The X Files: Fight the Future

The X Files, the TV series, reflects a phenomenon that points to the very heart and nature of America: a strong sense of individualism combined with a deep (and healthy) distrust of authority. While these aspects are present in only a minority of the populace, I believe a large percentage also identify with them. As Chris Carter, the series creator, said "it goes as far back as the Boston Tea Party in a sense." Like in The Truman Show, The X Files attempts to show how most of society is manipulated by our public servants.

Analysts of the television show have said that people relate to it because conspiracies provide explanations and answers to real world questions. I personally look at the messages in the show as warnings about what has happened or could potentially happen in the real world when you trust authority without questioning it (or anyone else---"trust no one" is a catch-phrased used commonly in The X Files).

While the sinister-paranoid aspect of the TV show is present in the movie, it is relegated to the background. Instead what we have is an intelligent and thought-provoking film combined with a bit of action. Intelligent and thought-provoking probably only to fans of the The X Files show, as it tries mainly to clarify and confirm what fans have long suspected, and present a coherent picture of "The Conspiracy".

The basic premise of The X Files: Fight the Future is actually the least intriguing part of the plot: an anonymous caller warns about a bomb in a federal building in Dallas. While FBI agents scour the building, Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) believes the bomb is in an another building nearby and, together with Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), he investigates and finds the bomb in a vending machine. As Scully barks orders to evacuate the building, Special Agent Darius Michaud (Millennium's Terry O'Quinn) orders Mulder out. As Mulder and Scully escape, the building blows up.

An inquiry is held and Mulder and Scully end up as scapegoats for the loss of five lives $45 million in property, instead of being hailed as heroes for finding the bomb in the first place. Besides the presence of agent Michaud, the building was thought to be completely empty. This sets a convenient stage for the entrance of Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil (Martin Laundau), a friend of Mulder's father, who shares with Mulder knowledge of a conspiracy to hide the truth about the bombing.

Mulder and Scully, upon further investigation, find that the four other people, from North Texas, were actually killed by the alien virus, "black ooze" that has been present on the planet since at least 35,000 B.C. The Elders, powerful men in various governments across the world, have conspired with this alien species to remake Earth as a colony for the aliens, with the humans as the subservient species. However, when they learn of the killings in North Texas, they realise that colonisation is not the goal of the aliens, but instead the extermination of the human species.

The Elders' hands are tied because they are still in the process of secretly developing an antidote/vaccine (a vaccine alone would not treat a disease after it has been acquired) while aiding the aliens in colonising the Earth through the use of bees with virulent stings and transgenic corn containing the alien DNA (for the first time, a goal of the Elders/Syndicate is alluded to be a benevolent one). They also see Mulder as a threat to them but cannot execute him because that would make him a martyr. They decide to remove someone close to him and somehow manage to arrange it so Scully is kidnapped after being stung by one of the bees (which travelled with her all the way from Texas) carrying the alien virus.

However, the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville), his conscience bothered by new threat posed by the alien life form to his grand-children, gives a vial of weak antidote/vaccine to Mulder and points to Scully's location. Mulder travels to Antarctica and finds the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) in charge of an operation involving a large number of humans infected with the alien virus, one of whom is Scully. As he administers the antidote/vaccine to Scully, it contaminates the network of aliens and creates a shutdown of the process. Mulder and Scully escape as the aliens awake from their stasis and the entire "operation", which is really a spaceship, flies off into the sky. This is the part of the movie that raises the biggest question: if the Cigarette Smoking Man is aware of the true nature of the alien "colonisation", then why does he continue to help them and why has he not informed the Elders? If the Elders are unaware of the existence of the Antarctic space ship, how did the Well-Manicured Man know?

One explanation is that the Syndicate does know what the Cigarette Smoking Man is doing. The story would essentially be as follows: the aliens have struck a deal with the Syndicate and have given them the black ooze which will allow them to control/enslave the human population. The Cigarette Smoking Man is entrusted to experiment on human-alien hybrids in Anarctica to determine the parametres for the colonisation to occur smoothly (on people like Scully, for example, thus providing a motivation for keeping her alive.). The bees and corn are part of this experiment. The primoridial ooze in Texas is a mutation of the alien from the past that kills. It warns the Syndicate that the alien life form can be deadly and their true intentions might not be mind control but total destruction of humans.

