The X-Files was a Sunday night ritual for me. I was pretty young when it started, so its effectiveness at creeping the bejesus out of me was out of this world (pun intended). A year or so ago, I found an insane 'all FOX TV shows for $19.99' sale, and now the entire series is sitting on my shelf. I've only been able to see the first two seasons of it so far, and it's a shame, because I want to see the rest of them. I need to see the rest of them. As a kid, I think I only made it through the first four seasons. Despite the fact that I'm not privy to all the plot points that unraveled in the later seasons, I was still as excited as could be when The X-Files - I Want to Believe hit theaters this past summer. I never thought we'd see Mulder and Scully chase the unknown ever again! Thankfully, the planets have finally aligned to get us closer to 'the truth' that's 'out there', and our favorite agents are together again!
I know you're probably thinking, "Why does this boob get to tell us about an X-Files movie when he's never finished watching the series in its entirety?" I would have to argue that such a question would only further validate my ability to review this title, wouldn't it? Most of the reviews you're going to find online are going to be from people that are more than familiar with the twists and turns the series offered, yet I'm in the dark. I'm just your average Joe, a guy who was a moderate fan of the (although I've always been interested in getting more involved), and I can be a good source to let you know if this is going to be a film anyone can enjoy, or just the die-hard fans.
Years after the X-Files universe as we knew it disappeared from television, the disappearance of an FBI Agent perks the interest of ASAC Dakota Whitney, and her partner, Agent Mosley Drummy. Unable to find the missing Fed, they get a psychic to try and help them out with the case. Unfortunately, all the pieces of the puzzle aren't fitting in a satisfactory manner.
The disappearance and psychic visions seem to push any logical answer out of the realm of reach, so their only option is to hunt down Fox Mulder, weird FBI case extraordinaire, to help them solve the case. He's fallen off the radar a long time ago, as the FBI did whatever they could to shut him up and keep 'the truth' under wraps. His words were labeled as heresy, but the higher ups knew better, and figured Fox knew too much.
Dana Scully is working in the real world as an advanced doctor, using her medical knowledge to try and help the helpless. Although Fox fell off the radar, Dana is far from it. The FBI seeks her help to find and convince Mulder that his help is sorely needed. When Dana finds Fox, it's very clear that he's been keeping tabs on everything the government and media doesn't want us to know about, but he's skeptical about helping the FBI after they cast him out. The original event that pushed him into searching for answers in the realm of the unknown however, pushes him into action once again.
During the course of their investigation, another woman disappears. This event truly spawns some of the more interesting aspects of the film. The mystery is left dangling on hold, and an intense dynamic between Mulder and Scully is brought back with full force. As things pick up, there are thrills, chills, and even bits of horror now and again.
I really find myself at a loss of words at this point, at least as far as the description goes for the film. This is something The X-Files fans have been waiting a very long time for, so there's no sense in spoiling anything for anyone, is there?
The X-Files - I Want to Believe is a film that brings out differing opinions within me. For example, I feel that this is a highly accessible film, but at the same time, I find myself wondering how limited the audience is going to be for a title such as this. It's 'accessible' because you don't need to have seen The X-Files series in order to appreciate it, and that was a huge concern of mine. After all, I haven't seen the last five seasons or so. However, this film is basically a longer running episode of the show itself, and it's for this reason that I have to question just how many people are going to want to go out of their way to see this.
It feels like an X-Files episode, sure, but don't confuse what I mean by that. The intensity of the drama and emotions we feel for the main characters is more explosive than anything I remember from the first half of the series or so. This makes the film an enjoyable cinematic experience in and of itself, without the need to constantly leave the viewer saying 'I don't get it' because they haven't seen the series.
However, many people might wander into this film expecting more of a sci-fi special effects extravaganza, which is going to leave some people out in the cold, but that's not the experience anyone who's familiar with the series is going to expect anyway, right? So as far as its ability to pull in and command a very broad audience, it really is going to depend on the viewer. I will say that my wife was never a huge fan of the show, but she actually really enjoyed this movie. Take that with a grain of salt. My wife isn't exactly typical, and I'm sure yours isn't either!
