abby82 (abby82) wrote,

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What I've learned from XF: IWTB-- Mulder and Scully will forever own my soul

Just a small note:
I'd intended for this post to be a quick, let me get my initial impression out before I was influenced by others. It was supposed to go up late Friday night but didn't. I'm now posting it with some additions after I've seen the movie a second time and the weekend tally has come out.

That's it, I couldn't wait till Saturday so I took the afternoon off from work and drove to the nearest theater to see XF:IWTB on Friday.

I arrived 30 minutes before the day's second showing and I was immediately distressed. I was the only one there. On one hand that meant prime seating selection but on the other hand it felt like I was the only  one enthused about the movie. I immediately began texting my former college roommate to shake a metaphorical fist in the air over the injustice of people not giving Mulder and Scully the hearty welcome back they deserve.

It was also somewhat bittersweet to be texting her because back in 2000 when I first started college I sort of came out of the fandom closet for the first time. I bought my first pieces of blatant XF memorbilia, the season 7 wall calendar I saw at Barnes & Noble and a knockoff of Mulder's 'I Want to Believe' poster. It was also the first time I had regular internet access and  I jumped online for the first time since the summer of 96. It was a crazy time with David Duchovny choosing to renew his contract for only a limited amount of episodes and Robert Patrick being brought in as Doggett. I experienced the great things about fandom (the communal feeling of an online community) and the bad parts (the outright Doggett and Reyes hate in some circles) of fandom. My roommate became a casual fan of the series and we made a pact to see the next movie in the theater together. I was positive it would come out before we graduated. But after 6 years as undergrads that never came to pass. She went home to Ft. Worth after graduation and I headed in the opposite direction.

Flash forward to July 25, 2008 and I'm sitting in an empty 175 capacity theater by myself with only my excitement to keep me company. Talk about depressing. Slowly a few people trickle in: a middle aged couple, some teenage girls, a guy and his little brother who asked if X-Files was supposed to be scary, and some 10 year old kids. In total there were about 12 of us. The trailers lasted for what seemed like forever. Normally I'm a big fan of trailers but I was getting seriously annoyed until finally the 20th Century Fox banner appeared in all it's glory. Finally! I was grinning like a fool.

My first thought on this is that it should have been a Fall release. All seven of the trailers attached to it screamed Fall, even the Vin Diesel late summer release Babylon A.D. I mean they even had a trailer for the Cannes art suspense thriller Blindness, which is from City of God director Fernando Meirelles.

Overall I liked it but at the same time I can see where the critics that gave the movie only tepid reviews were coming from. The movie to me played out like an episode of the series but rather than evocing the genius of episodes like "Ice", "Grotesque", "Irresistible, or "Paper Hearts", it felt more like an "Oubliette", "Kaddish" or "Kitsunegari". They're good, enjoyable episodes that have their proponents, I'm rather fond of "Kaddish" but they aren't episodes that are repeatedly held up as series hallmarks. Heck they're not even mentioned as underrated episodes of the series.

In fact now that I think about "Kitsunegari" might be an accurate comparison. Season 5's "Kitsunegari" featured the return of season 3's Robert Patrick Modell from "Pusher". The villain and the episode are two of the best the series has ever produced. So while "Pusher" introduced us to a charismatic villain, humorous but still serious dialogue, and UST between Mulder and Scully that sizzled, "Kitsunegari" failed to live up to it. Modell was sidelined for most of the episode and the promise of bring back a favorite antagonist for our favorite dynamic duo fell short of the goal line.

As a big screen movie it didn't deliver. Nothing about it screamed, "This belongs on the big screen!" which is a damn shame because one of the praises of XF was how cinematic in scope it was. It didn't have the spectacle of FTF which is fine and understandable but that felt like a movie that needed to be done on the big screen rather than the small. IWTB, however, was more emotionally satisfying than anything else. I adore David and Gillian in these roles. I've made claims that I could watch them read the phone book and that remains true. I loved how David played the resentment Mulder harbored towards the FBI in the beginning and the enthusiasm he gives Mulder once the case renergizes him. Gillian's Scully was weary of the "darkness" they'd faced in the past and she was happy in her expanded role as a medical specialist/pediatrician as opposed to just being a forensic doctor.

