Despite having been a long-time fan of the TV series The X-Files I’ve only just caught up with the 1998 movie.
While the government conspiracy theory involving extraterrestrials was, as the series creator Chris Carter asserts, the backbone of the series it was also in many ways its least satisfactory element. That conspiracy theory takes centre stage in the movie but it works better than one might have expected.
The attempt to make the movie as cinematic as possible, to do things on a more epic scale than in the TV series, is reasonably successful. The movie makes extensive use of CGI and while I generally detest CGI I must admit it’s used quite well. The big weakness of CGI in my opinion is that people (and human-like monsters) always look very fake but in this movie the producers have wisely used CGI mostly to render objects and settings.
The series had such a distinctive look (not so obvious now since it’s been widely copied but back in 1993 it was quite startling) that the producers faced the challenge of keeping as much of that visual style as possible while at the same time opening it up for the big screen and making it not look like just an extended episode. Not a particularly easy thing to pull off but it’s done quite well.
The strength of the series was always the Mulder-Scully relationship and that, quite sensibly, remains a major focus in the movie.
The story begins with a terrorist bomb threat but of course it turns that things are not as they appear. Actually the movie itself begins with a prologue 37 million years ago, a prologue that will later tie in with the main story. The action eventually movies to the Antarctic with some fairly effective visual moments there.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is that there’s a considerable focus on the mysterious elderly men who seem to be behind the whole conspiracy. These men are familiar to viewers of the series but the movie shows us that their motivations may be more complex than we’d thought. Fans of the Cigarette Smoking Man (and I include myself in that number) will not be disappointed. Even if you’re not a fan of conspiracy theories it has to be admitted that The X-Files does give us conspiracy theories that are less simplistic than most.
And of course there’s something here for those viewers who love obsessing over that Mulder-Scully relationship. As with the series the movie still keeps things suitably ambiguous in this respect.
While the story more or less stands alone it does help a good deal if you’re familiar with the TV show.
On the whole it’s good entertainment value.