1998, PG-13, 122 min. Directed by Rob Bowman. Starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Blythe Danner, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, John Neville, Terry O'Quinn, Jeffrey De Munn.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 19, 1998
An enigma wrapped in a conundrum sealed in a plain brown vapor-lock baggie that -- wonder of wonders! -- actually makes a fair amount of sense. In the five years since creator Chris Carter brought his conspiracy-laden, UFOlogist's dream-come-true television show to the upstart Fox network, the ongoing saga of FBI agents Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Anderson) -- he of the credulous wisecracks and she of the pragmatic, slightly chilly disdain -- has amassed a cult popularity to rival that of The Fugitive (or, perhaps more accurately, The Prisoner). Any way you slice it, though, Carter's paranormal, paranoid brainchild was predestined to make the leap to the big screen someday, and now that that yawning crevasse has been summarily bridged, the show seems poised for a revitalization of sorts. The series' early, basic plot lines -- Mulder and Scully investigate a mysterious circumstance, one or the other is put in jeopardy (usually in the dark), and the other arrives in the nick of time (always with a flashlight) -- have given way to the convoluted “mythology” stories, a twisted skein of conspiracy theorist ejaculate that has almost single-handedly devoured most of the Internet's remaining bandwidth. In pre-release hype, Carter and director Bowman (who has helmed multiple TV episodes) promise that “the truth,” that precious commodity so often alluded to but so rarely outed, would, indeed, find its way onto the big screen. That's not really the case, but you can't blame Carter for fudging a bit -- it's as much a part of his nature as Mulder's closet porn fetish. What audiences will get is essentially a glitzy, expanded episode, albeit one with gobs of high style, gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Ward Russell, tremendous use of sound, and a few nifty revelations. For non-fans, the story manages to hold its own, being neither inexplicable nor too obvious. Briefly, it concerns the devastating terrorist bombing of a Dallas federal building, which may or may not be linked to a quartet of unexplained civilian deaths, and a mysterious virus, which may or may not be linked to global government duplicity and associated with an ancient, non-terrestrial race. You can be sure that all of this ties in to the Kennedy assassination and the ever-fluctuating price of Tamagotchis in Sheboygen, though Carter has yet to make that clear. Almost all of the series regulars turn up, notably Davis' Cigarette-Smoking Man, Pileggi's Chief Skinner, and the trio of techoids known as the Lone Gunmen, as well as a new “Deep Throat” in the form of Landau. The X-Files' saving grace has always been Carter's slyly subversive sense of humor, and that's in full effect here, leavening the earth-shaking (literally) proceedings with an occasional dose of wry, Duchovnian smarm. Neither the revelatory orgasm promised nor the stillborn confuse-o-thon feared, The X-Files cinematic debut is solid, workmanlike stuff, and enough to keep the legions of X-philes sated until next September. And since I realize some of you are dying to know, no, Mulder's butt remains, as always, fully clothed.