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'X-Files' Leaves X-Philes
Still Hanging

By Rita Kempley
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)

Rob Bowman
David Duchovny;
Gillian Anderson;
Mitch Pileggi;
William B. Davis;
Martin Landau
Running Time:
2 hours
Gore and violence
We'll never know the truth even if it is out there, for certainty would surely destroy "The X-Files." Fox's paranormal franchise thrives on misinformation, unfathomable motives and things that go bump in the night. For that matter, so do X-philes, who would be bereft if series creator Chris Carter made good on his promises and actually spilled a bean or two in the movie begotten by the TV show.

Not to worry. You'll be as bumfuzzled when you go as when you came. Carter's narrative is as obtuse as a tax form and his characters' true natures remain as impenetrable as the Popemobile's bulletproof windows. While the film reveals some new information, these revelations only lead to vastly more perplexing permutations. These involve aliens, bees, clones and the Syndicate, a shadowy cabal of powerful white geezers who control everything from global warming to the U.S. hockey team's upset of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics.

The movie catches up with FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and his partner, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who were reassigned to an anti-terrorism unit when the X-Files were officially closed at the end of last season. The two are investigating the bombing of a Dallas office building, which is actually a clumsy attempt to cover up three deaths involving the viscous menace "black oil."

The oil and its connection to an extraterrestrial plot to take over the planet is explored more fully here, although fans will find the conclusions just as nonsensical as those unfamiliar with the mythology of the series. Never mind that the most powerful people in the world blow up a skyscraper to hide three bodies and the corpses aren't burned, crushed or even dusty. You'd think they'd have a shovel or two down at the intergalactic conspiracy.

The bodies allow Scully, whose specialty is forensics, to do one of her grisly autopsies on one of the victims. He's been invaded by some kind of virus, which like Ebola gradually liquefies its victims. The discovery takes the fetching G-woman and the broodingly handsome Mulder from the Texas prairies to the frigid wastes of Antarctica, where the duo is pitted against familiar foes – or are they? – such as Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and Well-Manicured Man (John Neville).

Old friends such as the Lone Gunmen and Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) make pro forma appearances, while newcomer Martin Landau plays the key role of Dr. Kurtzweil, a friend of Mulder's father who writes books about conspiracy theories and the new world order.

In one of the film's rare attempts at humor, Kurtzweil first approaches Mulder in an alley behind a bar, where the agent is relieving himself on an "Independence Day" poster. The moment is more hubristic than amusing, and the same can be said for the movie, which lacks the droll observations and self-mockery that are a hallmark of the series.

Mulder and Scully engage in the customary repartee, but primarily wit takes a backseat to chase scenes, needless exposition and dull desert panoramas. The compulsive truth-seeker and his sensible, devoted partner bring new intensity and tenderness to their unresolved sexual attraction.

Their love story, however chaste, has been as crucial to the franchise's success as Mulder's unshakable paranoia. However, all that may be lost on the undefiled, who have not watched these gorgeous geeks teetering on the brink for 110 episodes. The only thing that stands between them now is that hybridized killer bee under Scully's collar. That may be the movie's most suspenseful scene.

Directed by Rob Bowman, a 25-episode veteran of the TV drama, "The X-Files" movie is really just a two-hour teaser for the series's sixth season. And little else. You will feel exactly like Mulder when he says, "How many times have we been right here before, Scully? So close to the truth?"

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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