We get off to what can only be described as ‘an X-Files start’ – Billy Connolly finds a severed arm in a field. Yes, there is no doubt that even six years after the last episode of the series, the main elements of The X-Files appear in this film in spades; a child with an unusual illness, Mulder sitting in a dark room surrounded by newspaper clippings; and body parts. This may not be gory (and compared to other films out about now, it looks like a U certificate) but you can always guarantee there will be something in there that makes you go “ugh!”.
It’s hard to gauge exactly where this was pitched: while it’s definitely more ‘purist’ than the last two seasons of the TV show, it’s also not harking back to the good old days. Mulder and Scully are the only real constants, with the name-dropping of Clyde Bruckman and fleeting appearance of Walter Skinner (Mitch Pillegi) being the only other references to the old guard. We see the FBI building adorned with a picture of George W. Bush next to Hoover, cueing a sly political moment, but after that we could be in any time from 1993 onwards. Scully’s hair has grown and both of them look a bit older, but in the grand tradition favoured by the likes of nineties show Bugs, the temporal aspect makes no difference whatsoever.
Not in keeping with any tradition, the plot is distinctly unsatisfying. It was the overall story ‘arc’ of the series that kept fans coming back for more and baffled everyone else: it’s completely missing here. In fact, apart from a totally unnecessary bringing-up of Mulder’s sister (come on, we cleared that up yonks ago!) there is no mention of the actual X Files at all. While I wasn’t expecting Tooms to come crawling out from the drains, I thought they might link back a bit more – to be honest, if you replaced Mulder and Scully with two randomers from the CSI series I’m not sure there would be any noticeable detriment.
Billy Connolly’s paedophile psychic priest is the only lead in the hunt for a missing FBI agent, and someone thinks that M&S might be able to help. Mulder is let off previous misdemeanours, they go off into the snow of Virginia (really Vancouver) and discover a Russian head-transplant gang operating. Naturally, Mulder gets himself in trouble and disappears, and Scully ends up having to find him before he gets cut to pieces.
Don’t ask me what any of it meant: I have no idea. It’s interspersed with dialogue about the faith versus science argument, some stuff between Mulder and Scully about their relationship, and pointless lines from investigators Amanda Peet and Xzibit. To be honest, it all felt like a bit of a set-up to try and shoehorn in as many of the aspects viewers might ‘expect’ to see – apparently forgetting that it was defying expectations that made the show so good in the first place. Where the purpose of Fight The Future was absolutely clear, and it worked as a stand-alone, this just about manages the latter but left me really, really wanting to go back and watch The X-Files Essentials.
On the plus side, the extras are worth it. The commentary is excellent, there are a couple of cracking documentaries, and any film involving this much snow is going to have a decent gag reel. Xzibit’s music video is gratuitous and pointless in equal measure, the deleted scenes are…well, they were deleted, and Chris Carter’s mumblings about ‘green film production’ are a bit odd, but there is enough here to warrant the second disc.
I will confess that I was already narked by the end of show’s run (save for the fantastic final episode), so maybe I don’t appreciate this as much as I should do. It’s a good film, just not great. I didn’t like Billy Connolly, and would possibly have severed my own arm for even five minutes of smoking men and strange figures in the shadows, but things have moved on and it’s not 1995 any more. Put away any hopes of a repeat of Fight The Future, and simply enjoy a well-made thriller which is still better than most of the other rubbish out there.