The X-Files: I Want To Believe (Blu-ray)
The X-Files ran for nine seasons on FOX from 1993 to 2002, and mainly detailed the exploits of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) as they investigated cases involving matters paranormal, extraterrestrial, or other topics familiar to listeners of the nationally syndicated, overnight radio program Coast to Coast AM.
I was introduced to the series in its second season (episode "Duane Barry") and became a fan who tuned in every week. The show went on to become a commercial and critical success. When Mulder was abducted in the finale of season seven, so was my interest. I gave up on season eight shortly after it started. I was familiar with the franchise but had no idea how matters ended, so I was surprised by a couple of items.
I Want To Believe is the second film in the franchise and, like in real time, takes place six years after the series finale, which likely would have been sooner if it hadn’t been for creator Chris Carter’s lawsuit against FOX over syndication issues. Rather than deal with the mythology of the series, it tells what is known as a “Monster of the Week” story. I viewed the extended cut of the film.
When an FBI agent disappears, Father Joe (Billy Connolly), a defrocked pedophiliac priest, claims he is getting visions from God and assists the agency. When Joe leads them to a clue, the lead agent on the case, Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet), seeks out Mulder, who is a fugitive, to determine if Joe is a fraud. Scully is a hospital physician and she is contacted to assist in finding Mulder and offer him amnesty in exchange for his cooperation. Considering how easily Scully gets him, Mulder obviously wasn't really too high of a priority for them.
Since this is The X-Files, the viewer knows that when Mulder believes Joe and Scully doubts him, it signals Joe is telling the truth. Another familiar plot point is Scully going through another crisis of faith with her Catholicism as she works to save a very sick child named Christian. Her fight with Christian likely plays into some unmentioned abandonment issues she has over her son William, who she gave up for adoption. William only gets a very brief mention from Mulder, who may be the child's father, but then nothing is ever certain in The X-Files.
As more women disappear and the clues pile up, Mulder, Joe, and the FBI work to solve the case. Scully tries to stay out of it, but of course, she can’t. The case is solved, but there’s no explanation as to what was going on with Joe. His connection is revealed, but it and the kidnappings make no sense and seem poorly thought out.
[Skip this paragraph to avoid spoilers]
The women are being taken and killed so their bodies can be used for the transplanting of the head of Tomczeszyn, who is a man. If the viewer can get their own head around the idea of this major sex-change operation, what’s even more astounding is Joe is having these visions because he has a connection with Tomczeszyn. It turns out Tomczeszyn was one of the young boys Joe molested, yet Joe didn’t get visions related to other boys he molested, so apparently both God and screenwriters work in mysterious ways.
I found I Want To Believe unsatisfying. It was basically an average two-hour episode on the big screen, and try as I may, I no longer care about Mulder and Scully. Hardcore fans, known as X-philes, might be happy to learn about the characters’ further adventures together, but if you haven’t given much thought to the pair since the series has been cancelled, there’s nothing here to warrant your attention.
Presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the video looked fantastic, especially the wide-open spaces outside of Vancouver where they shot. The blacks have depth, and it is used a lot by the cinematographer and the production design team. The skin tones stayed consistent throughout. A sequence of Mulder running through the city streets was shot on an HD camera and it fit in seamlessly with the rest of the film. I was only aware because it was talked about in the extras.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio on the other hand was so terribly mixed I had to change the volume throughout, which takes away from the involvement in the film. After the booming effects and dialogue of the prologue, I needed to turn the audio up to hear the dialogue. When they whispered, it was a lost cause and the scene had to be replayed -- one of the worst I have experienced on Blu-ray.
X-philes will be very happy with all the extras. A very thorough and insightful commentary track by co-writer/director Carter and co-writer/producer Frank Spotnitz is available as picture in picture or audio only. "In Movie Features" provides access to relevant information, either the commentary track, behind-the-scenes footage, or storyboards and conceptual art, to the scene on screen.
A 90-minute, three-part feature entitled Trust No One: Can The X-Files Remain A Secret? examines the team reuniting after six years, the secrecy involved in the project, and the post-production work. It’s a great look at their creative process, if not slightly odd when you consider they shot a documentary about keeping the film a secret, yet they created one more avenue to talk about the film, which they didn’t want anyone doing.
A timeline of the series is presented with images and film clips. It is absolutely a great resource, even though I would still prefer the information in a book, or maybe that’s just what I am used to. There is also a legitimate gag reel that runs about 10 minutes, unlike most other DVD extras where they only offer up a couple of minutes, a look at the make-up effects, and Carter talking about working on a Green production.
Blu-ray exclusives include access to Agent Dakota Whitney’s files that contain information on Father Joe and other characters with related abilities like Clyde Bruckman and Luther Lee Boggs.
Although I wasn’t able to try it, the disc is D-Box Motion Code capable for those with the equipment to bring their seats into the experience of watching the film.