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Review: 'The X-Files'

June 24, 1998|By JASON MYERS

Jason Myers

The process I have gone through to write this review could comprise the subject for an episode of "The X-Files," the popular Fox television show that finds itself on the silver screen, subtitled "Fight the Future."

My installment would be called "Fight the e-mail."

For graduation, I received a laptop computer and have been eager to use it for all of its purposes. Because I am away for the summer but wanted to continue my column - yes, readers, I love you that much - I figured my Compaq Presario would be the perfect liason between myself and The Herald-Mail.

However, I am on my third draft of this review. My unsuccessful attempts at e-mail have left me suspicious of alien intervention.

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All right, so I was cursing Bill Gates more than I was Marvin Martian, but you know ... the truth is out there.

Just how interesting is that truth on the big screen?

Let me first say that I am usually repelled by science fiction.

Few of the films that fall into this strange genre are made with any imagination or ingenuity. They resemble the 1950s Saturday matinee epics that featured rubber monsters and ceramic spaceships and unknown actors reading melodramatic and often apocalyptic lines.

Whether solemn like "Contact" or slick like "Independence Day" or silly like "Men In Black," modern science fiction films - if you can even call these limp, lackluster movies science fiction - are so effervescent that they float off of the mind the moment you leave the theater.

"The X-Files," which I must also admit to having seen only a dozen times, owes part of its attitude to another 1950s genre: film noir.

The murky visual texture, the suspicion and resentment of authority, the desire of lone and lonely people to discover a tacit truth - these elements of "The X-Files" were born of movies like "The Maltese Falcon" and "Touch of Evil."

"Fight the Future" might be viewed as a hybrid of old detective movies and more recent conspiracy cinema. Which is to say that it is not entirely fresh. The first hour is immensely intriguing. As we witness the evolution of some extraterrestrial virus in the underground hollows of Texas from caveman-cruncher to trailer park population-controller, the images are gruesome but gripping.

Our first encounter then with Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), is an enchanting escape from the carnage with which we are assaulted so early in the picture - carnage that deters me from being a regular viewer of the show.

Since the F.B.I. has closed the x-files, these paranormal pals are stuck in routine cases like pedophiles, serial killers and terrorists - you know, workaday worries.

These concerns make Mulder even more listless than he normally is, though Scully jokes that his constant expression at one point reveals a look of panic.

The relationship between Mulder and Scully has to be the most marvelous one on the marquee at the moment. Their banter is brisk, blithe and brilliant; it reminded me of the fast, funny exchanges between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday."

Had the film focused mainly on their growing romance - which it constantly builds then distracts, it would have been more enthralling.

As it is, "Fight the Future" becomes another tedious exercise in conjecture and cynicism. Even a fine, shaggy performance by Martin Landau as a conspiracy theorist cannot sell the plot on which creator of the show and writer of the movie Chris Carter has tried to sustain his film. The movie sags under the weight of its own severe scope - the suspense is just as important as disbelief, and "Fight the Future" has too much disbelief and not enough suspension.

The viewer is supposed to believe that this virus has been living on earth for a few million years just waiting to colonize humans. The end grows extremely vast, vague and vapid.

Exactly how does Mulder get to Antarctica? And where does he find that snazzy snow cruiser - at Hertz?

At this point, even our heroes have lost interest. Duchovny, who I think is a comic genius, seems more dead than deadpan, and Anderson is so anemic she could pass for a relative of Michael Jackson. Perhaps they have decided, like I, that there are more important truths to determine than whether little green men did or did not land out in the New Mexican desert 50 years ago.

First things first: How does one e-mail?

Jason Myers is a 1998 graduate of North Hagerstown High School. He was finally able to e-mail his column when he used the correct e-mail address.

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