I personally don't see Chris Carter as a one note hack which I realize some people in the fandom do. I think he's a solid and even a great writer. He's also a very capable director. Frank Spotnitz is also a very solid writer. "Detour" is one of my all time favorite episodes. However, the movie wasn't their strongest effort. Thankfully they haven't lost their touch in writing Mulder and Scully. They were what rang as the most truthful and for that I'm extremely grateful. But excellence there doesn't excuse the shoddy writing. For a movie that's been percolating for years now I expected it to be tautly written. Instead it felt like it was just thrown together and even that's probably not even a legitimate excuse. FTF was written while the series was going on and Frank and Chris were able to come out with a very enjoyable and tight movie. They should have been able to do the same thing again.

At times I actually found myself rather bored with the movie's X-File which was Father Joe's psychic connection to the abducted women. The case itself was more interesting with severed body parts being discovered in the ice, long sweeping shots of the FBI search teams in the snow, and sinister black market organ procedures being done. I found myself thinking, "Let's get back to the investigation but leave Father Joe at his dorm for repentant pedophiles." Addendum: Upon my second viewing I was able to understand the X-File better. Father Joe was psychically connected to the dying owner of the organ transplant business. He was also one of the altar boys he'd molested. When he seizured, Father Joe seized. When he bled from his eyes, Father Joe did as well.

I was also rather bothered by the lack of UST in the movie. It's one of the hallmarks of the MSR. Mulder usually gives Scully an intense look and immediately follows it with a mildly suggestive remark. Scully holds his look, rolls her eyes, and banters back. Instead what we got was not unpleasant but I guess it'll take some more rumination.

The MSR scenes were tender, comfortable, and welcomed. They harkened back to  the "Requiem" bed scene or the final shot from "The Truth". However, with those two I still felt a subtle, sexual undercurrent. That was missing here. Yet at the same time I keep thinking that it would be rather inappropriate for them to be giving each other smouldering looks since the movie throws Mulder and Scully into the case rather quickly. There was no happy, free downtime scenes between the two of them before the case stuff to show us what they're like before they get back into the thick of things. That's the only place I could legitimately see some Mulder/Scully  suggestive play.

The only moment  during the entire movie that  I felt like going WTF was during Mulder and Scully's entrance to the FBI and Agent Drummy asked them to waiting outside the conference room. As Mulder and Scully glanced between a framed photograph of George Bush and J. Edgar Hoover the opening strains of the XF theme kicked in. Huh? They have never been that completely blatant with the theme before. I mean it really kicked in. It's usually something very subtle. Mark Snow pretty much hit us with a 2x4 with it. That was disappointing. Mark Snow is usually flawless in his execution of the score. Well, maybe with the exception of the Scully's theme that was used during season 8. It was hauntingly beautiful the first 2 or 3 times but then it just got grating but that's another story.

One of the places where it really felt like the XF of yore was when Mulder and Scully first meet Father Joe. Scully immediately jumps in with a question and asks him what he was praying for when they walked in. He answered forgiveness and Scully countered. Then she remarks "I didn't bugger 47 altar boys". The resulting little exchange, in the middle of the small bedroom with Father Joe and Agents Whitney and Drummy, was perfection. It was a very quiet exchange but they were the only ones talking so those around them could hear it. "That's a colorful way of putting it," "I could think of  another..." "I bet you could." I was spoiled for the line because it sounded really odd coming from Scully. I first thought it was the reviewer making some comment at Gillian and her time in London but nope it was indeed Scully saying the line. Now that's Mulder and Scully banter. With the exception of that line there really wasn't much else in regards to banter and it was part of what made the Mulder/Scully partnership great.