Another explanation is that the Syndicate thought that the humans infected on the space ship were in stasis until they could be inserted into the population to become drones. In other words, the alien black ooze can either take over a person or it can use it for din-din. But when the black ooze from the past gave the game away, the aliens in the space ship decided to gestate and eliminate the human population. However Mulder came along during the gestation period and wreaked havoc with the antitode/vaccine, which caused the invaders to leave, thus saving the day. How's that for a neat ending?

There are plenty of other problems with the plot, many of which can be rationalised only with the show's modus operandi in mind: Why was the X Files shut down? (Rationale: all the files were burnt in the season finale preceding this movie.) Who called in the bomb threat and why, if the purpose of the bomb was to destroy the bodies killed by the alien ooze? (Rationale: Kurtzweil did, since he knew about the bodies, but his call was deliberately misdirected by Michaud.) Why were Scully and Mulder blamed for the bombing when they should have been thanked for saving lives? (Rationale: the FBI wanted scapegoats and they received orders from higher up to place the blame on the two agents so they could be separated.) How could the child and the firemen killed by the alien ooze end up in a building allegedly attacked by terrorists? (Rationale: The Federal Emergency Management Authority, an arm of the Syndicate with the power to do away with constitutional rights in the event of a national emergency, took charge of the bodies by stating that it was the Hanta virus that was responsible for the deaths.) How could the bee that stung Scully have chosen that time and place, and how could Mulder's subsequent 911 call be intercepted knowing that Scully would be stung by a bee? (Rationale: this indicates the powerful nature of the Syndicate ("who know Dallas", a reference to the Cigarette Smoking Man's hand in the killing of John F. Kennedy).) Why was Mulder only injured when the ambulance driver shot him? (Rationale: Mulder was being an annoyance and a message had to be sent without killing him, or it was a geniune miss.) As Mulder arrives in Antarctica, the gas gauge in his snowmobile is empty. But yet he makes it back to civilisation after the alien spaceship takes off; how could this be? (Rationale: The Lone Gunmen help him out.) What convinced the FBI to re-open the X Files in the end? (Rationale: Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) helped convince the inquiry that it would be the wisest course of action.)

There are plenty of unanswered questions in relation to the series (including the clones, the aliens with toxic green ooze which change shape, the chip in the back of Scully's neck responsible for her cancer, Mulder's sister, the relationship between Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder, the enigmatic Krycek, etc.), but I expect time constraints would make it impossible to address all issues (besides that's what the next seasons are for). I think a wise choice was made in focusing only on the black ooze aliens even though it is not entirely consistent with the series story line.

The main thing the movie provides for fans of the show are constant references to the show, and the purpose of the Syndicate/the Elders is finally spelled out explicitly (even though it could've been guessed from the show). People who are not fans of The X Files will probably not consider this movie to be anything spectacular, unless they have a special interest in science fiction and some tolerance for unexplained plots. Such people will not understand the Cigarette Smoking Man, Skinner's relationship to Mulder and Scully, the Elders, the Lone Gunmen, and even the significance of the black ooze, the bees and the transgenic corn. Further the presence of characters like Michael Kritschgau, a character from past episodes, that even hardcore fans will have a difficult time rationalising, only obfuscate the issues for the average viewer.

There is a lot of camp and humour in the movie at least initially which works well to endear fans and non-fans alike to the movie (a scene which included the Independence Day poster was a classic). As the situation gets serious, the humour appropriately diminishes, but it was good to see Scully not looking completely sombre all the time.

The score has its moments. But yet it is vastly underdeveloped and under used. In general, the theme should have been present more prominently, and variations of the theme should have been used to render suspense and fill in awkward moments of silence. The references to Star Wars and Alien (in the final scenes) I thought were pretty cool. The dialogue between Mulder and Scully (when Scully first wants to leave and then when Mulder wants to leave at the end) is awkward and strained, though their affection for each other comes off as being genuine.

I cannot believe I am thinking so much about the show. I rarely think much of TV shows, but this is a show that has made me think a lot not only about philosophical connections to the real world, but also about the show. It should be kept in mind that The X Files doesn't offer complete or even consistent explanations, but I think that's the appeal: it forces you to fill in the gaps and create your own story. That surely must represent a refreshing change from being a passive viewer.

As some critics have said, the movie is just a long episode, and there have been better episodes. Still, I think The X Files: Fight the Future is the movie of the summer, and is one of the best movies I've seen. I can't wait to see what they come up with in Season Six.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||