It's great that they remained so faithful to the show, but I worry for the die-hard fans. If this film doesn't reach out and touch enough people, who knows if we'll end up ever seeing this franchise on the big screen again.
Other than the above mentioned concerns, this is a very solid film. Every aspect of the production was given great attention, and that might be an understatement. The acting was superb, the storytelling was creepy and intense, the writing was smart, and the cinematography was just terrific. Can't really ask for much more than that can we? Don't believe me? The truth is out there...
Knowing that this film is more about the dynamic relationships and overall creep factor, such as any classic episode of the series was, the most important aspect of this transfer had to be focused on good dimensionality, and that's exactly what we get. Skin tones are perfectly balanced, and the color palette is fairly striking. The film isn't lush with color that's going to pop or anything like that, but the saturation of everything on-screen is solid, yet subtle. A lot of this has to be credited with fantastic lighting.
Even so, the people and environments don't appear to be hidden in the shadows, thanks to an excellent contrast between dark and light areas. Blacks are inky as can be, and when you put this together with the extremely vibrant yet natural skin tones and color palette, you get a great sense of depth.
As far as ugly digital processing, be it through DNR, edge enhancement, or just bad encoding, you don't have to worry about that here. A fine film of natural grain is still intact, and never seems excessive. The print itself is as clean as they come, and the 'natural' look of the film is enhanced by a sharpness that has not been tweaked for the sake of looking more 'HD'. Simply put, this is an excellent transfer, and is a shining example of why films that don't feature tons of special effects can look fantastic in high definition, too.
The video is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, encoded via AVC at a resolution of 1080p.
All I have to say is, "Wow, man! Just wow!" This is a film that's mostly about dialogue and not special effects, sure, but being that this is a film that's been designed to creep you out and make you feel uncomfortable, as well as drive the intensity of the drama deep into your chest, there's a lot to appreciate in this 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track.
The dialogue is always clear. If you can set the volume to the point where you can hear the dialogue clearly in one scene, you're not going to have a problem throughout the rest of the film, as the mix has been given great attention. Besides the dialogue, the rest of the mix is, in a word, perfect. The soundtrack is perfectly suited for a film that's supposed to give off an eerie vibe, as the soundtrack will creep its way into the mix, until it lunges on top of you in a massive swell. It's truly an experience that's going to make you feel like you're home theater is in fact, a movie theater, except with the clean audio transfer overall, your situation at home can sound even better... because you control the volume!
The only downside to this is that it's not exactly friendly to those who live in an apartment or still live at home, but you should try to listen to this film at a loud clip if you can. The drama and creepiness and excitement is only heightened by the superb lossless track that's been given here.
Also included are 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in French and Spanish, and subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean.
Normally I discuss the differences between alternate cuts on a release in the body of the review itself, but since FOX listed it as a special feature, I'll talk about it here. I found the theatrical cut to be cut together in a more than satisfactory manner. The extended cut is only a few minutes longer than the theatrical, and it's really nothing worth seeing. There's some extended violence, as well as some moments with the main characters, and those moments don't seem to add anything worth any interest. I actually preferred the theatrical cut overall. The additional footage didn't exactly feel tacked on, but it was unnecessary. I actually prefer cutting away from the violence a little sooner anyway, unless I'm watching a straight up horror film. I guess you can argue this is partly a 'horror' film, but this film is much more about mystery and intrigue than that, so the method used in the theatrical cut is much more appropriate, at least in my opinion.
Audio Commentary by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz - This is definitely an informative and worthwhile commentary, and it also scores extra points for having the option to experience it with picture-in-picture! Carter and Spotnitz care very deeply about this project, and it shows. They're talking about ever thought process that went on while deciding what to put in the film, and how it should be presented. They discuss everything from huge plot points, to minimalistic stuff that fans would be impressed to hear about. The absence of the stars of the film is rather disappointing though. I understand that these guys are the ones responsible for delivering the story and all, but there is no Mulder and Scully without Duchovny and Anderson, am I right?
