There may be no going back, as much as we might want to believe otherwise.
Maybe the "X-Files"— the TV phenomenon of 1993-2002 that influenced such popular shows as "Lost" and "Heroes"— was a product of its time. Or maybe it's just too difficult to re-create such an engrossing series on the big screen. "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" just can't capture the magic.
For one thing, the Mulder-Scully chemistry seems to have evaporated. David Duchovny is still engagingly low-key as the truth-seeking Fox Mulder, while Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully seems to have become even more dour. Grounded in science, her doctor character was always serious, but she has lost some of what made her more human: passionate emotions and flashes of dry humor. There's a discernible lack of sparks during a bedroom scene. Sure, it's meant to be cozy rather than sexy, but it feels forced.
When the film opens, Mulder and Scully have left their top-secret work uncovering paranormal forces. But they are drawn back in when an FBI agent (Amanda Peet) needs help determining the veracity of a priest claiming to know the whereabouts of a missing fellow agent.
The concept of belief, in its many facets, is critical to the plot. The film poses intriguing ethical and spiritual questions. The psychic priest (Billy Connolly) is central to many of them; he divides not just Mulder and Scully on the question of ESP, but also many FBI operatives.
To his credit, director and co-screenwriter Chris Carter doesn't easily resolve many of these complex questions. The audience is left trying to draw connections between ethical dilemmas and plot points, and often no resolution materializes.
While Carter has engaged the audience on an ethical level, he has thrown a wedge between his protagonists and their fans. On the show, the viewer would solve the mystery along with Mulder and Scully. In the movie, the clues are revealed to the audience, while others remain in the dark. As a result, the sense of suspense key to a supernatural thriller is diminished.
The film also skimps on plot; don't expect the clever, intricate twists of the series. It feels like a wan version of the show — one that has lost its otherworldly edge.