Based on the popular Fox TV show of the same name, "The X-Files" is essentially a two-hour, big budget and big screen version of the show. Featuring essentially the same cast and the usual paranormal activity and government conspiracy, this film should please fans of the genre and may just introduce others into becoming devoted followers of the show. That said, the film isn't spectacular by any means, but is still quite enjoyable. By heavily borrowing elements from other successful sci-fi hits and raising the ante from the normal small-scale plot to near global Armageddon, however, that fun and the film's overall impact is lessened somewhat.
As written by series creator Chris Carter, the film efficiently introduces the TV show's back story to potential new viewers in a nicely constructed scene that's easy to follow for "newbies" and not tedious in any way for seasoned fans. Collectively getting everyone up to speed, the film starts with a highly effective trifecta of scenes.
As directed by Rob Bowman (a veteran from the show with twenty-five episodes under his belt), these three individual sequences (two spooky cave scenes and a suspenseful one involving a bomb) not only set into motion the series' obligatory "something weird's going on here" paranormal activity, but they are all highly effective and suspenseful in their own right.
After those exciting opening minutes, the audience needs a breather (and an explanation), so the film then follows the series' standard operating procedure where Mulder and Scully snoop and sneak around and discover yet another government conspiracy. At the same time, they must also deal with the skeptical FBI bureaucrats who threaten once again threaten to shut them down and/or split them apart. While necessary to introduce some "downtime" and added conflict, these scenes work but aren't particularly compelling.
In my opinion (and diehard fans may disagree) two elements then arise that partially degrade the proceedings. The first deals with scope. What makes the TV show so effective is that, for the most part, the plots focus on the small scale. Sure, the events that Mulder and Scully investigate are fantastically wild and outrageous, but they usually occur in a small town or at the biggest, on a regional scale. With things being localized, the stories seem more "realistic" in their remoteness, as if they could be occurring right around the corner from where you live.
By introducing a global concern, that effective small scale element is tossed out, essentially leaving the two FBI agents to save the planet. While I understand the need to up the ante for the big screen treatment, the global threat creates two problems. First, it gives the film a somewhat cheesy and run-of-the-mill feel so common to similarly based sci-fi flicks. Second, as much fun as they are on the small screen, Duchovny and Anderson don't exactly have that big screen, "save the day" personas exhibited by luminaries such as Arnold, Bruce or recently, Will Smith. Although the ending sequence somewhat rectifies this problem, it's rather difficult -- and consequently not as much fun -- to believe that these two have what it takes to save our lives.
Beyond that, the second element that dampens the fun is Carter's liberal borrowing of material from two other classic, and highly successful sci-fi movies. Without giving away too much of the plot, let's just say that we've seen an awful lot of what occurs in the second half of the film in both "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and the movies from the "Alien" series.
Although Carter's modified that material, I kept expecting at any moment to see Sigourney Weaver show up with a flamethrower or Francois Truffaut (the famous French film director who played the French specialist in Spielberg's "Close Encounters") and Richard Dreyfus to appear. For younger fans of the series who aren't familiar with those other superior movies, the lifted scenes will be fun and spooky, but for those of us who loved those films, you'll begin getting that deja vu feeling.
Even so, for the most part the film is easy to watch. Both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson deliver good performances in the roles they've played for five years, and Duchovny gets yet another chance to poke fun at his often stoic expression. Fans of the series will be happy to see appearances by Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the Lone Gunmen (Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood and Tom Braidwood), but may be disappointed that collectively they have little time on screen.
William B. Davis also arrives from the show as The Cigarette-Smoking Man (but we don't get to learn much new about him), while Academy Award winner Martin Landau ("Ed Wood") and Oscar nominee Armin Mueller-Stahl ("Shine") respectively deliver decent takes as a conspiracy theorist and yet another mysterious government agent.
If one can get around the lifted material from those other sci-fi classics, this is a rather enjoyable and entertaining flick. With enough humor to offset the "serious" conspiracy elements and enough suspense and action to keep things moving, the film should easily please fans of the series. With a decent, but not huge following on TV, however, it's questionable just how far this film can go at the box office. Unless it can manage to pull in a great deal of new viewers, expect only a few decent weeks in the top ten before it disappears just like any other peculiar occurrence on the show. Fun, but certainly not original, we give "The X-Files" a 6.5 out of 10.