"Neither Here Nor There"
The TV series of THE X FILES often flirted with the sometimes fine line between belief and doubt about religion, paranormal events, monsters, and aliens. The second feature length movie, subtitled I WANT TO BELIEVE, returns to that ambiguity in a story that takes the relationship between the two lead characters to a new level. The acclaimed Bulgarian-French literary theorist Tzvetan Todorov labels this supernatural ambiguity in storytelling as “the fantastic.”
THE X FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE opens six years later, with former FBI Agent Dana Scully working as a doctor at a Catholic hospital. She is trying to save the life of a boy with an incurable brain disease, but the hospital hierarchy, including its top priest, believes it’s time to stop doing more tests or looking for a cure.
An FBI agent approaches Scully. He’s looking for her ex-partner, Fox Mulder, to help them find a female agent who was apparently kidnapped. A priest claiming to be getting visions from God has found a severed arm from one of the men who apparently took the female agent but was severely hurt during his struggle with her. The priest, named Father Joe, believes God is telling him that the agent is still alive. The FBI needs Mulder’s expertise in the paranormal to deal with Father Joe, who also happens to be a pedophile seeking absolution for his own crimes. They promise amnesty for Mulder, who previously had been charged with criminal acts of insubordination against his FBI superiors.
Mulder takes up the FBI on its offer. He wants Scully to help him with the case, but she doesn’t want to follow Mulder into the darkness again. A skeptic regarding the supernatural, Scully also is personally disgusted by Father Joe’s crimes. She thinks there are some crimes that should never be forgiven. Something the priest says begins to haunt her, however. Then, when Mulder finally discovers who’s behind the kidnapping, Scully may be the only one who can save Mulder’s life.
THE X FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE is like a standalone episode of the TV series. That gives it a B movie level quality that may only please fans of the TV show. Other fans, however, may be disappointed that the movie doesn’t explore further the connection between Mulder’s missing sister and the alien conspiracy that occupied much of the show’s later episodes and the first X FILES movie.
The new movie does, however, take Scully and Mulder’s relationship to a new level. By the end of the movie, they decide to spend their lives together, although there is no mention about getting married. Still, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson continue to give appealing performances that make the viewer want to follow these characters.
Like in the TV series, Mulder is the believer and Scully is the skeptic in the movie. There is brief mention of Mulder’s faith, implying that he’s a Catholic like Father Joe, but Mulder also tends to believe in occult manifestations too. This time, the conflict between Mulder and Scully revolves around Father Joe. Is Father Joe truly receiving psychic visions from God. Or, is he somehow involved with the kidnappers, who turn out to be running a black market ring for organ transplants? Another question about Father Joe is the question of whether God has accepted his petitions of forgiveness for his acts of pedophilia.
The movie leaves most of these questions open ended for the audience to decide. One scene at the very end, however, shows Scully choosing to believe a cryptic comment Father Joe made to her. He tells her, “Don’t give up,” and that’s exactly what she does in trying to cure the boy with the terrible brain disease.
Despite this, and Mulder’s, positive nods to faith, the movie’s portrayal of the Catholic clergy is not entirely positive. Father Joe is a pedophile searching for forgiveness and regeneration. And, the priest at the Catholic hospital is shown to be mean and manipulative. Finally, the cure for the boy involves stem cell research, but the movie makes no distinction between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. The movie tries to downplay or avoid the moral controversy surrounding this issue, which doesn’t make much sense considering that the movie clearly takes a stand against the macabre Frankenstein experiments of the people who kidnapped the female FBI agent. Embryonic stem cell research abuses, kills and destroys the gift of human life. Adult stem cell research does not, so many Christian authorities believe that medical science should rely on that option instead.
Ultimately, therefore, the movie’s worldview is mixed. It’s neither here nor there. Consequently, sensitive media-wise moviegoers probably will want to avoid any further exploration into the macabre world of THE X FILES. That said, the release of this movie does present an opportunity for believers to discuss the historical evidence on which their Christian faith is based. As Paul writes in Hebrew 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen [King James Version].”
(PaPa, CC, HH, AbAb, B, O, PC, LL, VVV, S, N, M) Strong, somewhat mixed pagan dealing with issues of faith and skepticism with some positive and negative Christian elements, including brief mention of hero’s apparently Catholic faith and belief in the supernatural but heroine is a skeptic, a pedophile priest seeking forgiveness may or may not be getting visions from God about two apparent kidnappings, the heroine (a medical doctor) clashes with another priest who opposes her efforts to keep looking for a cure for a boy with an incurable brain ailment, and references to stem cell research but movie makes no distinction between embryonic stem cells versus adult stem cells, plus some moral elements about finding two missing kidnap victims, occult psychic visions from God seem to be validated in one scene at the end, and a politically correct joke is made about President George W. Bush and J. Edgar Hoover; seven obscenities, one or two strong profanities and two light profanities; scary violence about fighting a group of criminals that has kidnapped two women for nefarious Frankenstein experiments includes some very strong macabre content such as FBI finds severed arm in snow, a black market organ donor ring conducts Frankenstein experiments to save the life of a severely injured cohort, young woman kept in a box at a compound guarded by vicious dogs, man’s head is kept alive for transplant to other bodies, incision started on victim’s neck, vicious dogs attack hero, image of dead dog, plus chase, fighting and kidnapping scenes; implied fornication in one scene and unmarried couple goes off to live together (no wedding is shown or implied); upper male nudity; no alcohol; no smoking; and, kidnapping, stalking, black market organ donor victims, forced imprisonment by villains.
THE X FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE opens six years after the ending of the TV series. The FBI offers amnesty to former agent Fox Mulder for his past insubordination, if he will help them deal with a priest, who claims visions from God about a kidnapped female agent. Mulder agrees but he wants Dana Scully, his former partner’s, help. Scully, however, doesn’t want to follow Mulder into the darkness again. She’s also repulsed by the priest, who’s also a pedophile trying to find absolution and redemption for his evil crimes. Something the priest says begins to haunt Scully. As Mulder stumbles on the macabre reasons for the kidnapping, it’s up to Scully to save his life.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson continue to give appealing performances that make the viewer want to follow these characters. The movie, however, is like a standalone episode of the TV series. This gives it a B movie level quality that may only please fans of the TV show. Also, despite some positive nods to Christian faith, the movie’s portrayal of the Catholic clergy is not entirely positive. The movie also displays some moral confusion.