"I want to believe."
For years (from 1993 to 2002, to be exact), those simple words were the driving force in the life of FBI Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny)—and for many in the legions of die-hard fans of The X-Files (known as "X-Philes"), as well.
Now the question is, do they still want to believe?
Today, six years after the groundbreaking TV series ended its nine-year run about two seasons too late (Duchovny was MIA for almost all of the final season), Mulder and his partner (and lover?) Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are back on the big screen in The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
The first X-Files feature, released in 1998, was a success, grossing $187 million at the worldwide box office. But that was at the height of the show's popularity, when understanding the overarching alien/government conspiracy plot was difficult, but possible.
A decade later, even most the devoted X-Phile will have a hard time making sense of a convoluted mythology that includes several races and factions of aliens; missing, possibly abducted family members; secret government informants; bees; black oil; human-alien hybrids; shape-shifting alien bounty hunters; super soldiers; deaths; births; some serious father issues; and lots of old men talking to each other in hushed tones in dark rooms.
And that's just scratching the surface.
The good news is that I Want to Believe follows the "monster-of-the-week" format used by the majority of X-Files episodes, hopefully making knowledge of everything I just mentioned unnecessary.
Let's remember that those standalone installments are what made the series one of the creepiest ever to air on network television. More than science fiction, The X-Files was about horror. Think "Ice," season one's chilling homage to The Thing, or season four's "Home," whose incestuous monsters led to FOX banning the episode for several years, or even "The Postmodern Prometheus" from season five, which offered a comic take on the Frankenstein story (filmed in black and white!).
That's the vibe series creator Chris Carter, who co-wrote and directed the new movie, needs to recreate. It will take some time to move the pieces back into place—Mulder and Scully were out of the FBI and on the run when we last saw them; maybe this is what leads to the introduction of two new agents played by Amanda Peet and rapper Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner.
The movie is said to address, at least to some extent, the Mulder/Scully relationship, which in many ways always was the heart of the story. But that is not what will fill theaters with kids who were in diapers when The X-Files started building its cult following on Friday nights in the mid-1990s.
The X-Files needs to scare us, a tough task when audiences have spent the last few years gorging themselves on the gore of movies like Saw and Hostel.
The end of The X-Files left a bitter taste, but those most responsible for making it such a sensation (Carter, Duchovny, Anderson) are all on board. Maybe its former glory is still within reach. That's what I want to believe.