Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Want To Believe This Movie Will Be Good

Some six years after they signed off the small tube for the final time, Agents Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson) return on the big screen when "X-Files: I Want To Believe" debuts at midnight.

As I noted a few weeks ago, "The X-Files" has been kind of out-of-sight, out-of-mind for me. As much as I enjoyed the series for its first five or six seasons, I haven't been pining away for Mulder or Scully in same way I have for Buffy or Angel, for example.

Part of it has to do with how the series unfolded over the years. When "The X-Files" first debuted, it had this wonderful underlying conspiracy revolving around the government and aliens. As Mulder and Scully uncovered one piece of the puzzle, more questions than answers would arise.

It was great TV - for a while. Eventually, creator Chris Carter felt he had to keep pushing the mystery by leading the viewer around an endless series of plot loopholes and changes that left even the most devout X-Files fan in the dark. The plot twists and conspiracies became white noise after a while because they were so endless.

One of the reasons I love "Lost" so much is that while the creators of the series introduce difficult storylines, sci-fi elements and conspiracies, they do a much better job of giving the viewer resolution to some of the questions they raise. We may not like the answers, but we get them. Knowing that "Lost" only has 48 episodes left, the creators have a definite ending point they can map themselves to; hopefully, this will mean the viewer won't feel cheated when all is said and done.

That wasn't the case with "The X-Files," which got to be meandering after a while. As a friend pointed out to me recently, Carter & Co. didn't seem to get that the heart of the series was the Mulder-Scully relationship, and that the series often worked better with the standalone and humor episodes than it did with all of the conspiracy.

With the exception of "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man," almost all of the episodes I remember fondly were the standalone episodes that displayed a lot of comedy and/or heart: "War of the Carcophages," "The Unnatural" (written by Duchovny), "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," etc. Honestly, I can't remember whose side the government or the aliens were on at this point.

Based on early reviews of the new movie, it comes off more as a standalone bit rather than a continuation of the series. Mulder and Scully, six years after leaving the FBI, are brought in to examine a case in which a defrocked priest (Billy Connolly) seems to have ESP.

Hopefully, Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz will focus on what made the series great in the first place: its heart.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Another series in which the relationship among the main characters surpasses the weekly storylines is USA's delightful "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.), though the weekly plots are often quite witty and clever. Adding the ridiculously gorgeous and talented Tricia Helfer to the mix only makes it that much better.

CBS has flip-flopped "Flashpoint" and "Swingtown" on the schedule, meaning you'll get the SWAT-oriented "Flashpoint" (CBS, 10 p.m.) tonight instead of Friday. It doesn't matter to me - I gave up on both shows after the pilots.

Another show I gave up the ghost on: "Fear Itself" (NBC, 10 p.m.), which never lived up to its promising beginning. Most of the episodes have been plodding, not scary and so predictable that I've usually figured out the twist by the second commercial break. (Oh, for the days when "The X-Files" would scare the socks off you.) Anyway, tonight's installment stars Brandon Routh of "Superman Lives."

"My Boys" (TBS, 9:30 p.m.) winds its season down as PJ (Jordana Spiro) must decide if she will date Bobby's womanizing brother. It follows a new "Bill Engvall Show" at 9 p.m.


Jonathan said...

My favorite "X-Files" episode was "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," and to this day I still think that was one of the most brilliant hours of television ever forged. I agree that the stand alone episodes stand out better than the mythology based ones, but the first couple of seasons brought about some classics like "Deep Throat" and "Duane Barry."

I, like you, enjoyed the show for the first five (possibly six) seasons, and I still continued to watch it the rest of the way (Aliens wrote the freaking Bible?), but never got the enjoyment out of it that I had early on. I hope the movie is good, but nothing about the previews so far has excited me with the exception of seeing Mulder and Scully again.

I don't know about "Burn Notice," I thought last week's episode would be a little more fun than that. The show is still entertaining, but it's gotten off to kind of a stilted start. It feels like the writers aren't entirely commited to this new story direction, but we'll see. I'm by no means giving up on it.

And while I had a strange feeling that "Fear Itself" wasn't going to work, that has to be one of the year's biggest dissapointments. I've given up on it as well.

zodin2008 said...

I'm going to see "X Files" sunday afternoon but I am not going in with the same "excited" feeling I went with to see "The Dark Knight" last week or even movies like "Iron Man" or "Hulk".

I agree with your assessment of the series. Very strong the first few seasons but I can't even put this in the same atmosphere as Buffy or Angel. That's very true.

I also agree that the series 'meandered' and it seems forced to me to come back with a movie after so many years of this show being out of the public conscienceness. I really don't think there's a 'hankering' for this movie and I suspect it will do decent box office, being the "new" summer movie, but my guess is "Dark Knight" still handily beats it this weekend and the series ends for good with this film.

As for Thursday night viewing, the one night with a few shows to watch, I am very intrigued by "Fear Itself" as the plot sounds like the living situation my wife and I are in the evil townhouse community we live in with a bunch of scary control freaks running around.

Phillip Ramati said...

I had forgotten Jose Chung's, but the same principal applies. Though I liked a lot of the good, conspiracy based episodes such as Duane Barry, I really don't remember the details of them any more, whereas I remember most of the standalone episodes.

I don't think it will be Dark Knight at the Box Office, but it will be interesting to see how well it holds its own.