Thursday, August 14, 2008

The X-FIles: IWTB, Re-Watch


**Major Spoilers**

Seeing it for my second time, two weeks after it opened and quickly disappeared from theaters, in a Hindi film niche theater (of the Ultrastar chain), I came to lament this film's unsurprising failure to register even a blip on the box office radar. I also emphatically felt its neglect by the critics and audiences thoroughly, and understandably, expecting something full and epic. 

The film was an experiment of principles.  Its very conception by writer-director Chris Carter was probably based around the film as a dare - the dare of making this sequel a sneaky stowaway on the luxury liner that is the summer blockbuster season.  It aggressively seeks to be low-key and startlingly layered.  It seeks to be discursively mature in the rough-edged, uncompromising, often unpalatable narrative details and choices it makes.  Its sides are not polished like the typical modern blockbuster that aims to please all and everybody.  This film feels more at home in the 1970s, when studio pictures were allowed to be odd, skewed, and unpleasant, not because they were being ignorant (as it is now - see: Transformers), but because they dared to take us out of numerous comfort zones.  

IWTB dares to be pander-free, achingly matter-of-fact about touchy subjects, and it treats the genre film to a freedom from the trappings of expected genre "action."  Instead, the film gives itself the breathing space of a traditional drama.

The film remains a very hopeful ode to the humane ideal that underlined the television show: Mulder and Scully are noble crusaders making themselves willing to "look into" the most despicable or frightening types of "darkness" and come to an open-minded understanding of it. This is in order to, with the hope-against-hope, find progress and progressiveness in the liberal-minded acceptance and consideration of the world's most obscured demons.  It is through the open-hearted exploration of these darkest, most uncomfortable of demons that there can possibly be found some of the world's most hopeful and affirming of miracles, as this film aims to illustrate for us.

It is no wonder the film works into the film, even rather cursorily, plot elements concerning stem cell research, homosexuality, and the Catholic religious establishment - the former are two contemporary issues that are often decried by the latter, decried for reasons that are the antithesis to the progressive mindset the enlightened duo of Mulder and Scully exhibit.

This attribute of plain, open-hearted considerateness points to the riskiness but ultimate hopefulness of "going against the grain," or "facing the"/"owning up to your" darkness. Some go about it the wrong way, such as the main abductor's kidnapping of innocents - but Carter is sure to embed hopefulness and self-sacrifice within even his immoral actions. Mulder's acknowledgment of this scenario of radical measures taken in the name of an extreme hope - in other words, his acknowledgement of possible human (as opposed to purely inhuman) motives behind the murders - is what leads to his realizations about the donor organ ring. The idea of a delicate chain of open, positive attitudes resulting in Mulder and Scully putting an end to the murders, pushing Scully to pursue the treatment of her young patient, and giving the character of Father Joe some semblance of retribution is indeed Chris Carter's notion of a "miracle."

It is another thing to admire about this film as non-traditional summer fare, that there are no "Evil" villains in the film.  There is no black-and-white antagonist, usually such a staple and prerequisite of the summer action film. The anonymous Russian doctors (and nurses) are just kind of stupid-faced and irresponsible; the abductor is a bit predatory, but he is nevertheless desperate and vulnerable; and even the vicious two-headed dog that attacks Mulder, in the end we see but whimpering on the ground, lost and confused after its "other half" is killed.

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