If you are going to make the brave move of trying to take a successful tv show and put it on the big screen, you have to go bigger and better than anything we have seen on the show already. That’s even more the case when you are putting your show on the big screen while it’s at the top of its success and still planning to make more seasons for the small screen.
Not many tv shows have the scale and scope to go to the big screen well but the X-Files is actually a series that fits well with a feature-length picture. There are some great, large-scale, season-long story arcs that could be developed fantastically over a whole movie. Not to mention that the tv show has some fantastic set-pieces, so with a movie sized budget behind it, these could be even better.
It’s the set-pieces and scale of the X-Files movie that impresses you first. It opens with an alien attack, a small boy infected by the “black oil” and then a bomb threat which opens a new conspiracy for our agents to investigate. Add to that a chase through a corn field, huge spaceships and a close encounter with bees, and you have a big screen experience that feels a step up from the tv show.
The story itself is also classic X-Files. A new conspiracy, built from the ground up with a brand new threat and new alien force to experience. It isn’t a complicated, multi-layered conspiracy but enough of a mystery to keep you interested and keep the story going at a fair pace.
It also gives David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson great scope to build their characters for a movie-sized story. They are so comfortable in their characters and their chemistry is at its best. They have the humour, the romantic undercurrent that is never really explored (a positive in my opinion) and the history, which makes the length that Mulder goes to during the film much more realistic and believable.
In fact, the movie is the Mulder show rather than a straight case for the FBI Agents. Its his conspiracy, his chase and his action sequences, much more than Gillian Anderson’s Scully. Its his legacy that brings the story forward and Duchovny carries much of the movie.
It’s not just about the two agents though. We have a series of key characters that show their faces and play their parts. The Cigarette Smoking Man, played excellently by William B Davis, does enough to warrant his shadowy, “big bad villain” threat. There are also revelations and character deaths that impact, maybe not in a show shattering way, but enough to be noticeable and make the film important, not just a side-project for Chris Carter.
It’s just a shame that there are some aspects that are shut down as soon as they are introduced. Martin Landau plays a shady, conspiracy-obsessed doctor, a natural successor for the “men in black” that have helped Mulder before. He gets an important role but never reaches his full potential and could well have been a new, key addition to the series.
The same can be said for the roles which never make the impact they should. The Lone Gunmen are in there but as a cameo more than a huge part of the story, and even more disappointing, Mitch Pileggi’s Skinner is just a man behind a desk rather than active part of the story.
It would also have been much more impactful if we’d had more revelations and more “main” conspiracy-led story. A new conspiracy makes sense, and helps to keep the film focused, self-contained and doesn’t alienate any of the fans who couldn’t see the movie. It just feels like it can be sidetracked and pushed aside if the story falls flat or isn’t successful. I don’t like the idea that the film isn’t part of the wider story, something I hope they don’t just ignore in season 6.
Overall, The X-Files movie is a great example of how to transfer a small screen show to the big screen. It has a larger scale, big set-pieces and a story which matches the movie environment and format. The performances are great and demonstrate the best part of the show, Duchovny and Anderson, but does it at the expense of some of the other great performances from the show. I just hope the film is recognised in the wider series, not just a little side-project or experiment before we get back to season 6.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)