The bedroom scene between Mulder and Scully was lovely. I really liked how Mulder's comment of  "I can hear you thinking" comes from behind Scully and then his head pops up behind her. However what kind of comforter were they using?  It sure was ugly. The lack of Mulder/Scully banter really makes me cling to the little exchange between them here. "I can't sleep." "I've got a little something that can take care of that." "A little something?" "Thank you." Scully's "scratchy beard" comment when Mulder kisses her in bed has got to be one of the cutest things I've seen lately and that includes the David and Gillian press for the movie. On my second viewing of the movie I noticed that Mulder nuzzles Scully's neck a bit before he kisses it as well. The intimacy in his voice when he tells Scully. "Go to sleep. Let me curse God for a while," was wonderful. I love how when Mulder gets up moments later because now he can't sleep, he chooses to do something constructive and starts to shave the beard. Mulder's not a dawdler but he could have easily chosen to do something else to occupy his mind but instead he chooses to act on Scully's commentary. I guess Scully hadn't really complained too much about the beard but now if it's stopping him from getting some TLC from his favorite doctor then it's time he got rid of it. And I've got to say that David, nearing 50, looks amazing. He looks so fit and trim. The eye candy was very much appreciated. And Gillian was certainly keeping up her half. I love that they had her in a tank top rather than the menswear pajamas she usually wore on the series. These two are a very sexy looking pair and seeing them all domestic in the bathroom was great. I wish we'd had more of those moments.

I loved the little nods to the series that were sprinkled in.

  • Visual references: Mulder's poster, the fish tank, the sunflower seeds, the pencils on the ceiling, a basketball, and a photograph of Samantha.
  • Agent Whitney references old cases in Luthor Lee Boggs (Beyond the Sea), Clyde Bruckman (Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose) and Gerald Schnauz (Unruhe).
  • Location names: The Russian doctors were getting their animal tranquilizers at Nutter's Feed. That was named after one of XF's regular directors for seasons 1-3, David Nutter.  He is often viewed as the TV pilot king. He's directed the pilots for Space: Above and Beyond, Millennium, Roswell, Dark Angel, Smallville, Without a Trace, Jack & Bobby, Supernatural, and the Sarah Connor Chronicles. Kim Manners, who directed the most XF episodes is referenced in Manners Memorial Hospital or something along those lines. He's now a regular director on Supernatural. The pool where the abductors would find their victims is also named after Michelle MacLaren, an XFproducer during the show's LA days and director of season 9's "John Doe" . She also worked on Chris' Harsh Realm and Frank's Night Stalker.
  • Mulder's cell phone: He has a contact named Bowman, named after Rob Bowman who directed many of the series' episodes and FTF. Gilligan was Vince Gilligan. He was perhaps the series' best and consistent writer. He's now the creative force between AMC's Breaking Bad and he had a hand in writing this summer's Will Smith blockbuster "Hancock". And then of course there's Shiban who is former writer John Shiban. He now works on Supernatural and was the final piece of the John Gilnitz trio along with Frank and Vince. John's baby boy played Mulder and Scully's son William in "Existence". Yet at the same time, if Mulder's been pretty much Mr. Recluse for the last several years where did he get friends. I have to believe that Mulder would be prone to random pick up games in the park but to actually have friends that he'd keep contact info for doesn't jive with the set they've established.

There was a very subtle thing with Agent Whitney perhaps having the hots for Mulder. It wasn't blatant at all and it could just be me but her reaction to Mulder's newly shaved look was odd. "What did you do?" she asked when she saw him and she reached for the side of his face where there was still some shaving cream. She did this outside, in public, and in front of Scully who gave her a subtle look of her own. Then there was the discussion outside the black market organ organization's office space. I didn't quite catch what she said there was something in her body language, again not overt, that suggested something. On my second viewing I heard her tell Mulder they really needed to have a longer conversation. And then of course she called him Fox when she was trying to locate him in the warehouse. That is never a good thing.

I guess this is a good time to bring up some thoughts I had on Agents Whitney and Drummy, played by Amanda Peet and Xzibit, respectively. I've read tons of posts even before movie got released on how people really were not fans of the two new agents because they were going to be taking away screen time from Mulder and Scully. I agree that I would have much rather have the movie focus more on Mulder and Scully but I can't say I agree with people's cheers and relief at Whitney's death.

