15 – 100mins – 2008
BILLY’S GOT TALENT
Growing up in a household without Sky television, my only exposure to Chris Carter’s phenomenally successful supernatural serial was when BBC One belatedly started showing it pre-Match of the Day on a Saturday night. A few choice episodes stand out from this truncated terrestrial transmission, but I’d never go so far as to call myself an avid X-phile.
This might go some way to explain why it has taken me the best part of EIGHT years to catch up with this second theatrical release, which came a decade after 1998’s Fight the Future, six years after the show’s largely Duchovny-less ninth season and six years before January’s “event” mini-series revival (which I plan to binge-watch on blu-ray come its June home video release).
Years after they have left the FBI, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is a fugitive from the organisation, while Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is a doctor at a Catholic hospital. Despite protestations that they “can’t look into the darkness again,” the old team are lured back into paranormal investigation when Father Joe (Billy Connolly), a former priest with a dangerous past, claims to be having psychic visions which could lead to the safe rescue of a kidnapped agent – and the apprehension of some twisted backstreet surgeons. But does Father Joe really have a super-human talent for tapping into the voice of God, or is he elaborating a fiction to atone for his diabolical sins?
Beyond its horrendous tagline of a subtitle, the main issue I had with I Want to Believe is its scale. It’s a competent enough drama (if lacking the prepossessing kick of the show’s extra-terrestrial edge), but it feels small, reserved and as unhurried as the film’s near-persistent softly falling snow. Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz give over a lot of time to moping, sighing and consternation from their philosophical characters. As evidenced:
“I’m lying here cursing God for all his cruelties.”
Even the strangeness of a Frankenstein-alluding climax can’t disguise this sequel’s calmer, more meditative tone, making it feel more like a water-treading mid-season double-bill than a cinema-worthy game-changer – and even less like a spectacular finale to a long-running franchise (which it effectively was until season 10).
In this regard it also serves a double fault of largely eschewing the mytharc of Mulder’s missing sister (which formed the backbone of the series when a monster of the week didn’t show up), while simultaneously assuming a fan’s level of franchise knowledge (Skinner’s cameo, references to previous case files, Mulder and Scully’s sleeping arrangement). Yet it fails as both a worthy wrap-up and a purposeful stand alone adventure, existing solely to eek a few more dollars from the parched pockets of a thirsty fanbase – now that’s a talent!