I don’t really have any memory of watching the fifth season of The X-Files first time around, so I think I went into Fight the Future (1998) as a lapsed follower rather than a slathering devotee, when it opened in UK cinemas… still, I find it hard to credit the creative staff’s assertion that this spin-off movie could be enjoyed by a virginal-viewer who hadn’t seen at least a couple of seasons of its parent show. In the same way that many of the monsters-of-the-week that M&S face are mutants blessed/cursed with preternatural powers, FtF is essentially a season finale that’s been injected with “action movie” growth hormones (and plenty money), and rampaged its way onto cinema screens. Obviously it’s not my place to tell you how to watch this (or any other) movie, but it really makes much more sense as a bridge between seasons five and six, rather than as a satisfying, self-contained experience in itself.
This is especially true if (like me) you’re feminist with a Scully fixation, because here she’s reduced to little more than Mulder’s spunky sidechick, and droopy damsel-in-distress. I feel like Jan Brady complaining about her sister Marcia here, but this movie really is all about “Mulder, Mulder, Mulder!” It’s his hunch that directs the erstwhile agents to the hospital in the opening scene, while everyone else is searching the FBI office opposite… he’s the one who finds the bomb… he’s the one who suspects the supposed disposal expert is up to no-good… he’s the one who guesses where the tanker trucks are heading… he’s the one who first realises bees are about to be released inside the dome… and ultimately he’s the one who gets to do all the tough-guy stunts and save the day. Meh. Mulder himself does pays some vague lip-service to the notion that Scully is a vital presence in his life, but the movie itself depicts her as little more than an annoying adjunct to his investigations. As I say, this would be a far more egregious error if it weren’t for the fact that David Duchovny’s prominence in the movie meant that Gillian Anderson got so much screentime to herself in the previous season… as well as episodes, such as “Bad Blood” (ep #5.12), where Mulder is the one who’s duped and doped by the villain, and needs to be rescued by her!
So, no fave Scully moments to note here, but I did find myself feeling strangely happy to see ‘The Cigarette-Smoking Man’ smirking his way on to the “cinema” screen. This isn’t something I’ve really had the time/space to talk about in previous posts, but I find it hard to believe that when they originally cast William B. Davis in the role, he was just supposed to be a silent Suit stood in the background, looking sinister but never actually saying anything! He has such a great voice, and such a great delivery, that it’s impossible to imagine the show without him now. He’s also become quite a sympathetic and amusing villain, now that they’ve fleshed out his backstory a bit… and I love the idea (implied in ep #4.07), that he’d happily give up the whole cloak-and-dagger conspiracy-stuff, if he could just find someone to publish his prose! He doesn’t really get a lot to do here either, but I enjoyed his appearances all the same, and I’m glad that the producers eventually realised the actor’s full potential.
Meanwhile, Martin Landau appeared as ‘Alvin Kurtzweil’ a paranoid doctor and part-time conspiracy theorist, who tips Mulder off to The Syndicate’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans… Terry O’Quinn made his second X-Files appearance, this time as self-sacrificing “Special Agent in Charge” ‘Darius Michaud’… Lucas Black had a small cameo as ‘Stevie’, the little boy who falls prey to a long-buried puddle of “black oil”*… and Gary Grubbs had an even smaller cameo as the ‘Fire Captain’ who comes to his rescue. As for female supporting players, well… Blythe Danner appeared as ‘Assistant Director Jana Cassidy’, a high-ranking official in the FBI who sits behind a table and says stuff at Scully… and Glenne Headly had a small-but-amusing cameo as the sceptical ‘Barmaid’ who cuts off Mulder’s booze supply. And, er, that’s pretty much the end of that list. Feh.
Beyond that, I did appreciate how much information this movie provided, regarding The Syndicate’s long-term aspirations and operations (although no one’s actually referred to them as “The Syndicate” onscreen yet… I’m just calling them that because the Wiki does). The soundtrack album even came with a hidden track, in which Chris Carter explained the show’s mythology, as he understood it up to that point… which is definitely worth a listen, if you can find a copy (look for a long-ass MP3 of The Dust Brothers’ cover of “The X-Files Theme”, and skip ahead to 10m30s). After all the obfuscation and inconsistency, it’s nice to have something solid to wrap my head around for once. Wonder how long that feeling will last…?
* Can I just note here how silly it sounds to me every time someone says “black oil”? I know that there are many different kinds of oil, and they come in a variety of colours, but you say the word “oil” to most people, and they’ll picture the black stuff that comes out of wells (“Texas Tea”!), so it seems like rather a silly name to give it, considering how vague and non-threatening it sounds… like “clear water” or “brown wood” or something. And “Purity” just sounds like a celebrity perfume… oy!