While a fan I have been a fan of THE X-FILES since season one, and had been looking forward to the television series making the leap to the big screen, it had always struck me as odd that this would occur while the show was still on the air. Was it a matter of striking while the iron was still hot, or did the studio want to attract even more followers to the TV show with a glossy big budget movie? Perhaps series creator Chris Carter wanted to create another puzzle for the devoted fans of the show to ponder? We may never know the answer to this particular riddle, but the motion picture version of THE X-FILES ($30) is a slick and entertaining supplement to an incredible television series that works well as a stand-alone entity, although it is designed to appeal to both the devotee and the uninitiated alike.
Because THE X-FILES movie arrived in the middle of the television series’ run, the film couldn't tell a story that could alter the show's reality in any perceivable way. Working within the show’s core mythology, FIGHT THE FUTURE, as THE X-FILES movie is subtitled on the advertising materials, furthers the story of FBI Agent Fox Mulder's quest for the truth. As the film opens, The X-Files have been shut down, thus forcing the reassignment of Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) and partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) to an anti-terrorism unit within the bureau. During the investigation of a bomb threat against a federal office building in Dallas, Mulder decides to play a hunch and check the other federal building across the street. Although Mulder and Scully uncover nothing at first, stopping to get cold drinks reveals that Mulder’s hunch was right, leaving him face to face with the bomb concealed inside a vending machine. Although Mulder's discovery saves a multitude of lives, the explosion’s aftermath leaves one FBI agent and five civilians dead.
Because of the destruction of the federal office building and the loss of life, the government needs a scapegoat and Mulder fits the bill nicely. While drowning his sorrows at a Washington D.C. watering hole, Mulder encounters Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil (Martin Landau), a man who claims to have been a friend of the agent's father. Mulder learns from Kurtzweil that the explosion in Dallas was in actuality a smokescreen to divert attention away from the global conspiracy involving extraterrestrials that Mulder has been investigating for years as part of The X-Files. After corroborating part of Kurtzweil's story, Mulder convinces Scully to help him dig deeper into the Dallas bombing and determine what actually killed the five civilians that supposedly died in the blast. The investigation takes Mulder from the back alleys of Washington D.C. to an isolated cornfield in the Texas desert and finally to a remote scientific station in Antarctica, where the lives of every person on the planet hangs in the balance. The cast of THE X-FILES also features John Neville, William B. Davis, Mitch Pileggi, Jeffrey DeMunn, Blythe Danner, Terry O'Quinn, Lucas Black, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood and Armin Mueller-Stahl.
This is the second time that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released THE X-FILES movie on DVD and this reissue takes care of the only significant flaw found in that first release. This time out, THE X-FILES features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. While the Letterboxed image on the first disc was very good, the 16:9 enhanced DVD is an improvement over that. THE X-FILES is framed at 2.35:1 and the wonderfully sharp and glossy image truly differentiates it from the television series. Still, the signature "darkness" of the series carries over to the movie, which maintains the established atmosphere to which the fans have become accustomed. Even brightly lit daylight sequences in the film are filtered down to avoid a shocking contrast with the naturally darker scenes. Nighttime scenes look remarkably good on the DVD, with deep inky blacks and abundant shadow detail. Colors have relatively good saturation, but may appear a tad subdued when compared to other recently Hollywood films with a less atmospheric look. Flesh tones appear very natural, except for in sequences where they are intended to look otherwise. Film grain is noticeable in places, but it never becomes bothersome. Digital compression artifacts remain well concealed, thanks to first rate authoring.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack was a winner the first time the film was released on DVD and it remains a winner even now. This soundtrack makes aggressive use of the discrete channels to produce a wide forward soundstage that is well integrated with the rear channels. Sound effects pan effortlessly in a highly effective manner, plus the sound designers have made aggressive use of the surround channels for the implementation of interesting split effects. Dialogue reproduction is fully intelligible during the louder passages and quite natural sounding when the actor's voices predominate. The bass channel is full and deep, giving solid reinforcement to the track and becoming convincingly explosive when necessary. Series composer Mark Snow has created an interesting score that goes well beyond the music one associates with episodic television. A DTS 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, which adds a bit more depth, clarity and warmth to what is already a great sound mix. In addition, English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are provided, along with English and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound have been added to give the interactive menus a cool series inspired interface. Through the menus one can access the standard scene and language selection features, as well as the DVD’s supplements. Writer/producer Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman provide an interesting running audio commentary that doesn't give away any series well-guarded secrets. Carter dominates the commentary track, which isn't too surprising, since THE X-FILES is his baby. There is also a half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD, which is hosted by series regular Mitch Pileggi. The documentary includes interviews with the cast and crewmembers, and proves to be more entertaining than a typical PR piece. A theatrical trailer fills out the supplements.
It's great to see THE X-FILES finally done right on DVD. Anyone hesitant to pick up the DVD in the past because the movie lacked the 16:9 enhancement should race out now and pick up this great looking and sounding disc.
Note: every un-enhanced wide screen title from every home video company should be given the chance to shine on DVD by being reissued with the anamorphic enhancement. With this release, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is showing that they are responsive to DVD consumer desires, which is something every company should be trying to do, but aren't.
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