Saturday, December 17, 2016

The X-Files (1998)

It’s very rare to see a television series turned into a big-screen feature with the same cast and crew and even more so for it to happen while the show is still on the air (only 1954’s DRAGNET and 1966’s BATMAN come to mind).

That’s how big an impact THE X-FILES had on audiences during its prime. In terms of ratings, longevity, and critical acclaim, it may well be the most successful science fiction series in network history, so 20th Century Fox was eager for creator Chris Carter to deliver a big-budget adventure with more scale, more special effects, and major guest stars.

Shot between the series’ fourth and fifth seasons, THE X-FILES was intended by Carter, co-writer Frank Spotnitz, and director Rob Bowman (all series veterans) to appeal to both rabid fans and those who had never seen the show. David Duchovny (CALIFORNICATION) is Fox Mulder, one of two FBI agents assigned to investigate cases involving the paranormal. As a boy, he witnessed his sister’s abduction by aliens and has devoted his life to learning the truth about extraterrestrials and the U.S. government’s attempt to cover up their existence. Gillian Anderson (HANNIBAL) is his partner, Dana Scully, a medical doctor whose original assignment was to debunk X-File cases, but learned through experience to accept Mulder’s far-out theories.

Released a few weeks after the fifth season finale, THE X-FILES picked up where that episode left off with Mulder and Scully removed from X-Files duty and assigned to terrorist detail in Dallas, Texas. The bombing of an office building and some nudging from paranoid OB-GYN Alvin Kurtzweil (Martin Landau) lead the agents to yet another sinister government plot involving aliens, an underground cave in north Texas, killer bees (!), and a deadly virus that could destroy all life on Earth. Basically, another Thursday for Mulder and Scully.

Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but THE X-FILES is just about as good as the best series episodes, adding visual style, location shooting, large-scale action scenes, and gooey makeup effects that couldn’t be created on a television budget. Anderson and Duchovny had fallen into a smart, sexy rhythm by this point, and the film’s extra running time lets the relationship between Mulder and Scully breathe a bit. The script is intelligent, complex, and suspenseful. The extra money also allowed composer Mark Snow an eighty-piece orchestra, which turned in a mature score to match the film’s epic nature.

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