The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)

*. I’ve been re-watching The X-Files, intermittently, for the past little while and had just started on season six when I realized that I’d missed something. That something was this movie, which I’d seen but mostly forgotten. Which led me to track it down for another look.
*. That way of coming to Fight the Future tells you something about its odd status. It’s not a standalone story but more an episode in a serial. In particular it takes the main X-Files “mythology” or narrative spine and runs with it. In producer Cris Carter’s words, it’s basically a “big mythology episode.” When season six kicked off it didn’t miss a beat, as the first episode has someone getting infected with the alien virus and then giving birth Alien-style to an alien, as is done here. Indeed, they probably wanted an episode going over this same material just to keep the television audience up to speed.
*. But that’s not to say that you’d be totally lost if you hadn’t been watching the show. The thing is, the X-Files mythology is so complicated and semi-opaque there’s no way to make sense of it all. As Strughold says, with regard to Mulder, “Of the whole he has seen but pieces.” And this is after he’s seen the alien ship taking off!
*. What’s more to the point, Mulder never will see the whole. To arrive at any final revelation wouldn’t just bring the series to a crashing halt, it would go against its entire premise, not to mention the way it works. The truth has to remain “out there.” Somewhere.
*. I think Roger Ebert’s review makes this point: “As a story, it needs a sequel, a prequel, and Cliff Notes. I’m not sure even the filmmakers can explain exactly what happens in the movie, and why. It doesn’t make much difference if you’ve seen every episode of the TV series, or none: The film is essentially self-contained, and that includes its enigmas. X-philes will probably be as puzzled at the end as an infrequent viewer like myself.”
*. That sense of always running in place and getting nowhere is baked into the cake. When Mulder says at the end “How many times have we been here before, Scully, right here so close to the truth?” we have to accept it as a given. In that regard it’s much like Scully and Mulder’s own romantic yearnings for each other. They can never be consummated, even with a kiss. Because that would, like the revelation of the Truth, shut everything down, and also because it would be a betrayal of the rules of the game.
*. A key part of Scully and Mulder’s always-interrupted courtship is Scully’s steadfast refusal to commit. Yet another way we see their relationship inverting gender stereotypes. She is the scientific mind and he operates just as much by intuition. By this point in the series Scully’s continued resistance to believing what is going on had become a bit of a joke, which would continue into the next season of the show as she refuses to back Mulder up at yet another closed-door hearing. Because she didn’t actually see the alien ship! Just like she never sees the monsters or the aliens in the show. And without further evidence . . . you know.

*. Given how much of the movie is a tease, never giving us the whole picture, questions about the plot are easily foiled. How did Mulder get all the way to Antarctica and drive that tractor right up the base without anyone knowing? Well, maybe they did know and they wanted him to come to them. But why? These questions are like a dog chasing its tail.
*. One thing that did bother me was the introduction of Scully and Mulder by way of the explosion in the office building. This was apparently orchestrated in order to destroy the cadavers of the firemen and child who fell into the cave at the beginning. But couldn’t they have figured out an easier, and far less conspicuous, way of doing this? Especially considering the fact that the explosion does not destroy the bodies! And why does Michaud have to sacrifice himself? Given the bomb was about to go off anyway, why didn’t he just evacuate the building with the others?
*. Judging the movie on its own is difficult. Basically what worked on the small screen works just as well on the big. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have the same good chemistry, and share the same low-key delivery that plays well against the insanity of the plot. Fan favourites like The Lone Gunmen put in an appearance, even though they have little to do. The Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), known as Cancer Man by fans and referred to as CSM on the commentary track, looks grim and sinister. There are black helicopters, and even a black train. The show’s signature atmosphere of layers of conspiracy shrouding everything is well evoked.
*. In fact, one of the things I enjoyed the most are all the old boys showing up and doing their thing. Davis. Martin Landau as a slightly buggy deserter from the cause. John Neville as the Well-Manicured Man. Armin Mueller-Stahl giving the Organization a suitably Nazi accent.
*. Any final judgment on such a movie is impossible. The X-Files was a good TV show, and so if the movie is basically just a more expensively tricked-out version of that, then that’s OK. But I don’t think it stands up that well on its own. I can only speculate about this, since I do know the show, but I think anyone coming to it cold will likely feel as though they’ve been left out of the loop. Since, moving forward, fewer and fewer people will be familiar with the show I suspect this movie will soon be forgotten, or only remembered as just one chapter in a saga accessible only to fans.

2 thoughts on “The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      It’s at least consistent with the series. But now, twenty years later (where did that time go?), I think a lot of people coming to it cold will find it mystifying.

      Reply

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