I guess my attitude towards these types of things is colored by experiences when I first had when I first came into fandom and actually interacted with other fans. I came in during the summer before season 8 which was 2000. I was very new and bright eyed and oh so excited to be sharing my love for XF with other people. It was a great time but there was already an undercurrent of Doggett/Robert Patrick hate. I didn't understand it. He's no Mulder/David Duchovny but I was fully prepared to give him a fair shake. As the season progressed so did the hate and then Reyes/Annabeth Gish hate was tacked on. I had problems with season 8 and 9 stories as well and with TPTB utilization of David during those time but I didn't think it was fair to hate up on the actors and their characters. Now I'm in the Smallville fandom and I see similar hate thrust upon Lana Lang and Lois Lane. I adore the later and am fond of the former. The amount of venom that is thrown towards them and especially Lois Lane portrayer Erica Durance can be sickening. And to round it out with Forever Knight, it was disheartening to read about how some people viewed Tracy Vetter. There were reports of people laughing at her death in front of Tracy fans when the series finale aired. That's why I find exultations of glee at Whitney's death sad. Whitney and Drummy have the misfortune of not being completely fleshed out as characters. I'll admit to not being particularly interested in Whitney except for the fact that I think Amanda Peet looked lovely and I totally covert her crazy wooly hat. However I would totally love to read fic on her and who she was. Also,  fic that is FBI centric and how her colleagues viewed her death and association with former Agents Mulder and Scully. Someone please write that fic. And as for Drummy, I really liked Xzibit. He had far less screen time than Amanda Peet but I just really liked him. Rappers turned actors get a lot of flack but I saw him give a very solid performance. I liked his whole we're wasting our time following this psychic. He and Doggett should compare notes. I'd love to read some post IWTB pic with Drummy.

This was really random but I snickered at the front desk clerk at the public swimming pool. Agent Whitney asked if he had a sign in sheet of the people that use the facility. He answered that he always has one and when Whitney asked to see yesterday's he said he throws them out at the end of the day. What!? LOL, then what's the point of having them sign in if it just gets thrown away.

I got a huge kick out of all the familiar faces populating this movie. Vancouver was a treasure trove for XF when it came to character actors. Sure they'd reuse actors all the time but you'd never know it.

  • Agent Monica Bannan was played by Xantha Radley who played the waitress who enthusiastically tried to peddle the diner's wares to Mulder in season 5's "The Post Modern Prometheus". She also intentionally spilled coffee on Mulder's lap.
  • Callum Keith Rennie played the second abductor. He was highly considered for the role of Krycek that eventually went to Nic Lea.
  • Lorena Gale played the doctor Scully was conversing with on teleconference. She's been on XF three times, most notably as a nures in season 2's "One Breath".
  • Vanessa Morley who played the young Samantha Mulder had a cameo as a young agent who walked passed Mulder and Scully while they waited for Drummy to bring them in. She and Mulder had a long moment with eye contact before Drummy interrupted.
  • Sarah Jane Redmond was the FBI agent who was always in the background observing the proceedings in the bureau. I suspect she's the one who got a hold of Skinner for Scully. She was in two episodes, most notably season 4's "Schizogeny".
  • Nicki Aycox played the second abducted woman. She was in season 7's "Rush" as a teen who checked Mulder out.
  • Alex Diakun played the Russian Doctor Uroff- His three XF appearances where in Darin Morgan's scripts.
  • Stephen E. Miller played the Nutters' Feed Store owner. He's been in 3 XF episodes including the pilot as a coroner and the tactical commander in season 2's "Duane Barry"
  • Patrick Keating whom imdb has listed as "Slight Man" played Donald Gelman in season 5's "Kill Switch"

