The X-Files - I Want To Believe
Director: Chris Carter
Writers: Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Xzibit, Mitch Pileggi, Marco Niccoli, Adam Godley
This second film in The X-Files franchise is pretty much a fans only endeavor. With some nice atmosphere and well written drama/character interaction, I Want To Believe does at least manage to succeed in being a subtle meditation on the nature of faith and the limits of science. However, there is one problematic element in that the I Want To Believe has a pair of queer villains as it's main bad guys.
When an FBI agent goes missing, Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) and Agent Mosley Drummy (Xzibit) approach former Agents Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). It turns out that former priest and convicted pedophile Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly) has had psychic visions of the kidnapping and Whitney and Drummy want Fox and Scully's help on the case due to their expertise on paranormal phenomenon. Meanwhile, Dr. Scully finds herself fighting a hospital bureaucrat who wants to send a boy with a rare and terminal illness to hospice care, but whom Scully thinks there may be a chance she can save.
When The X-Files first started airing back in 1993, it was commented that Dana Scully bore a striking similarity to Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs. A first season episode Beyond the Sea even had Scully forgoing her role as a skeptic in order so that she could more effectively follow the road traveled by Clarice Starling. The plot of I Want to Believe also appears to have been inspired by The Silence of the Lambs, right down to the unfortunate detail of having a psycho transgender villain. It seems even today there are some in Hollywood who still want to promote the idea of changing one's sex/gender via surgery is terrifying on it's own.
In I Want To Believe Joseph Crissman fills the same role plot-wise as Hannibal Lector, although the two are completely different in terms of personality. Scully does get a few interesting moments of interaction with Crissman but I Want To Believe is not on the same psychological level as the Jonathen Demme flick. To be fair though, I did not think Chris Carter was trying to perfectly replicate Silence of the Lambs.
I Want To Believe does succeed as a moody character drama with supernatural overtones. For the devoted X-phile, being able to spend time once again with Scully and Mulder is worth the price of a ticket alone. The issue of faith versus the application of science, which in some ways formed the backbone of the series, is explored in depth here.
What set The X-Files apart from other series about the paranormal was the character of Dana Scully, who functioned primarily as the voice of science and reason. In doing she subverted traditional gender roles since it was Fox who relied on intuition and instincts. However such characters are typically undermined fairly early on in films and TV shows - usually either by shows treating the character as a buffon or by making it obvious that the aliens/conspiracy/ghosts/etc. are "real". I Want To Believe retains the ambiguity and of earlier seasons of The X-Files.
Now during those early years of The X-Files, Scully was typically given a leg to stand on. Rarely did she revert to the role of the believer, it was always Mulder who put forth outrageous theories about what was going on. However, there were several occasions when the character roles would be reversed. Outside of the aforementioned Beyond the Sea these reversals would typically center around matters that invoked the Christian god and specifically, thanks to Scully's Catholicism, the Catholic version. Episodes with overtly religious themes, such as Revelations, would have Scully playing the role of the believer and Mulder the skeptic. I Want To Believe is actually odd in the way that it not only invokes the earliest episode of The X-Files that had Scully acting as a believer in addition to involving the issue of Catholicism, but it still has her playing the role of the skeptic.
However, this is one of the reasons why non-fans are going to have a hard time getting into this. The series mytharc may have been jettisoned, but the character mythos play a big part in understanding why Scully and Mulder act or react the way they do. In particular, the final scene serves as a perfect coda for Dana Scully. It could even be argued that her character arc for the entire series was building towards that one particular moment. However, as a result it's significance will probably be lost on anyone who has not seen more than a few episodes of the TV series.
Primarily for die hard X-Phile believers, but then we've already seen it.
*** out of ****
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