Gillian Anderson and David Duchovney in The X-Files: Fight the Future.
When The X-Files: Fight the Future was released in the summer of 1998, The X-Files was at the height of its popularity. Season 5 of the show had just ended and it finished that season as the 11th most popular series on TV and the Fox network's highest rated show. Creator Chris Carter had the daunting task of providing the detail obsessed fans of the show with something that would please them, while at the same time not alienating those who would be introduced to the world of The X-Files through this movie. It's a balancing act that he mostly achieved, but in the end it's a movie probably best enjoyed by those who are already fans.
"I'm the key figure in an ongoing government charade, a plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It's a global conspiracy actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman and child on this planet....So of course no one believes me. I'm a..I'm an annoyance to my superiors, a joke to my peers, they call me 'Spooky', Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid. And who now chases little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens and to anyone who'll listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling, and when it hits it's gonna be the shit-storm of all time."
The plot revolves around FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully attempting to unravel at least part of a conspiracy involving a shadowy international group and their attempts to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of an alien virus that has been lying dormant under the earth for over 35,000 years. Mulder and Scully are tipped off when a Federal Building is blown up in Dallas in an attempt to destroy evidence, including the bodies of 4 people who have been infected with the virus. The trail then leads them across Texas, back to Washington and finally to the climax in Antarctica where Mulder once and for all sees what he has been longing to see since the beginning of the television series.
It's difficult to remember now, but The X-Files was the Lost of the 1990s. It was the first show to be adopted by the internet, which was just beginning to become popular at the same time as the series. Obsessed fans would flock to online bulletin boards and chatrooms (remember those?) to discuss details and minutia of the alien conspiracy and mythology. While the series doled out hints about what was going on, the movie is pretty explicit in its details about the conspiracy. The series also, at least in the beginning, kept aliens and spaceships in the shadows so that while it was pretty clear there were aliens, it kept things vague enough so that you could see why no one would believe they were real. Here though, the aliens are right there and in your face. What's interesting about that is that, also like Lost, once answers started being provided, The X-Files ratings began to decline and many have labeled this movie as the moment The X-Files jumped the shark. I guess people prefer a good mystery to complicated solutions.
Although the film has a bigger budget than the show and is done on a grander scale, the best thing about it is the same thing that was best about the series and that is the relationship between its two leads. Mulder and Scully, as played by Duchovney and Anderson, are two classic characters. Mulder, the believer in the paranormal, while Scully remains skeptical, play perfectly off of each other and their banter and their obvious feelings for each other are what keeps the movie (and the series) grounded no matter how outlandish the plot gets. And I can still remember the gasps in the theater during the opening weekend when the two almost kiss for the first time.
"But you saved me! As difficult and as frustrating as it's been sometimes, your goddamned strict rationalism and science have saved me a thousand times over! You've kept me honest. You've made me a whole person. I owe you everything... Scully, and you owe me nothing. I don't know if I wanna do this alone. I don't even know if I can. And if I quit now, they win."
The best way to really enjoy this movie is to not think too much about the details. Don't be bothered if you don't quite fully understand the whole conspiracy plot. Just enjoy the action and the interaction. There's more to it if you want to delve, but basically you should just sit back and enjoy the movie and the nostalgia it now brings.
While this movie did make a profit, it never lead to the film franchise that was expected. Only one other sequel was made and that not for another 10 years. With 2012 fast approaching, which was the year according to the show that the final alien invasion was set to take place, surely it's time to bring Mulder and Scully out of retirement for at least one more adventure.
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X Files: Fight the Future
I have never been the X Files fan that Scott is but I have always enjoyed watching the show whenever I happened to catch an episode. Like Fox Mulder, (great name by the way) I believe our government has many secrets that we, the general public, are not privy to. Although I think the government's secrets are about power, control and wealth, Mulder believes them to be about the existence of extraterrestrial alien life on Earth. Every time he reads a newspaper article that spins the truth, I feel his frustration. Although this is just a movie, I and many others, believe the Government/Media complex simply tells us what they want us to know. Like the X Files mantra, I believe "the truth is out there" but it sure as hell is not getting reported by any news agency owned by some wealthy person or conglomerate with political ties.
Okay, so that just made me sound like a conspiracy theorist. If you have your head in the sand you would call me a conspiracy nut job. I guess that is why I like the character of Mulder so much. He is not willing to accept pre-approved news reports the world is fed. As a result, he has been nick named "Spooky" by his peers. This makes Mulder a brethren and hero to all the people in the world who dare to ask questions of their government that reporters never do, and get called names because of it.
I understand what Scott meant when he wrote that The X-Files: Fight the Future jumped the shark. Here Mulder has someone tell him to his face that yes Aliens are and have been on Earth for a very long time. He gets the questions about his sister answered in full. He also boards an alien ship and later even sees it take off. After this movie, Mulder was no longer an idiosyncratic alien hunter, he was now a lone man of knowledge fighting a system that few others were. He was no longer that conspiracy nerd, as his conspiracies had all been proven correct. By finding the truth, Mulder lost much of his unique charm.
The one mystery the movie retained was that Scully conveniently passes out whenever something important happens. When Mulder carries her past the pods with the aliens growing inside of them she is conveniently out cold. She crawls out of a tunnel, runs for her life and then collapses, face first of course, into some snow so as to not see the huge alien space craft take off right behind them.
The attraction to the X Files has always been based on two elements. The first is that little nagging feeling many of us have that we are not aware of everything we want to be. That the world is not as cut and dry or black and white as we have often been told. The other attraction is the chemistry between the two characters of Mulder and Scully. My heart rate did not rise when they almost kissed. I cared not if they got together. However, they have such a magnificent professional working relationship that I cannot imagine one without the other. Scully needs facts while Mulder goes on hunches, and that is where this film misstepped. It presents facts that prove Mulder has always been right, but Scully conveniently misses them all.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in X-Files: Fight the Future.
Calling someone a conspiracy nut job has nothing to do with burying your head in the sand. I think it's healthy to question any government, and any intelligent citizen will tell you that of course things go on behind the scenes that never get reported. The difference between a questioning citizen and a conspiracy nut job is all a matter of degree. Never believing anything your government tells you is just as gullible as accepting everything it says as the truth.
Eric, you say you think the government lies about power, control and wealth. Well isn't that exactly what is going on in this movie? The extraterrestrial-virus angle is merely the secret that holds the key to them maintaining their power, control and wealth.
I understand why ratings for the series fell after this movie came out, although I'm not sure “jumping the shark” applies. That term (from the episode of Happy Days where Fonzie -literally- jumped over a shark on his motorcycle) usually refers to the moment when a show gets so completely ridiculous that it becomes a parody of its former self. That's not what happened here.
It's more like how the storyline in Moonlighting had nowhere to go once Maddie and David had sex. Once Mulder and Scully have seen incontrovertible proof of alien existence the mystery is gone. That's why television shows drag out plot lines (romantic and otherwise) and why movies end with the kiss and fade out. I think it's more accurate to say the X-Files shot its cinematic wad with this movie and everything that came after was anticlimactic in comparison.
I was not a fan of the X-Files series when this movie was released. I had probably watched only a handful of episodes but, as Scott said, it was so popular at the time that I decided to see this movie to see what all the fuss was about. Although it may be more completely enjoyed by hardcore fans of the series, it successfully stands alone as a movie that can be enjoyed by anyone. It tells a fascinating story that contains intrigue, suspense and action, and it features two well-written and beautifully-acted central characters. It's just too bad it left the series with nowhere to go but down.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (1998)