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20th Century Fox presents
The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)

"Maybe we should call in a bomb threat to Houston. I think it's free beer night at the Astrodome."
- Fox Mulder (David Duchovny)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: January 10, 2001

Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson
Other Stars: Martin Landau, Mitch Pileggi
Director: Rob Bowman

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense violence and gore
Run Time: 02h:02m:22s
Release Date: January 23, 2001
UPC: 024543010944
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The X-Files had been growing in popularity throughout its first four seasons when the producers decided it was time to try out the franchise on the big screen. It retrospect, it was a bit of a risk. With episodes running on Fox, would people be willing to shell out money for what was available at home for free? Sure, Star Trek: The Next Generation had some success with First Contact and Generations, but the show was off the air by then, and the movies provided the only way for fans to see the characters they loved. Thus, the pressure was on to create something that felt bigger than a two part TV show shot in 35 mm. Luckily, many of the people who made the show so successful worked on the film, and the result was a captivating, satisfyingly expanded big-screen outing, which not only pleased long time fans, but drew new viewers as well.

The word "plot" gains a whole new meaning when you are talking about The X-Files. The mythology has become so convoluted and complex over the last eight years that only the most die-hard fan can claim understanding. Still, the feature film does a nice job of summarizing and clarifying what took place over the first five seasons of the show, and at the same time raising a few more of those pesky questions. It all starts with Mulder and Scully investigating an explosion at a Federal building in Dallas. Bodies in the wreckage seem to tie into a government excavation in a small town in the middle of Texas. All of the old standbys pop up for a cameo (including the Long Gunmen, Cigarette Smoking Man, Skinner, and the Black Oil), and there are some new faces, including Martin Landau as the paranoid Kurtzwiel and Strughold, the apparent leader of the government conspiracy. Plus, some bees.

Production values are suitably upgraded from those of the TV show (which is remarkably film-like in and of itself). Locations span the globe, from the arctic to the desert, and it is clear that we are not on the usual Toronto soundstages. Rob Bowman, veteran of over 25 episodes of the show, proves himself a more than competent big screen director. The claustrophobic feel of the TV show is gone, but the widescreen palate allows for a few sweeping action set pieces. Bowman also does a nice job balancing characters scenes with the action, and he pulls some great work out of Duchovny and Anderson. Mark Snow's score is also a nice change from the TV norm. The bigger budget allowed him a full orchestra instead of a synthesizer, and he has provided some nice, atmospheric background music.

I am a big fan of The X-Files, especially the earlier seasons, so I have some trouble being totally impartial here, but I think this film is about as good as you can get when it comes to adapting a TV show for the big screen. I was afraid that it would be too confusing and mythology-heavy for non-fans, but my parents (who watch maybe one episode in ten) seemed to enjoy it just as much as I did. It's better than the 1966 Batman movie, anyway.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original version of this film on disc contained a near reference transfer, but it was not enhanced for 16:9 displays. Happily, that malady has been remedied (hee hee) with this reissue, and I must say, it was difficult to find fault with the video. The color palate is a bit muted, but that seems intentional, based on the look and feel of the TV show. A bit of grain is evident, but again, it fits in with the gritty, realistic look of the film. Black level is spot on. I noticed no edge-enhancement or "stair-stepping" artifacts, even on complex patterns. This is simply one of the best non-animated transfers I have seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This disc contains both a DD 5.1 and a DTS track; I will review each separately.

DD 5.1: This is a very enveloping, very aggressive track with a very wide front soundstage that uses a lot of directional effects. Surrounds fill everything out with the score and ambient noise, really adding to the creepy feel of many scenes (especially the action-packed finale). Even in very loud scenes, I always found the dialogue very understandable. LFE is strong in several key sequences as well. The explosion at the beginning of the film is a potential demo for those who want to show off their systems.

DTS: As good as the DD is, the DTS track sounds a bit better. Now, granted, I don't have the best ear for this sort of thing, but I noticed more definition between the soundstages and a clearer overall feel to the LFE on this track. Still, both sound excellent, and should keep audiophiles very happy.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Producer Chris Carter and Director Rob Bowman
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:40m:11s

Extra Extras:
  1. Special extended home video version with extra footage
Extras Review: This new, reissued version of The X-Files: Fight the Future adds a new anamorphic transfer and a DTS audio track only. All the other supplements were available on the previous, non-anamorphic disc. Still, Fox has provided a nice set of extras that should please fans of the film.

An audio commentary is provided that features Director Rob Bowman and series creator Chris Carter. Truth be told, this is Carter's show in more ways than one. He takes over the track, and Bowman barely gets a word in edgewise. Still, Carter is a fairly engaging speaker, and he provides some interesting on-set anecdotes and a blow-by-blow account of what the goals were in transferring a successful TV series to the big screen. Well worth a listen, but I was hoping he'd shed more light on the confusing and long-winded "mythology" that has been building on the TV show for years. Of course, I doubt he understands all of it either!

The 28-minute documentary "The Truth Behind the Making of the X-Files Movie" is interesting as well. This aired on Fox before the film's release (I believe), but it does a good job avoiding the usual promo material. There are interviews with most of the cast and some nice on-set footage. Not something I'll watch again, but nice to have.

Finally, three theatrical trailers are included, all in widescreen and looking as good as the film. Oddly enough, these trailers are my favorite extra on the disc. I have watched all three multiple times, and the third (labeled "Trailer C") stands as one of my favorite trailers of all time.

One final note: This version of the film contains roughly a minute of footage that was deleted from the theatrical release. I only saw the film once in the theater, so it was hard to pinpoint, but I believe it concerns a conversation about Mulder's sister. Not a big addition, but those who follow the show will no doubt appreciate the mention.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

This was my second viewing of X-Files: Fight the Future, and I must say that I enjoyed it even more than I did in the theater. Chris Carter and friends did a great job translating the show into a film that keeps fans interested without alienating (no pun intended) the newcomer. Maybe we can ask them to work on the next film in that other TV to film franchise. After all, the even number Star Trek movies ARE supposed to be the good ones.


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