THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Only for fans of the famous science fiction series?

Deepening the psychological aspects of the characters is in my opinion the greatest success of the second cinematic installment of The X-Files.

Edward Kelley

24 February 2024

I am not objective when I write about The X-Files; I cannot afford objectivity. I have been waiting for a full-length continuation of the series for years, biting my nails and fanatically collecting successive seasons released abroad. Today, it’s difficult for me to even write about it without emotion, let alone force myself to a neutral assessment. Chris Carter returns to the globally recognizable brand, surrounded by legend and genuine cult status of the series, which TV experts unanimously list as one of the top series of all time. As the creator of this phenomenon, Carter could always allow himself a lot, and today he decided once again, and probably for the last time, to take advantage of it, writing the screenplay for the movie and directing it as well. In the latest installment of The X-Files, fans of the series will find a plethora of references, names, past histories, and even smuggled titles of individual episodes or specific shots known from them. But for both Chris and all those infected with the incurable disease called The X-Files, only two characters mattered: Mulder and Scully. It’s their return that fans have been waiting for, those who don’t hesitate to admit that they fell in love with them head over heels.

Gillian Anderson has always been a better actress than David Duchovny. However, both of them managed to create a duo that has permanently inscribed itself in the history of pop culture, and television in particular. What the scriptwriters managed to translate into words and the filmmakers into images allowed them to create something that would be too trivial to call screen chemistry, and which many (although it would probably be fairer to say “by me”) perceived as a barely noticeable bond making them one mind in two bodies, a mind presenting the eternal dichotomy: logic and emotions, reason and spontaneity, faith and skepticism.

These sparkling opposites made it so that sitting down to watch another episode was not just to see another more or less ingenious sci-fi or horror story but precisely for them, deriving pure pleasure from observing the creative clash of intellects, always full of underlying erotic tension and passion that never lacked. That’s why for many supporters, even fanatics, the real X-Files ended with the sixth, at most seventh season when the series had already lost its impact, and Scully and Mulder were ultimately separated, which had to lead to the death of the series, because it’s like trying to make The Godfather without Marlon Brando and Al Pacino or Star Wars without Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.

Gillian was always a better actress than David, but it’s here for the first time that Carter fully allowed the true character of Dana Scully to emerge and let Gillian Anderson win it. It’s no longer always the skeptical Dr. who we only saw her feelings in a few episodes of the series: Memento Mori, all things, Milagro, or Never Again. Now she is a mature woman who tries as best as she can to keep the demons at bay, which she had to deal with for most of her life and which now haunt her in her professional non-being. She is an unfulfilled mother who seeks a substitute for motherhood in medical sacrifice, tragically aware that nothing can restore her lost future forever. She is finally the companion of the eternal boy, for whom her daily rationalism and reminders of the reality they have to live with are his mainstay. This is certainly the fullest psychological portrait of a character that Carter, together with Spotnitz, has drawn so far, and thank God they went in this direction, not trying to play out the serial schemes that work perfectly on TV but are too trivial for the big screen.

Deepening the psychological aspects of the characters is in my opinion the greatest success of the second cinematic installment of The X-Files. I have the impression that this was done at the expense of intrigue, which, characteristic for The X-Files, has become only a pretext in the main stream, to outline changes in the characters, their mental and emotional state. The film ceased to be just a continuation of the series and became a picture of what we never see in movies, namely what could and did happen to the characters after the events we know. Moreover, this is not a pretext for refreshing characters, showing how well they are doing, and that it’s only a moment since the events on which the series ends, and the adventure continues. On the contrary, we find Scully and Mulder older, less attractive, haunted by the past, overwhelmed by the truth, living with the awareness of failure, embittered, and disappointed. They are no longer the FBI agents ready to participate in a chase at any moment, clash with a psychopath, or engage with a crime genius. They are people who have looked the darkness in the eye and are not willing – at least not both of them – to do it again. However, separating from the past is not easy because once you’ve danced with the devil in the moonlight, you’ll never be the same again.

It can be argued whether The X-Files: I Want to Believe is a good movie – it can. You can try to find logical gaps in the script and technical stumbles. It can be said that Carter made a horror movie that after years wants to add a glow to its pale star and attract fans of the series to the cinema. Yes, it’s a movie for fans, because only they will be able to recognize the changes that have occurred in the characters, only they will appreciate the complexity of the characters and the journey they had to make to find themselves in this point. Carter’s film is the culmination of their development and the entire historical series. And only a true fanatic will understand it. Because The X-Files is a state of mind.