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By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 19, 1998

  Movie Critic


The X-Files
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson take the TV show to the big screen in "The X-Files." (20th Century Fox)

Director:
Rob Bowman
Cast:
David Duchovny;
Gillian Anderson;
Mitch Pileggi;
William B. Davis;
Martin Landau
Running Time:
2 hours
PG-13
For shootings, explosions, cadavers, alien maulings, a dash of profanity, buckets of extraterrestrial goo
FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are like two lobes of asingle brain, connected but distinct. As the team investigates the paranormal in the popular "X-Files" television series and the new feature film based on it, Scully acts as the voice of reason, logic and linear thought; Mulder is all intuition, instinct and gut feeling.

People whose brains are dominated by the Mulder side, I suspect, will most enjoy this movie, an often gripping, slime-dripping amusement-park ride through a paranoid world of eerie, unexplained phenomena and creepy coincidence. Like the TV show, "The X-Files" movie is stylish, scary, sardonically funny and at times just plain gross.

Scully-brained folks, on the other hand, may have a wee bit of trouble with the flaky science, inadequate explanations and preposterous interconnectivity of all of life's mysteries.

The Oklahoma City bombing? "Killer" Africanized honey bees invading the United States? The southwestern Hanta virus scare? Alien coverups at the highest levels of government? What makes you think they're not all related?

The Byzantine plot goes something like this: While checking out a bomb threat at a federal office building in Dallas, Mulder and Scully get sucked into a web of lies and deception involving an "evolved pathogen" (that's X-speak for an alien virus that walks on two legs), host bodies suspended in deep-freeze, a mysterious vaccine that may or may not work, a warehouse full of angry bees, a field of corn in the middle of nowhere and an international "syndicate" of old men who control everything.

This, of course, will sound familiar to X-heads who have been following the increasingly complicated story line on the small screen for five seasons. Familiar, yes. Sensible, no. The movie submits to rational analysis no more so than the series ever did. Just don't try to figure it out. That way madness lies.

If you can get that chattering voice in your head to clam up for a minute, however, "The X-Files" does offer a bunch of old-fashioned, visceral pleasures. Monsters do jump out of darkened corners. There are moments of occasional wit, as when the deadpan Mulder is seen relieving himself against a poster advertising that other alien movie, "Independence Day." The globe-trotting G-men (who must have a ton of frequent-flier miles by now) visit a variety of scenic locales, from Washington, D.C., to North Texas to Antarctica, where there are some visually stunning special effects to delight the eye. And the most burning question of all is finally put to rest (sort of): When are the notoriously sexless Mulder and Scully ever going to make out?

Those who have never watched a single episode-and there must still be a few of you out there-or who have not boned up on X-trivia prior to the movie will likely be left in the dark about certain allusions. By way of exposition, Mulder, in a drunken bar-side confessional, explains much of his own back-story (including the fact that his sister was abducted by extraterrestrials when she was little). But the in-jokey cameo by series regulars Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood and Bruce Harwood as the Lone Gunmen (a comic trio of lovable but kooky conspiracy theorists and computer hackers who frequently pop up to decode a vital piece of information) will probably fly over the heads of most non-devotees.

Obviously geared toward maintaining its substantial audience of converts, "The X-Files" sews up only as much as it unravels. That tantalizing-and frustrating-seduction seems as much calculated to appeal to the already hopeless junkies as it is aimed at creating new addicts. Whether this creepy but confusing tale is the vehicle to accomplish that crossover is doubtful.

(Oh, shut up, Scully.)

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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