The "break up" scene was interesting and very well acted. It's been six years since we last saw these two. The great majority of post series fic has Mulder and Scully on the run together and living very low key lives under assumed names.  IWTB has pretty much dispelled that and made their current arrangement canon. Although not entirely since there's still some wiggle room and I can't wait for the fic writers to fill in the blanks. However,  Scully states the most telling thing about their current relationship. They are two people that come home to something they've built together. It might not always be ideal (Scully's worry of long term isolation on Mulder) but it's theirs. It was really the decision to use the word home that really struck me about that scene. Scully's worried about Mulder and even though she wants him to break out of his funk she doesn't necessarily want him investigating. "Write it down. Put it in a book" she says. She doesn't want the darkness that is associated with the first 10 years of their partnership in their home. Is it a realistic wish? No it's not. They can keep it at bay temporarily but it will always be a part of them. Their lives have been touched in far too many ways both individually and together to ever remove themselves entirely. Scully tells Mulder she's got other battles and that right now is not a good time to even contemplate looking into the darkness with Mulder, which is what he wants. Mulder wants Scully by his side but she's not prepared to go back. She doesn't like what doing that kind of work does to them. She asks Mulder to stop but he won't. She knows that. Not even for her. She doesn't ask again. She accepts it but she does make a decision. "I won't be coming home."I do think Mulder accepts that decision a little too easily. Perhaps he knew that time was their enemy and they had yet to find the missing woman so he chose not to push Scully. She and their relationship will have to wait. A young woman's life is a stake. However I would have liked Mulder to say something along the lines of  "OK, now's not a good time. I understand that. But don't make this decision now. We'll talk about it when we both can." I wish he'd put something like that out there.

Gillian was down right brilliant in her confrontation with Father Joe. I've always been a fan of hers. I'm a GAnut from way back but that scene reminded me. She raised the intensity at just the right intervals until Father Joe finally cracked into seizures through his psychic connection.

I did want a little more tension between Mulder and Scully when Mulder sees her at Father Joe's dorm. I wanted him to push her a bit more but he didn't. Perhaps I've got visions of Mulder's death stare at Scully from "En Ami".  We do get treated to a Mulder!Ditch. Part of me was thinking that he wanted to retrieve something from the SUV but nope. He climbs in and leaves Scully behind. I wanted Scully to look annoyed but all we got was her looking sad which made me sad.

We get a profession of love from Scully and that moment my heart melted. Even if it was thrown in there with her calling him "stubborn" It's called tenacity Scully. You know that. Yes Mulder said he loved her  first in season 6's "Triangle" but seriously, the man was hopped up on pain medication. He looked very sincere then but the moment still has an asterisk.

It looks like we got a Chris Carter cameo in the hospital. Scully is rushing into her office and as the camera makes its way to her from the other side of the hallway it passes a man sitting on a chair. He's hold a small white urn. It's a blink and you'll miss it moment but I thought that was fun.

Oh, by the way. You do not Google radical stem cell research Dr. Scully. Consult medical journals or look at specialized sites. Thank you.

Mulder attempting to stop the illegal organ harvesting with nothing but a random wrench his picked up was unintentionally humorous. He's raving around like a madman, tool waving in the air,  telling the Russian doctor to step away from the the abducted girl. At the same time demanding for someone who speaks English to step forward. It's very much "I've got a tool and I now how to use it!" Oh Mulder. The thought behind it was good but the execution like, other parts of the movie, felt off. Legally, Mulder can't carry a firearm but I find it hard to believe that he still wouldn't find away to carry one. Perhaps I've read too much post series fic.

Skinner popping in filled me with happiness. Skinner! Don't ever leave us. Mitch Pileggi looks great and is once more totally rocking the authoritative trench coat. In my head Sarah Jane Redmond's agent calls him in because she's aware of this history with the agents. Some one right that fic too.

It amused me that Skinner pretty much singlehandedly handed the Russian doctors their asses once they'd resumed with the procedure. Sure he's a big, imposing guy filled with authoritative demands, the gun doesn't hurt either, but it felt a bit hollow because it was just him. I kept expecting for back up in the form of a team of swarming FBI agents to crash in behind him but nope just Skinner. Don't get me wrong, I adore Skinner but it too felt like it was missing something.

I had an aww moment when Skinner goes to the injured Mulder at Scully's request, removes his heavy trenchcoat and wraps Mulder in it. I loved Mulder's dazed reaction to seeing the Skinman again. And then of course we get a shot of Skinner cradling the cold and injured Mulder. It was strangely reminiscent of Scully's cradle of Mulder when they're in the Antarctic in FTF.

The case itself wrapped up rather abruptly. I was still expecting my FBI team to descend on the crime scene but nope nada. Couldn't they get back the extras they used for the visually stunning and pretty search teams? That would have gone a long way towards closure in that respect.

