Monday, February 01, 2016

THE X-FILES and me

I'm not sure if we all loved The X-Files in the 90's because it was good or because it was really the only game on television. It was, at the time, the only successful, interesting science fiction / horror television show in existence. And the fact that it occasionally did something really, really well (especially in the first four or five years) made it must watch television for genre fans. But we all know what happened there. Yes we do. It floundered. It stumbled. It belly flopped onto concrete. By the last few seasons when they couldn't even keep the star of the show involved no matter what they did. Move the production to a warmer climate, give him more control over stories - jump through whatever hoops and it still got to the point where even he felt the show needed something that wasn't him. Or maybe it just needed a real direction.

Because that was the show's core problem. It had no direction. Which would have been fine for a cool, creepy monster of the week science fiction series but that was deemed to not be enough. It had to be BIG. And so, creator Chris Carter started getting high on his own supply. He began telling everyone that the series was going to bring all the pieces together from all the various extraterrestrial stories that had fuzzy endings (or no ending) and we'd see that there was a huge alien invasion conspiracy that the government knew about and was covering up or helping to happen that involved colonization and black oil and human alien hybrids or.....something! But it all would eventually come together and make some kind of damned sense! Really! He promised.

But that was a crock of crap. He had no freakin' idea what the hell he was doing. And because of that years ago realization I wanted to punch that dumbass in the face.

But I've grown. If I've not grown wiser or less filled with unfocused anger at least I've grown less violent. Chris Carter is safe from me. For now. Surfing putz.

So now the return of The X-Files in a six-episode mini-series for Fox television has caused me to want to go back and reevaluate the original series. I don't mean I want to go back and watch the entire nine year run - I'm just not going to invest that much time in the damned show - but I was curious enough to finally sit down and watch one piece of the X-Files history that I have left unviewed - the second feature film from 2008. The first X-Files film was made during the heyday of the show's original run and was so bad that it made me want to cry right there in the theater. In fact it was the hideous nature of that first film that may have started my complete turnaround on the series or at least initiated and influenced or simply expanded upon the doubts that I had been having about the show for some time at that point. Needless to say long before the original run of the show ended I punched out and I couldn't even tell you what happened in the final miserable season. I think I saw two or three episodes. So when THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE came out long after the series had gone to that great rerun junkyard in the sky I didn't care. Indeed, almost everyone I knew was so unconcerned I don't think I know any person that has seen it. But with this new resurgence of interest and all this talk around it - well - I decided now was the time. And for $4 a Blu-Ray is cheap so what the hell, huh?

I chose the longer cut - I am, after all, a lunatic - and once I was thirty minutes in I was shocked to realize that I was enjoying the movie! This was not the coincidence fueled series of disconnected sequences of the first film. This thing actually made sense. Not that there isn't one intuitive leap late in the story that stretched credulity a bit (Bible quote leads to mail box) but, in total, this is a damned good little science fiction thriller. Clearly Carter didn't write most of this or it would have devolved into a hot mess in the first reel so I was not surprised to see Frank Spotnitz listed on the screenplay. He was responsible for several good episodes of the original series as well as being currently in charge of the excellent Amazon show The Man in the High Castle. I WANT TO BELIEVE is not a brilliant film but if it had been first feature instead of the second there might have been more than just two movies made. Hell - if this had been the only X-Files film made more people would have seen it because there wouldn't have been a sense of 'won't get burned again' in the minds of the fans. Shame. This is a solid SF film and I'm glad I've finally seen it. Now I just wonder what was cut out of the shorter version.....


Stephen D. Sullivan said...

I saw both X-Files films in the theater. First one in the drive-in, which was a perfect venue for it. (I didn't hate it, like you did.) And the second one is quite good -- though now I have to go see if the "longer cut" is on my DVD, or if I have to spring for the blu.

In any case, I'm glad the show is back. And certainly the 2 non-Carter episodes so far have made it worth it, and far outweighed Carter's hot mess of a premier.

Rod Barnett said...

Hot mess is the perfect description of Carter's contribution to the new episodes so far. Morgan, Morgan and Wong know how to construct a show - Carter, not so much.

And that first film pissed me off so many ways! The BS plot construction, the idiotic character choices and the contrived coincidences just make me furious. And, plus - NO DAMNED ANSWERS TO ANYTHING!

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

My memory of the first film is that it was a series of interesting incidents with some kind of thread-bare connection stringing them all together. Which pretty much describes what the mythos devolved into, because he was just making it up as he went. I don't remember if I expected it to provide answers, though I do seem to recall that they tried to sell it that way. But, when the man behind the curtain doesn't really have any... (Not even a watch masquerading as a heart!)