Directed by Rob Bowman
Produced by Chris Carter and Daniel Sackheim
Screenplay by Chris Carter
Story by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau,
Blythe Danner, Mitch Pillegi, William B Davis,
John Neville, Glenne Headley,
Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood
It was 1998. I was fourteen. It felt like a genuine event. It was a genuine event. After a year of rumours, counter rumours, analysing trailers, watching every moment of the fifth season, devouring every magazine that featured the series on its cover and inside its pages (official and unofficial), on the 21st of August 1998, two months after it's US release (a long two months at that, this was after all in the days when piracy and Internet downloads were not causing the threat nowadays that lead to movie releases being simultaneous worldwide), The X Files:Fight the Future was released in the UK and Ireland. It did not disappoint. A movie as feverishly anticipated as much as this was by my fourteen year old self, it might easily have been a disappointment (coming in the same summer as such damp squibs as Godzilla and The Avengers (not that Avengers)), there was always the danger that it could have been, but it wasn't. It was a genuine event, it reached beyond the scopes of the television series and before my eyes The X Files became the feature film that I and millions around the world knew it could be.
Right from the off, there's a real confidence about proceedings. The 20th Century Fox logo appears, followed by a black screen. Mark Snow does his thing with the theme tune and then the orchestra gives us a sudden blast of strings and bass. I must have jumped about fifty feet in the air out of my seat. My heart was pounding as the big screen proudly displayed that Twentieth Century Fox was presenting "A Ten Thirteen Production" and then those magic words appeared. The X Files. A bright white flash on the screen. The film began. Two men ran towards the screen. The best bit of all? In the left hand corner, a legend appeared. Dallas, Texas. 35,000 BC. I actually had to move my head to see it. I never had to do that when I watched it on television. The X Files was truly fitting itself on the big screen. Brilliant.
The two hours that followed did not let me down. From the epic opening moments, Mark Snow clearly having fun with the orchestra as opposed to the synthesisers, Mulder and Scully's first moment on screen (they looked like giants up there and I think I swooned as Scully came down those steps), to the Dallas bombing, the shipper moments, the CSM getting the best entrance of the movie, John Neville's wonderful performance as The Well Manicured Man, Martin Landau doing his Deep Throat thing as Kurtzweil, hearing the rejigged theme tune during the Dallas sequence, the bees, the near kiss, to the EPIC conclusion with its production design, hundreds of extras and space ship rising sense of awe, I tell you, I fell in love then and I'm still in love with this film now.
The most common complaint about any television show transferring to the big screen whilst still in the middle of its run or coming off the back of its run on the smaller screen is that it inevitably will be criticised for being nothing more than just an extended episode of the television series. It's a common complaint handed over to the weaker Star Trek entries (the odd ones mostly) and also contributed by some of the naysayers of The Simpsons Movie, but Fight the Future does not have this problem. With a $70 million budget, it earns the big screen. Filmed in a 2:35.1 aspect ratio, brandishing an orchestral score, tremendous production design, great visual effects and having an epic feel, this is a film first and foremost, albeit one with five years of television mythology behind it. Whether or not a newbie starting with this movie will be able to understand everything is up for debate, but for a fan, it feels like the best present ever. David and Gillian look gorgeous throughout and feel like movie stars, characters that we either love or love to hate make wonderful appearances. The Lone Gunmen get the film's best comedy moment, the CSM gets to be a cold hearted, black lung sonofabitch as always, and manages to bag himself the film's most chilling line, right after making the most wonderfully over the top entrance that you can imagine, Skinner gets to be stoic, commanding and sympathetic to his two agents in his short, but wonderful amount of screen time whilst, the biggest surprise of all, the late, great John Neville ends up stealing the movie with his emotionally conflicted turn as The Well Manicured Man, buying himself a role as the surprising hero of the movie. He in actuality only gets three of fours scenes, but they are of the utmost importance, brilliantly played by the man and his pivotal scene with Mulder in a limousine manages to impart plot exposition in a way that feels important and never dull. His death was a real shock to me at the time, I really didn't expect that car to explode.
