed discussions of pedophile priests, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, media manipulation, American healthcare and George W. Bush (for whom Carter reserves an obvious comic stinger).
One could call it The X-Files by way of Michael Moore, but Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko were considerably more terrifying.
Chilly climates also cool off the considerable, if chaste, chemistry between stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Rather than revisit their characters in a revealing way, the actors are condemned to have the same argument six times over.
Remember a government so tenacious in its pursuit of rogue FBI agents Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Anderson) that they had to scuttle their son into adoption to save him? It seems not to care so much anymore about apprehending the former Feds investigating paranormal phenomena. After a stale reintroduction of the estranged pair, they’re reunited for two disparate, desperate stories.
One involves a holed-up Mulder getting back on his hunch-chasing horse after the FBI asks him to help find a missing agent. A pair of agents (Amanda Peet and Xzibit … oh, sorry, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner) are in charge of the case, and they’ve warily brought in Father Joe (Billy Connolly, resembling a Foghat guitar tech), a priest with a pedophilic past that’s certain and psychic visions that may be fraudulent.
The script attempts suspense through connecting Joe’s pedophilic past to the current crimes. But when he exhibits stigmata, Joe sure seems like the real deal.
While Joe’s eyes bleed, your ears will during pretty much every scene with Scully tenaciously treating a terminally ill boy beyond her religious hospital’s means. (Cue the stem cells!)
Mulder and Scully’s work has twisted their ambition and absolution into the same thing. Nothing wrong with that as a grace note, but Believe turns that character trait into a grim, endless requiem. Anderson over-emotes to Lifetime levels while Duchovny underplays everything, and the actors’ well-documented disinterest in taking these characters past a certain point on TV comes through in each scene.
The movie feels every bit as dashed off as it was into production amid the WGA strike. Wedged between Mulder and Scully’s tiresome kvetching are lifeless action scenes, including the most poorly filmed dog attack you’ll see in a movie and a laughably fake-looking POV shot of a character falling to their death.
In one scene, Mulder’s cell phone flashes “Bowman” and “Gilligan.” A nice in-joke, but longtime series collaborators Vince Gilligan and Rob Bowman should’ve been given a call to punch up this dead-end idea.
Forget all that talk of a third movie, as Believe eventually exposes the ultimate truth: The X-Files were better off closed.