The X-Files: Fight the Future

1998 ; 121 minutes ; PG-13.

Quote “Mulder? It’s me.”

I want you to imagine a world where you’ve never seen a smartphone. A world where you’ve yet to hear a Blink-182 song. Where you’re deeply invested in the brand new WB show Dawson’s Creek. It’s June 1998 and you’re just trying to get through your last summer before high school.

Since you’re too young to get a job, you have your mom drop you off at your best friend’s house every morning—which, let’s face it, she is more than happy to do if it gets you out of her hair. Together you spend all morning swimming in your friend’s pool, then go inside to watch hours of this cool TV show she’s suddenly obsessed with…

The X-Files – Twentieth Century Fox

And that’s how I discovered The X-Files. Escaping to the air conditioning of the movie theater to see The X-Files movie (which I have always called Fight the Future) and following up by watching seasons one through five as Fox reran the entire show that summer. We used our trusty VCRs to tape these marathons so we could enjoy them over and over. This is a long way of saying that I have fond memories of the movie: I want it to be clear that I am totally biased.

I was also totally nervous to watch it again in advance of the 20th anniversary. My VCR retired many years ago, I used streaming services to re-watch the series and found myself once again at the end of season five. By the way, it is a CRIME that the companies that stream the show don’t also own the movies so you can insert them where they belong. Thank you interlibrary loan for helping me track down a copy of the DVD.

So what’s the verdict? It holds up! See, one criticism I read while trying to track a copy down was that it’s basically just a giant two-hour episode of the TV show.

I’m sorry, I don’t see the problem.

The movie is the TV show writ large and that makes for some wonderful moments. William B. Davis’s entrance, complete with a dramatic silhouette and swelling music, is worthy of an Indiana Jones villain. Mark Snow, who composed the show’s theme music, is here allowed to write a beautiful full score. Martin Landeau and Blythe Danner are used well as new supporting characters. And while the effects are clearly from an earlier generation, they don’t take you out of the movie. In fact, there’s something endearing about a movie without the stink of CGI invading every frame. I couldn’t help comparing the special effects it does have to The Matrix, especially in the pod scenes which are so reminiscent of that later movie. But this is a film that uses 300,000 live bees on set for a pivotal scene.

Speaking of pivotal scenes, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss “the kiss.” It’s a perfect example of the interplay between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) that makes up for the awkward and wordy exposition speeches they’re often given to shout. In one scene Scully goes from anger to fear to sadness to the briefest of smiles as she realizes they are about to kiss. Mulder is so clearly embarrassed when she ducks away; you can see him already planning how to play it off as a joke. In 1998 I was too distracted by being a 14 year old girl who (thought she) wanted to see them kiss to realize how great they are in this scene.

As for actual plot, the movie drops us right into X-File mythology. For years, viewers had assumed that the cabal who have been working with aliens to ease their eventual colonization of the world were cooperating because there was something in it for them. Turns out they’ve actually been so helpful because it gave them access to the virus the E.T.s would use to take over Earth—and they’ve been using that to develop a vaccine. Which is all well and good until it mutates…

Meanwhile, the X-Files division has been closed and the movie opens with our two favorite agents, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, on a boring (to them) assignment. Specifically, they are hunting to uncover a bomb that was called in to the FBI. On a hunch, Mulder has them searching a building across the street instead of the one that was threatened. Hey, remember back in the 20th century when this could be a major plot point in a summer blockbuster? The director Rob Bowman even says in the commentary that he initially objected because the idea of detonating a bomb in an occupied building is “the most heinous crime I can imagine.” Thanks to Mulder and Scully, this building is emptied before the bomb goes off—or so they’re told on the scene. Afterwards, they are blamed for four deaths in the building and the rest of the movie sees them fighting to clear their names by piecing together the cover-up of what really happened to those four people.

I think it says a lot that the “previously on” before the season six premiere includes several clips from the movie. While watching the movie without previous knowledge from the show is possible, continuing on really isn’t. So what does that mean today? It means the same thing it did twenty years ago: if you enjoyed watching Scully and Mulder track supernatural mysteries for 42 minutes, then you’ll enjoy watching them get to play on this larger stage for 120 minutes. And an added plus is watching the faces of the old white men who have been conspiring to save themselves when they realize that their plans are now worthless. Something about their fear as they realize they’re screwed is incredibly satisfying in the age of #MeToo. Although I still find myself holding my breath for Mulder and Scully to kiss like a love-struck teenager.

Author: Tierney Steele

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