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movie review by
Gary Johnson

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Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files, loves to tease. The television version of The X-Files promises revelations, but when we do get a revelation, it's wrapped in puzzles even more convoluted than the previous ones. The show's mythos episodes (those episodes dealing with a huge conspiracy that involves a shadowy organization with ties to a strange black ooze) have been some of the most frustrating. Lots of foreplay, but where's the real action? Well, the wait is over. However, to learn the newest batch of revelations, you now have to go to a movie theater. And, yes, the movie does in fact provide more revelations than the past two or three years of The X-Files combined. Carter does deliver the goods, ripping back the veils of secrecy that have shrouded the mythos/conspiracy behind The X-Files. He doesn't give away everything. As can be expected, for every revelation, Carter opens up new questions and provides new depths to the extent of the conspiracy.

Part of the difference is simply the amount of money Carter had to work with. Whereas the television show's mythos episodes would frequently get bogged down in darkened back rooms, providing little new grist for fans of the show to mull over, the movie gives us nasty tempered aliens ("So much for little green men," says a government scientist), a federal building bombing (which strongly echoes the Oklahoma City bombing), ice caves in North Texas (circa 35,000 BC!), underground complexes of astonishing size, huge spaceships, and much more. In short, the filmmakers had the resources to give us everything we've been wanting to see on the television show, and they pack it all into a two-hour package.

They even begin to explore the depth of personal attachment between Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Do they harbor more than simply platonic feelings for one another? Even with all of the movie's special effects, the most palpable sensation provided by the movie is a kind of emotional yearning. It's there in every scene involving Mulder and Scully. They've been through so much together over the years that they're now bound together emotionally. But what kind of relationship is it? Mulder and Scully certainly don't know. And I'm guessing Carter himself doesn't know. But this part of their relationship may be one of the show's strongest elements, one of the reasons we keep returning to it. The biggest question posed by the movie is how the television show will deal with the Mulder/ Scully relationship once the Fall '98 television season arrives. (I'm guessing the show will disregard, for the most part, the implications that the movie has set forth. But then again, how can it do anything else?)

The X-Files movie parades out the usual cast of characters, including Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), The Cigarette-Smoking Man (Willam B. Davis), and The Well-Manicured Man (John Neville). Even the Lone Gunmen make a short appearance. (Notably absent, however, is Agent Alex Krycek, a major player in the show's mythos episodes.) The show also adds some new characters to the mix, such as Martin Landau as Dr. Kurtzweil (a conspiracy monger who might just be onto something), Armin Mueller-Stahl as Strughold (one of the leaders of a shadowy political group), and Blythe Danner as Cassidy (the chairperson of a government committee investigating a federal building bombing).

All of these characters become involved in a plot with implications that will affect "every man, woman, and child on this planet" (in the words of Mulder). And . . . no, I'm not going to summarize the plot at all. No need to ruin any of the surprises that the movie has in store for fans of the television show. The movie probably will only confuse people who haven't been following the show closely. When characters such as the Lone Gunmen show up, the movie provides no explanations for the uninitiated. The movie doesn't provide any background on the characters--and for that reason, the movie glides along, unencumbered by the tedious exposition that tends to drag down other movies based on television shows. The movie starts in high gear and it just keeps accelerating faster and faster. It takes us from dusty North Texas to frozen Arctic glaciers, from cornfields to deserts, and along the way we meet a cast of characters that includes Ice Age Indians, kids digging a hole in a field, government scientists, and many others.

When The X-Files movie went into pre-production, Chris Carter didn't go looking for a big name director. He stuck with one of the directors from the television series, Rob Bowman. And Bowman has delivered a visually stunning movie. The movie's plot doesn't always make much sense. But in contrast to other recent science-fiction movies, which tend to give us paper-thin characters, The X-Files draws its strength from Mulder and Scully. (Interestingly, at one point in the movie, Mulder pisses on a movie poster of Independence Day.)

While this movie might not attract many new X-Files fans, it's everything the existing fans could have hoped for.

[rating: 3 of 4 stars]

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