Between the fifth and sixth seasons of Fox's television hit The X-Files, the genre thriller temporarily morphed into a big-screen summer blockbuster. Saddled with the task of bridging twenty-episode seasons laden with complex "mythology" while also remaining accessible to newbies, the film version of The X-Files succeeds in both tasks without ever excelling as a film. Still, for fans, it's the equivalent of a "very special episode," with a beefed up budget and an imperative to advance the storyline at least a little.
Series creator Chris Carter penned the script from a story developed with producer Frank Spotnitz, one that has all the hallmarks of one of the series' conspiratorial entries about dangerous aliens and the cigarette-smoking men who love them. Actually, the suits in the smoke-filled rooms are beginning to discover the game they're playing with alien species is much more dangerous than first imagined. An extraterrestrial virus has been unearthed, and it's laying the evolutionary groundwork for an alien colonization. FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), once and future investigators of the paranormal "X-Files," determine to "fight the future" (the film's unofficial title) by rooting out the conspiracy and developing a response to the virus.
Director Rob Bowman, a veteran of the series, does an admirable job with his new toys: a widescreen frame and a budget to support several elaborate sets and action set pieces. It's a handsome-looking conspiracy thriller with a sci-fi/horror twist, and at every turn there's an impressive character actor: Martin Landau as a conspiracy theorist who gains Mulder's trust, Blythe Danner as Mulder and Scully's unsympathetic superior, Armin Mueller-Stahl as a prime mover among the power players behind the conspiracy, and even Glenne Headley, in a cameo, as a D.C. barmaid. (Series stalwarts Skinner and The Lone Gunmen also turn up.)
A decade after its release, the film's touchstones of a collapsing government building and the implication of FEMA take on more weight, the latter with an unintended edge of rueful comedy bookended by the sequel's George W. Bush cameo. The series' "Cigarette Smoking Man" (William B. Davis) lurks around the film's edges, but the film's real "big bad" is the alien threat. The alien conspiracy stories tended to be the series' least interesting, but if the story's demands hamper the film's ability to cut loose, the filmmakers must have felt launching an X-Files film franchise without aliens would be like an Al Pacino movie without yelling.
The non-negotiable element, of course, is the soulful, playful core relationship between Mulder the believer and Scully the skeptic. Carter successfully layers in at least three memorable scenes for the partners: a bantering initial sequence that develops into a mortal threat to one agent, a clinch to tease the fans longing for the two to do it already, and a climactic close encounter of the third kind that cuts to the agents' issues with belief. The "clinch" comes with something tantalizingly close to a declaration of love from Mulder: "Your goddamn strict rationalism and science has saved me a thousand times over. You kept me honest. You made me a whole person. You made me everything, and Scully, I owe you nothing."
Fox grants The X-Files a Blu-ray exclusive special edition that adds several significant bonus features as well as a high-def upgrade to the previous DVD issues. The transfer is a very natural one, film-like in its grain, and never less than clean and clear. Detail is good and colors are accurate; those expecting the slick look of a post-milennial film (like the sequel, also now on Blu-ray) will need to make an adjustment as this image doesn't particularly "pop." But it does nicely represent the film as I remember it on the big screen, with a substantial improvement over DVD. It goes without saying that the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundtrack also bests the DVD's audio: The X-Files has never sounded so good and probably never will sound any better.
The BonusVIEW Picture-in-Picture commentary with director Rob Bowman, writers Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz and producer Daniel Sackheim (also available as an audio-only bonus) proves a playful reunion of the behind-the-scenes players, who demontstrate their complete recall of production detail, including reflections on how the film fit into the series schedule and mythology. The disc also includes an original 1999 audio commentary by Bowman and Carter, with Carter taking the lead and explaining the history and meaning behind the series and the film.
An In-Movie Features option on the menu also allows viewers to see at any given moment what special video is available at any given moment in the film and then select it on the fly by pressing one of the color buttons on the remote.
"Blackwood: Making The X-Files: Fight the Future" (19:30, HD) is a new featurette constructed of behind-the-scenes footage and archival interviews with Carter, Bowman, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Mitch Pileggi, Blythe Danner, John Neville, Armin Mueller-Stahl, William B. Davis, and special makeup effects men Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.
The "Alternate Bee Sting Scene" (2:19, HD) is a belated little bonbon for fans that toys with the tease that was thisn pivotal scene. "Visual Effects" (8:49, HD) allows visual effects supervisor Mat Beck to explain the key sequences of the film in show-and-tell fashion. Composer Mark Snow gets his chance to do much the same in "Scoring" (5:02, HD).
Despite its promotional flavor, the 1998 TV special "The Making of The X-Files Movie" (26:53, SD), hosted by Pileggi, actually goes more in depth than the new featurette, using different material from the same interview sessions with Carter, Bowman, Duchovny, Anderson; also on hand are Spotnitz, Sackheim, Beck, Snow, aerial coordinator David Paris, special effects coordinator Paul Lombardi, stunt double Jon Epstein, 1st assistant director Josh McLaghlan, and visual effects supervisor John Wash.
Still Galleries include Concept Art, Storyboards, and Unit Photography. Also included are Three Theatrical Trailers for The X-Files and one for The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
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