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maryann johanson | takeaway only

X-Files: Revelations (review)

I Believe

This is one of the cleverest uses of DVD I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the setup: You’ve got a new movie coming out, a big-screen adaptation of a hit TV show. Still, you’d like to extend your multiplex audience beyond fans of the show. Problem is, your show ran for nine years and 202 episodes — how do you bring newbies up to speed for your movie?
This is how you do it, and it’s, well, spooky-brilliant. Just like Agent Fox “Spooky” Mulder. Subtitled “Essential Guide to the X-Files Movies: 8 Critical Episodes Handpicked by the Series Creator,” these are Chris Carter’s choices for creating the baseline newbies need to appreciate the new film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, which opens July 25.

This two-disc set — which includes a coupon for $8.50 toward admission to the new film — kinda ups the suspense for longtime devoted fans, too: it turns out to be a ton of fun to ponder, while we wait for the 25th, what it is about these particular episodes that make them relevant to the new movie. We’ve heard that I Want to Believe will be a standalone story — not part of the huge, overarching alien-invasion/government-conspiracy epic that has been likened to a Russian novel in its complexity — and to X-philes, “standalone” means “monster.” And, indeed, three of the greatest standalone monster stories are included here: “The Host,” with the terrifying human-fluke creature; “Post-Modern Prometheus,” the hilarious — and poignant — black-and-white sorta-spoof on Frankenstein and other classic monster movies; and “Bad Blood,” the he-said/she-said vampire tale in which we get very different perspectives on what happened when we see it all through both Mulder’s and Scully’s eyes (and featuring a very funny double performance by Luke Wilson as a small-town sheriff). These suggest to me that we’re in for a real treat: a movie that is as clever and funny as it is scary and icky.

A fourth episode here, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” is arguably the best installment of the show’s entire run, and maybe among the best 45 minutes of dramatic television ever. Here, Peter Boyle plays a clairvoyant who predicts Mulder’s death, and, well, not to spoil it for newcomers, this one is funny and sad at the same time.

The other episodes? Check out the pilot, which introduces us to Mulder and Scully; “Beyond the Sea,” featuring a chilling performance from Brad Dourif as a condemned inmate and Scully’s first thawing toward believing in the paranormal (plus the appearance of the recently deceased Don S. Davis as Scully’s father); “Memento Mori,” part of the Scully’s-cancer storyline and a good introduction to the Lone Gunmen, Mulder’s partners in conspiracy-theorizing; and “Milagro,” in which Mulder and Scully’s love for each other finally becomes obvious even to them.

Every episode is introduced by Carter and executive producer (and sometime writer) Frank Spotnitz. Don’t worry: they don’t spoil the movie for us by telling us why these episodes are key… except in the broadest sense. Which makes this set an unlikely but delightful example of the cliché that is actually true: this is perfect for fans and interested novices alike. (Also included in the set: a Wondercon panel featuring Duchovny, Anderson, Carter, and Spotnitz.)

[buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

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