It all builds up to the most epic conclusion imaginable, a cross between a Bond film and Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey, whereby the film is pretty much carried by David Duchovny who is confronted with having to save Scully by venturing into one of the coolest alien spaceships in the history of cinema, so cool in fact that Mark Snow uses one of his two best pieces of the score to give it a Spielbergian sense of awe. A lot of the film's set piece climax is played visually, with little or no dialogue and is carried by David's acting, Christopher Nowak's production design, Snow's music and Bowman's direction. It's here that I think Fight the Future plays its emotional trump card and potentially changes the rules of the Mulder and Scully relationship and their quest. Yes, there is a near kiss halfway through which suggests there are deeper feelings, but the real magic happens in the film's final act. I sometimes try to stay away from writing about the shipper angle, but for me, the shipper angle is at its best in this film's final act. Mulder has spent the last five years searching for the truth, for proof of alien life and here is given a chance to see for himself. A member of The Syndicate sacrifices his life to give him the vaccine, Mulder makes his way to an alien craft and is confronted with proof of alien life. Yet, this isn't what's driving the narrative. Oh no. Mulder is searching for Scully. Yes, okay, the film is basically building to a climax that involves the male hero saving the female and everything blowing up complete with spectacular special effects, but come on it's a movie and it's worth it. The point is, Mulder is not simply fighting for the truth by the time we get to climax, he is fighting for Scully. The only thing missing by the time the end credits roll is the standard kiss between hot male lead and hot female lead, although to compensate we get a near kiss although newbies were probably wandering why it didn't come up again by the time we get to the Noel Gallagher and Foo Fighters' soundtracked end credits, but in the end it doesn't matter, Mulder, and given sometimes how selfish he can be in his quests for the paranormal (Unruhe, Gethesemane), has set aside his fight for the truth in order to save the woman he cares most about. Basically, if you wanted to look at it romantically, Mulder is fighting for love. If Mulder and Scully are fighting for something, I suppose love is as good a thing as any.
Of course, we get to see a great big space ship, we get to see Antarctica melt away into a big giant hole, Mark Snow allows Mulder and Scully a quiet moment to be backed by a tremendously emotional piece of music, but by the end there seems to have been a shift, and a new type of allegiance formed between our heroes (something that will be practically forgotten about come the season six opener The Beginning regrettably, but I'll save that for when I review that episode). Mulder seems determined to have Scully walk away from him, but she doesn't and in the film's best shipper moment (yes, even better than the near kiss folks) she holds his hand and tells him her work is with him how and whilst I never thought she had become a one hundred per cent believer, there does appear to be a thawing of her rational edge. It's a real piece of character development...that will be promptly forgotten around six minutes into The Beginning, but it gives the film a real sense of development. That these two have found a real, developed way to stay together and keep fighting is wonderful and beautiful and emotionally seals the deal. Plus, Gillian's delivery of the line "if I quit now, they win" kills me everytime. Her determined look and the way Mulder seemingly melts himself into allowing Scully to continue by his side is as good and as brilliant as a kiss on the lips ever could be.
This is a great movie. Okay, so it's never going to appear in the Empire Top 100, or the BFI or AFI Top 100, but for sheer enjoyment, for stretching the visual and story telling limits of what it could do on television, The X Files:Fight The Future is a real success and then some. It's a classy conspiracy drama, complete with edge of the seat action sequences, great music score, brilliant direction by Rob Bowman and a great script from Carter and Spotnitz. Being a movie, it also manages to squeeze in a few swear words that Network Standard and Practices would never allow. It's $70 million well spent. Does it answer the questions that were promised? Not really? Should we care? No, because despite the lack of answers, it's still a great X File and marks the commercial peak of both the show and Ten Thirteen Productions, when not only was Chris Carter dominating television screens, but had conquered the big screen too and whilst box office in the US was not as spectacular as it was internationally (I seem to recall the movie spending two weeks at the top of the UK box office whereas in the US it dropped down quickly), just the joys of seeing Mulder and Scully as giants on a screen was worth it to the fans. Best of all, is that Carter and Bowman never allow themselves to fall victim to the movie making trap. Yes there are spectacular set pieces, explosions and chase sequences, but it never goes totally Jerry Bruckhiemer on us. The story has emotional beats. The possibility of Scully quitting carries as much weight as the Dallas bombing does and the only reason why the climax is as suspenseful as it is is because it's Mulder and Scully, two very well rounded characters who have gained our sympathies throughout the running time.
It is a blast and a joy and best of all, after fourteen years, it's still a great movie and a great X File. It genuinely represents the peak of all things X, although thankfully the series still has one wonderfully creative season to go before things get a little controversial on us, but as a time capsule of when The X Files was the best thing out there, on both television and pop culture in general, it's hard to beat Fight the Future, a movie which represents a time when those giant red and white X Files posters were adorning multiplexes, Mark Snow was being blasted out of DTS 5.1 surround sound systems and Mulder and Scully were projected as the icons they were on to cinema screens. It was a great, great time.