Our review of The X-Files: Fight The Future (Blu-Ray), published December 20th, 2008, is also available.
The Truth Is Revealed. Or is it?
Mulder and Scully's trip to the big screen comes back to the small screen in a pleasing DVD that shows both how far Fox has come as well as how far it has to go to put out top-flight discs.
I have to be up-front—I am a big fan of the series, so needless to say, the theatrical release and then the DVD release were events I awaited with great anticipation. However, this is both a plus and a minus, because while the movie is a much richer experience with the knowledge gleaned from the series, it also means it makes it hard for me to judge how good this movie is for the non-fan and makes me aware of the points where the screenplay falls short.
The story begins in an icy cave located in what will be north Texas, about 30,000 years ago. Two cavemen stumble across a strange alien creature and kill it, but not before the survivor is himself attacked by the strange black blood from the alien (the "black oil" to fans of the series). The scene changes to present day north Texas, where four boys abruptly discover the same cavern, with equally disastrous results. Firemen respond promptly to attempt a rescue, and are themselves victimized. Suddenly, non-descript white trucks and a possibly military helicopter appear on the scene. White biohazard suited men cart off the infected boy and firemen, much to the consternation of the local fire chief, while a mysterious suited figure (Dr. Bronschweig, played by Jeffrey DeMunn) alerts his superiors to the crisis.
We meet our heroes, FBI Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) crawling around a rooftop in Dallas, looking for a bomb. They find only heat and humidity, so they take a break and Fox goes hunting for cold sodas. To his dismay, he not only finds the bomb, but is locked in with it, and the timer is running! Dana leads his colleagues to the rescue, including Agent in Charge Darius Michaud (Terry O'Quinn), who orders them all from the building, saying he is going to defuse the bomb.
In the aftermath of the explosion (the building's remnants are eerily similar to the remains of the federal building in Oklahoma City), there is an overwhelming need by politicians in Washington, D.C. to assign blame. For leaving SAC Michaud alone with the bomb, and because a small boy and three firefighters were found dead in the rubble, our heroes are tapped to receive the blame. Drowning his sorrows in copious amounts of alcohol, Fox Mulder is visited by Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil (Martin Landau), who suggests that the bombing was a ruse to hide the bodies of the boy and the firemen, the previously seen victims of the alien infection.
Enlisting his partner, Fox and Dana poke around a morgue, discovering that Kurtzweil may be right. Meanwhile, the mysterious men at the site in north Texas are joined by the ominous Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) (William B. Davis), as we learn that the infection has created a new life form growing in the host body of a fireman (much like the Alien facehugger did). Seeing this as a chance to test out a vaccine against the alien infection, they decide to let the alien being continue to develop.
Fox and Dana backtrack to Dallas to further confirm their suspicions at the same time that Dr. Bronschweig attempts to conduct a test of the vaccine. Alas, the creature did not operate according to the anticipated schedule, much to the good Doctor's bloody dismay. This crisis leads to a meeting of a shadowy group, apparently of high level officials from various governments that are all collaborating with the alien infection's own creators, led by Conrad Strughold (Armin Mueller-Stahl). The group wants Mulder's investigation stopped, and so they task the Well Manicured Man (WMM) (John Neville) to do so.
Agents Mulder and Scully are still in Texas, having found the location of the cave, only now the army of men and equipment has packed up and vanished. Continuing in their dogged pursuit, they discover a strange cornfield with glowing white buildings that house untold numbers of bees. Before they can learn much, mysterious black helicopters chase them off.
Flying back to D.C., Fox consults with Dr. Kurtzweil while Dana attempts to divert the inquiry seeking to assign blame for the bombing. The inquiry does not go well for our heroine, but as she is breaking the bad news to Fox, a bee sting causes her to have a severe reaction. The medics rush her into an ambulance, but when Fox attempts to find where they are taking her, he is shot for his troubles and left in the street while Dana is loaded onto a plane to destination unknown. With the help of the Lone Gunmen, Fox escapes from the hospital without alerting his shadowy enemies and while looking for Dr. Kurtzweil runs into the Well-Manicured Man. Instead of shutting Mulder down, the WMM seizes the opportunity to act on his simmering disagreement with the shadow group's orders and provides Fox with the means to locate and rescue Dana Scully.
