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The X Files


By C. Antonio Romero

NEW YORK, 24 August 1998 - For those devoted to watching the cult-hit television show, this summer's film spinoff of The X-Files is probably a real treat; it is for the most part more of the same-- enigmatic aliens, mysterious plagues, black helicopters, ill-understood government agencies, secret bases, corn and bees, conspiracies within conspiracies, coverups within coverups. It yanks the rug out from under the assumptions of most of the people in its paranoid world, including not only Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) but also the leaders of the plot to shape humanitiy's future which the two agents have been trying to uncover since the show began.

But in this it does little that most episodes of the show do not do. More than anything else, this is a two-hour episode of the series, in wide-screen format with a bigger effects budget (and the occasional bit of foul language not suitable for American television). Mostly, the film does a good job of maintaining the air of paranoia that gives the show the flavor its regular viewers will come looking for, drawing on all the same sources that the show has popularized. It is also tolerably well-acted, as usual - the show's successes in winning the Emmy award for best dramatic series a few years ago are not entirely unwarranted.

Remarkably, however, it manages to be mostly comprehensible even for those who are not versed in the details of the conspiracies within conspiracies that drive the show. One need know going in only that FBI agents, aliens and conspiracies are involved. Everything will be more or less on the surface to be read - villains are clearly marked, if not understood; and the stakes for humanity are made abundantly clear. Those items which make more sense if you have seen the series - a novel black plague with a unique means of entering the body, a great and secret cabal that oversees humanity's future from London-- are still accessible to the uninitiated.

The only place where the film crosses into overexplication comes when a rather talky gynecologist (played rather unevenly by Martin Landau) offers Mulder well-informed if paranoid-sounding ramblings about FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and its extraordinary powers; the only truly baffling moment (other than those required to keep the Truth "out there") is the sudden appearance of three nerdy conspiracy theory wannabes (who, my gracious companion tells me, are recurring characters on the show, hackers who show up to hear what little Mulder may share with them about the conspiracy).

If the film has a weakness, it is one which I have found in the show as well-- it lacks a sense of humour about itself. I was not bothered by this as I watched, but in retrospect this film (like the series) is deadly earnest; the figure of Fox Mulder occasionally becomes a bit much to take in his relentless pursuit of the truth that lies out there. Some early banter between Mulder and Scully lightens the tone, but only briefly, and that good is undone later, when the film lets their relationship lapse into sentimentality not once but twice.

On the whole, the film does what it sets out to do quite well, revealing a new major chunk of the "Truth" while leaving enough questions open for the writers to fill another season or two with more conspiratorial contortions. (The film's ending can only be reconciled with everything that leads up to it if one assumes that significant questions about the motives of the conspiracy and its members have not been answered entirely truthfully.) If you're a fan of the show, it's a must-see; if you have any taste for this kind of material, it's still worth the trip even for the uninitiated.

Best moment: Mulder and Kurzweil relieving themselves on a movie poster.

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