Trust no One: Can the X-Files Remain a Secret? Documentary - This is a three part documentary that's almost an hour and a half in length. Everything is covered from pre-production to post-production, including the faux viral marketing campaign that was used to keep fans off the scent of what was really going to be in the film. It's pretty informative, but I do have a minor complaint. The style this documentary was pieced together in was sort of old school. There's a lot of material that focuses on keeping the fans at bay, and not just by the example I listed above. Where the heck is the behind the scenes footage? There's not much in the entire documentary at all!
Chris Carter: Statements on Green Production Featurette - I was heading into this six minute featurette thinking it was going to be about shooting certain footage in front of a green screen, but instead, I see Carter telling us just how awesome he is at doing his part to save the planet. I don't want to get going on the topic of global warming, but seriously? Does anyone actually care about the 'green' methods used behind the scenes to make this film? I guess I should just shut my yap and be thankful that this movie wasn't released in a cardboard sleeve like the Futurama DVD's, right?
Body Parts: Special Makeup Effects - The makeup designer for the film, Bill Terezakis, shows us his workshop, and how he's able to make such realistic, gruesome looking gore. This is another short featurette, at about eight minutes in length.
Gag Reel - I usually enjoy gag reels, but I think this is perhaps the most surprising one I've seen in a while. There's a lot of funny stuff here, and although Mulder and Scully can have moments where they smile and have some dry and light-hearted wit exchanged, it's really awesome to see them break character for some laughs.
Dying 2 Live By Xzibit - Self explanatory this one is, eh? I guess if Xzibit is going to be in the film, he needs a music video on the home video release. I've enjoyed a little of what Xzibit has done, but I don't find this to be one of his better efforts.
The X-Files Complete Timeline - This is a nice little piece of gold for both fans and newcomers alike. If you're curious about what happened throughout the history of the show, and you don't think you'll ever take the time to watch nine seasons worth of material to find out, then this timeline will catch you up in a jiffy! Truly a great extra for this release, and more 'movies from television shows' should have features like this!
Agent Dakota Whitney's Files - This is basically a cool way to show us characters, by showing us 'official' reports on each and every one of them. This is a much better presentation than most character biographies I've seen.
In-Movie Features - A lot of material from the features listed above can be accessed throughout the film using a color coded system and you'll even be able to see storyboards and concept art.
There's a little feature that's hidden in the audio menu, and it simply looks like the 'X' logo. Upon accessing it, I was surprised to see a very short paper cut-out parody. If I had to describe it, I'd say it was a small Adult Swim (Cartoon Network) snippet that was used to advertise the movie. If not, well, it certainly seems similar in style to the quick paced commercial that block of programming uses.
Also, a feature I've actually never heard of before, D-Box Motion Control, is also available. Apparently the ability to experience motion during a cinematic experience is making its way home. Unfortunately, it seems the D-Box motion system is over a thousand dollars at the moment, so I don't know how many people are really going to buy into this, but it's nice to know the feature is there.
Also included are trailers and still galleries.
The X-Files - I Want to Believe works in a variety of ways. Die-hard fans of the show are going to find a much better cinematic representation of the series here than they did with Fight the Future. True, it's not as 'big' or as 'epic' as the first film tried to be, but if you ask me, that's where the first film went wrong.
It's also a film that's accessible enough to not make newcomers scratch their head after the end credits begin to roll. Not only that, but the presentation is practically flawless. Mulder and Scully are just as interesting a pair as they've ever been. The whole mantra of faith versus science is still very much alive, and the movie is genuinely creepy. I know a lot of fans appreciated the prior theatrical effort, but I thought it was actually a bit of a mess. This film however, is leaps and bounds better than their first cinematic outing, and basically acting like an extended episode itself, trumps a lot of what the series had to offer as well.
To top it off, the video and audio has been given the attention it deserves, and the extras aren't bad either. Simply put, if you're a fan of the series, casual or otherwise, than this is a movie you're definitely going to have to take the time to see. If you're not big into the series, you may want to check this film out anyway. You don't really need a lot of prior knowledge, and you may just want to start getting into the show on DVD after you know what you've been missing all this time! This title is highly recommended.