San Francisco Chronicle
X MARKS THE THRILL
THE X-FILES: Sci-fi horror. Starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Directed by Rob Bowman. (PG-13. 120 minutes. at Bay Area theaters.)
So there is an end to paranoia, after all. Mulder and Scully's worst nightmares are true.
What a relief.
Forget the klutzy gray-green lizard with the bad breath. "The X- Files" is the class act of the scary summer movie blockbusters. It opens today.
Neither true believers nor newcomers to the phenomenon will be disappointed.
This feature-film blowout of the TV series seems to have everything: genuine shocks and surprises, the long-interrupted emotional commitment between Mulder and Scully, and laughs.
It also has something TV can't provide: moments of grandeur.
What more could anyone want?
Well, a little less, actually.
Some of the regular characters have little more than walk-ons, and the audience is supposed to greet them like old friends. Others compulsively explain things to us and, if anything, tell us too much. "The X-Files" tends to grab us by the lapels like some street crazy who has seen the truth and won't stop yammering about it.
The b.s. is out there.
The alien occupation is even worse than Mulder and Scully suspected -- now there is an alien virus, too, that is eating up people -- and the international conspiracy to cover it up is even bigger, the better to set up sequels.
All of this is, of course, nonsense, and wonderfully engrossing, too. The movie is a kick to watch but just as much fun to let percolate in the mind afterward.
Its elements include the scarifying consequences of the rippling black goo, tumbles into bottomless Antarctic caverns, mysterious cornfields in the desert, strange ventilation structures in the middle of nowhere.
Just to let us know we are in the presence of a classic, director Rob Bowman gives us an overhead shot of those white breastlike structures. It shows tiny scurry ing figures, a la Hitchcock's paranoid thriller "North by Northwest."
And to let us know we are in conspiracy territory, some of the action occurs in Dallas ("The people he was loyal to know their way around Dallas"). Although it is never spelled out, I liked the way we are free to associate the black goo with the evil petroleum industry and the Cigarette Smoking Man with the evil tobacco industry.
The classic elements of the world's destruction, fire and ice, also are evoked. Last season's final episode ended with the X-files burning up, and the movie begins in a prehistoric frozen wasteland.
Among those who tell us where to lay blame is Martin Landau, as a gynecologist-novelist who whispers secrets to Mulder as if he were talking to Bob Woodward. Far more effectively, continuing-character actor John Neville in one key scene intricately explains everything, and it is a Wagnerian demonstration of the art of declamation.
Of course, it could all be disinformation. Only creator Chris Carter knows. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are enormously sympathetic heroes. With her horsey face and awful pantsuits, Anderson appears to be all business, rattling off protocol. But at the climax of the film, when she is in jeopardy -- it is a "Perils of Pauline" episode with a horrific twist -- her clinch with Duchovny is truly affecting.
Duchovny is given opportunities to show off his flair for sly humor, on one occasion making fun of his own deadpan ("When I panic, you see this face") and on another drunkenly telling a bartender, and any members of the audience who might not know, his entire life story, ending with how he came to be known as "Spooky." To her credit, the bartender does not believe him.
My only fear about this approach is that, as the "X- Files" spins out endlessly on TV and in movie sequels, it will become campy and wink at the audience, like the James Bond series. That would be deadly.
Regular viewers of the TV show say last season, the fifth, was not so hot. This film will surely jump-start the fall series.
Scully and Mulder began their relationship poles apart. In the film, the skeptic and the believer have at last come together. Their paths have crossed, just like an "X."
We are at midpoint.