The audience is then asked to take a leap of faith, as Fox miraculously finds his way to a remote facility located deep inside Antarctica, where Dana is being held as a human host for a new alien being. In suitably dramatic fashion, Fox navigates the slimy, creepy confines of the facility and rescues his partner. Again, the miracle strikes, and we find our heroes back in D.C. and none the worse for their adventures. In fact, they renew their commitment to finding the truth about the aliens and the government conspiracy, at the same time that we visit the deserts of Tunisia. CSM and Strughold also are assessing their situation, having just received the news that the X-Files are again to be opened at the FBI (thus setting up the next TV season!). Fini.
I know that Chris Carter tried to walk the line between annoying the hard-core fans and scaring off the uninitiated, and while he did a decent job, I still think that the story may be a bit hard to grasp for those who aren't well experienced with the series. Having said that, there is a nice mix of tension, conspiracy, and action, with flashes of humor and a tease of romance.
As with the series, the acting is first-rate. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson know their roles so well, they probably don't have to work very hard at being in character. Much the same can be said of the stellar supporting cast, from the comic relief (the Lone Gunmen) to my personal favorite, Terry O'Quinn, to an uncredited Glenne Headly as a deadpan funny bartender. Special mention must be made of Martin Landau, who mixes being serious, oddball funny, and paranoid with ease. He is a true professional actor, and the respect of his peers is evident in the commentary.
While the transfer is unfortunately non-anamorphic, it is of very high quality. This is impressive when I noticed that this movie throws a lot of challenges at the MPEG-2 encoder, such as darkly lit scenes, lots of haze and smoke, blinding white snowfields, and the like. Color saturation is rich and vibrant, and the plethora of dark scenes showcases the deep blacks and sharp contrast. There is some slight grain and video noise on occasion, but these are minor complaints that do not distract you from the pretty picture.
The audio is at least as good as the video, and perhaps a hair better. Voices and small sound effects are clear and distinct, the background music is atmospheric and spooky, and the LFE channel packs a decent punch when needed. However, I must admit disappointment during the bomb explosion in Dallas. When a bomb that big and destructive goes up on screen, I ought to get punched in the chest, and I wasn't. The car bomb later in the movie had more punch, which I thought a bit odd.
Barring the recent Alien Legacy set (which appears to have been an anomaly), X-Files: Fight the Future has a far better than the usual set of extras for a 20th Century Fox disc. You get a decent 26-minute featurette, a full-length commentary track by "X-Files" creator and producer Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman, three widescreen theatrical trailers for this movie, and a nifty eight-page insert booklet (which covers much the same ground as production notes would).
The menus are about the coolest out there, eclipsed only by the Alien/Aliens or the Tomorrow Never Dies: Special Edition menus. These are almost spooky, with eerie music and movie themed visuals. Scene selections are unfortunately static. The disc is packaged in the "Fox-style" keep case, which is preferable to the snapper case but inferior to the preferred Amaray keep case (which I find vastly easier to get a disc out of).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
With a movie that is the product of such a detailed mythology, laid out over several seasons of the TV show, it seems a crime to release this disc with nothing to help out the "X-File" neophyte. In this respect, I am strongly reminded of the excellent work that New Line did for Blade, where a great deal of information on the vampire clans and vampire mythology was nicely presented.
As it is, unless you are an avid follower of the series, you won't be able to experience the full dramatic meaning of several scenes in the movie, nor understand the roles of some of the characters. The Lone Gunmen jump into the movie about as quickly as they exit, and without explanation. Assistant Director Skinner has very little to do, and we don't get the same sense of dual (multi?) loyalties as in the series. Perhaps the scene that is most undercut is the infamous near-kiss scene between Mulder and Scully. You just won't get the same emotional power from that scene if you haven't shared their experiences over the past several years. Also, without the show, you probably will be mystified about the cornfield and the bees, and what the heck they have to do with aliens!
Given that Fox is going to be serving us up platters of the TV series in the not too distant future, I would have expected that they would whet our appetites with this disc. Guess not…
A big screen treatment for an always stimulating, mysterious series gets an pretty fair treatment by Fox, with only an anamorphic transfer and a few more extras holding it back from being a perfect disc. Fox, don't fight the DVD future!
The movie is acquitted. The judgment on Fox is taken under advisement, and Fox is warned that if the DVD discs for the series are also non-anamorphic and lacking in the extras that this epic series demands, the court will be harsh in its sentence.
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Scales of Justice
• Original Theatrical Trailer
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