Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:58 - Released 6/19/98

After its humble beginnings in 1993 as an off-center sci-fi TV show, The X-Files has developed into a full-fledged cult, spawning millions of rabid fans all over the world who refer to themselves as "X-Philes" and trade comments late into the night in internet chat rooms. The creation of Chris Carter, the story centers around two FBI special agents: Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Together they investigate cases that involve alien abductions, the occult, paranormal phenomena, and various other unexplained occurrences. And there are a number of additional supporting characters, many with mysterious names like "The Cigarette-Smoking Man" (William B. Davis), "The Well-Manicured Man" (John Neville), etc.

The TV series has followed more or less a long, intricate storyline, with countless guest writers, directors, and producers along the way. But this film, written by Carter and Frank Spotnitz and directed by Rob Bowman, is supposed to explain a lot of long-sought mysteries and tie up a lot of loose ends. Well. Maybe if you're a disciple. But for us regular schmoes, an X-Files encyclopedia would come in handy.

An event in northern Texas brings the area to the attention of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who snap quickly into action to seal off the location and bar anyone from entering. A little boy and some rescue workers have been infected with a mysterious virus. In what seems an unrelated occurrence, a bomb explodes in the Dallas federal building, apparently killing five people. But Mulder learns from a man named Kurtzweil (Martin Landau) that these two events are very much related.

Though Scully has begun considering hanging up the ol' magnifying glass, Mulder cannot resist trying to investigate the situation. When he breaks into the morgue and finds the bombing victims' bodies swimming in Karo syrup, he gets confused. But when Scully disappears, he's really ticked. So now, like it or not, they're involved, and he's got to locate Scully before she falls victim and gets oil slicks in her eyeballs. There are a few people who try to help, but they always stop living right after talking to him. Confusing? You got that right.

These days, good special effects are a dime a dozen; a remake of Old Yeller would probably include a few huge explosions and a tidal wave. But what sets The X-Files apart is that Carter has always insisted on good writing and directing, too. This is a smart movie; perhaps too smart. The supporting cast is excellent without exception, especially Landau. And Duchovny and Anderson are excellent, too, considering what their characters have evolved into over the years. But that evolution has left them dry and flat; non-human, if you will. The kind of mental jumps they make are unrealistic, and the first few scenes have them spouting so much scientific mumbo-jumbo, it's annoying. Real people don't talk like this. I mean, I know they're smart, but I would like to see them really laugh just once.

This two-dimensionality seems to be inherent now, though — it would be a letdown to their fans if they strayed from it. They do have a great connection with each other; they are best friends who owe each other their lives many times over. And occasionally, there's even a bit more there.

This movie is thrilling and delightfully complex, even though I spent a lot of time saying, "Huh?" But I won't be surprised if, in the final series finale, we discover that Mulder and Scully are really Vulcans. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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