And then comes the kiss outside the "unremarkable house" that got plastered all over the Internet by the photogs. I kept thinking, "Carter you damn well better gives a good angle on that kiss" because he's certainly got a history of poorly lit kisses. They were outside in broad daylight so lighting wasn't a problem but I do think the first half of the kiss was blocked wrong. It wasn't a passionate kiss but I really didn't expect one at that moment. I'm happy with it. Mulder also promises Scully that if she wants the two of them will leave and try to go as far away from the darkness as possible. She acknowledges that it will find them. To that Mulder responds, "Let it try."

A couple of additional notes:

I do think Mulder was brought back into the FBI too easily. All will be forgiven they say? BS

Duchovny was sporting one ugly looking Grizzly Adams beard. I've seen shots of him sporting facial hair that falls more in the beard than stubble territory and that was infinitely more attractive than what he had has Mulder.

Scully now has Gillian Anderson's mole. Interesting. On the series it was always hidden with make up. Now are we to believe that she's always had it and she merely concealed it herself or were we to believe that she never had it and its appearance now is messed up continuity? Wow has that nitpicky, lol.

The photograph of the young actress who had played Samantha was new. I don't recall ever seeing that particular shot in the series. The one that is burned into my memory is the candid shot of her on the monkey bars. That's the quintessential Samantha Mulder show. Forever frozen in her childhood during a happy time. The new picture is of the same actress, thankfully, no "Closure" recasting here but it looks more like a school picture.

The closing credits were beautiful and to the haunting tune of UNKLE's reimagining of the XF theme. There were plenty of familiar names. Too many to note. I loved pointing them out to myself. They were displayed over shots of ice and snow and slowly the theme gives way to UNKLE's "Broken" with vocal by Gavin Clark. Suddenly it's not ice and snow but ocean water viewed from above and then the camera is flying over lush green forest and then beach before it hits water again.

This folks is the wonderful credits coda. How incredibly awesome and perfect was that. I loved every little second of it and it put a huge smile on my face. We see a shadow of a helicopter over the water before we come upon a row boat with two people and an island in the background. It's Mulder making good on his promise to Scully. Mulder's in red swim trunks, rowing, and Scully is in a blue bikini with a white open cover up and the two of them miles away from civilization, together. Scully looks up and waves at was is presumably the helicopter who's shadow we saw and Mulder follows suit  That totally made my day. It's almost like they were waving at me since I was pretty much the only one in the theater aside from the two theater employees who came to clean up and were waiting for me to leave.

Of course it could also be viewed as Mulder and Scully breaking the fourth wall or David and Gillian waving at us, the fans. If there's anything I've gotten from the movie promotion they've done is that they are completely at peace with the place X-Files has in their lives. They've both moved on and become successful in other endeavors. Yes some people will always see them as just Mulder and Scully but they've both done interesting post XF roles and they now look at their work on XF with fondness and appreciation.

Also, in light of the disasterous and depressing opening week box office ($10.2 million and it came in fourth) it's pretty much being speculated that this will be Mulder and Scully's last trip to the big screen. It was reportedly budgeted at $30 million, which is chump change by Hollywood standards. David and Gillian chose to take a cut of the profits rather than a larger paycheck and marketing was probably somewhere in the $20 million range. Given the reports of fellow Philes on the audience turn out this movie will drop off dramatically in the next two weeks when the final string of summer block busters makes it into theaters. It will likely then disappear. It's gonna be up to the international box office to make XF break even. In the end it will make a profit because the budget was low and then there's DVD sales to take into account but it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a Fox movie exec to realize that perhaps the hard core Philes and the general public interest won't be enough to warrant a third trip to the big screen. Media surrounding the movie asked if The X-Files was still relevant today. It looks like they've got their answer.

I'm glad Mulder and Scully were left in a happy place and this certainly left me in a better place emotionally than "The Truth" but the real world realities of box office returns really brings me down. Mulder and Scully will forever own my soul. I adore those two characters and what David and Gillian do with them. It's especially bittersweet because of the acceptance that they have over the characters and they've both made repeated claims that if Fox wanted they would definitely sign up for a third XF film. I would love for some creative finagling to occur to make that happen but I'm still crushed and embarrassed for them. They threw a party and it seems like no one came.
Tags: fandom, fannish ramblings, movies, x-files

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