How quickly time passes. Seems like only yesterday that The X-Files first premiered on television screens – but it was, in fact, 1993. A series chronicling the adventures of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, it centered around two contrasting FBI agents assigned to investigate unsolved cases which usually involved the paranormal, the supernatural, and the downright inexplicable. Over its life, the series won numerous awards, including a clutch of Golden Globes and a Best Actress Emmy for Anderson. Well placed for the times we live in, the X-Files became a global phenomenon based on its rich stew of conspiratorial tone, high paranoia, and well paced horror and suspense. The show’s ninth and final season came to an end in 2002 – exiting stage left just as its popularity was at its zenith. Six years later Mulder and Scully are once again drawn back into the world of the paranormal in another adventure sure to prompt scores for fans back into cinemas for one more turn of the conspiracy wheel of fortune. I Want To Believe is a familiar phrase of the series – being the slogan on a poster Mulder had hanging in his office at the FBI and an signpost to the difficulty in mediating faith and science.

Creator and director Chris had a simple goal for the latest film – “Simply put, we want to scare the pants off of everyone in the audience.” He adds that it marks a return to the series’ roots, when it was the lone beacon on television for fans of thrillers, supernatural tales, and of horror stories and encompassed the essential three requirements – scary, creepy, and with a good mystery. Unlike the first The X-Files film released in 1998, I Want To Believe does not require audiences to understand the series’ complex mythology that stretched across its nine seasons on the air. Ten years since the first film, and six since the close of the series, prompted the filmmakers to introduce a new generation to these characters as the average 20-year old today would have been too young when the series originally debuted.

Again, much of the film’s inherent dynamic revolves around Mulder and Scully – now placing them in “real time” – six years on in their lives, older and wiser. The relationship continues to be defined by a definite chemistry – a love story that remains a very different kind of screen romance. Their chaste relationship is the old-fashioned kind of romance where all the physical intimacy is achieved through looks, holding hands, or kisses on the forehead. Unlike the standard Hollywood coupling where clothes are often discarded within the first fifteen minutes, this is intimate but not physical – and all the more powerful for that. With the Mulder-Scully dynamic as the nexus of the film, the franchise here continues its traditional process of bringing in semi-established co-stars – this time with Amanda Peet as Dakota Whitney and Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner as Agent Mosley Drummy. A very different kind of character is portrayed by Billy Connolly, whose Father Joseph Crissman is a dark, complex character with a haunted past. For funny man Connelly, joining the X Files clan was a different experience to his usual stand-up life: “When you’re doing an X-Files movie, you’re not going to be singing ‘Kum Ba Yah’ around a campfire,” he notes. “You know that it’s just going to be a weird experience.” To add to the suspense, director Carter insisted on the actors and crew only knowing the story as it was filmed – a creative attitude some directors, including Ken Loach on The Wind That Shakes The Barley, use to ratcheted up the tension. The actors initially read the script in an enclosed room under video surveillance, and only received copies the days they were shooting, after which they were collected and then shredded.

The film opens with Mulder in hiding from a framed-up murder charge and Scully back again at her first calling, medicine, at the appropriately named Lady of Sorrows Hospital. When FBI agents Whitney and Drummy seek their help on a missing person case in which the only lead is Father Joe, Scully and a decidedly reluctant Mulder are once again pulled into the strange world of paranormal and paedophilia. With Mulder almost tipped over the edge and locked in his room chasing imaginary conspiracies, the film is, unlike the series, more about Scully and her quest to do one thing right in a wasted life. Opening with that trademark spookiness that made the series such a hit, the film quickly descends into a tug of love between the two leads as the missing person takes a backseat. Committed fans will be happy enough with the pace and plotting of the film, but it remains to be seen whether the new generation will take to the slow pace typical of X Files procedural. The fact that it opened well down at the US box office last week would seem a bad omen. Duchovny and Anderson slip easily back into the characters, and the slow lingering camerawork by Carter adds further to their unique chemistry. Best performance of all is undoubtedly Connolly as the conflicted and haunted priest. One harrowing scene between himself and Anderson towards the end is in itself worth the wait for the raising of hackles on the neck. This is not classic X Files – a fact all the more apparent given the long wait for its reappearance. The fans will love it, the newcomers will wonder what the heck all that was about.