Andrew Blaker leaps to the defense of the second X-Files movie, I Want to Believe…
In July 2008, after years of anticipation, the second X-Files film arrived in theaters. Released a mere week after the enormously successful The Dark Knight, the film debuted at #4 at the U.S. Box Office, earning $10.2 million. After 11 weeks, the film had amassed nearly $30 million, and earned an additional $47 million internationally.
The critical response to the film was decidedly mixed. And fan response was mixed, with many fans feeling shorted after a six-year absence. The film is a stand-alone piece which has much to say about Mulder and Scully as characters, and their relationship, but nothing to say about the mytharc that spanned nine seasons and the 1998 feature film, Fight the Future. It was, to say the least, underwhelming. Fans expected something very, very different, and I believe it’s fair to say that is why fan reaction to the film was so mixed.
Because, by itself, it is a solid film. Robert Ebert wrote a largely positive review of the film, remarking that “the movie works like thrillers used to,” and calling the film a “skillful thriller.” The film has little-to-no CGI effects but relies on atmosphere, dialogue, and the acting chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. In early 2016, just before the debut of Season 10, film critic Keith Uhlich of The AV Club wrote a reconsidered review of the film, remarking that “if Fight the Future…was The X-Files in summer blockbuster mode, I Want to Believe was its attempt at an intimate chamber drama—more Ingrid Bergman than Michael Bay.”
Fans expected a blockbuster return to the franchise. But the film is a well-crafted character study, realistic to where Mulder and Scully are in their lives and in their relationship with one another. The film deals with weighty moral issues and a thoroughly disturbing case in the cold Virginian winter. Were this a two-parter within the series, it likely would have been heralded as one of the hallmark episodes.
On a personal note, I think that overall the film is a testament to the characters of Mulder and Scully, their relationship and the passage of time, as well as capturing the essence of the series and the agents’ pursuit of the truth. Their years in the FBI has cost each of them, professionally and personally, and they are attempting to live a life approaching something like normal. For the past eight years, I Want to Believe was the final chapter in the series—and while it is great to have the series back, in this fan’s opinion, I Want to Believe came much, much closer toward capturing the characters and their relationship than the revival series.
I certainly hope that when the series comes to a definite end the series creator, Chris Carter, brings the characters and their journey to a satisfying and emotionally true conclusion.
You can follow Andrew Blaker on Twitter @andrewblaker620.