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The X-Files: I Want to Believe - Ultimate X-Phile Edition Blu-ray Review

The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008) movie poster The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Theatrical Release: July 25, 2008 / Running Time: 105 Minutes (Theatrical Cut), 108 (Extended Cut) / Rating: PG-13

Director/Creator: Chris Carter / Writers: Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter

Cast: David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), Gillian Anderson (Dr. Dana Scully), Amanda Peet (ASAC Dakota Whitney), Billy Connolly (Father Joseph Crissman), Xzibit (Agent Mosley Drummy), Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner), Callum Keith Rennie (Janke Dacyshyn), Adam Godley (Father Ybarra), Alex Diakun (Gaunt Man), Nicki Aycox (2nd Victim), Fagin Woodcock (Franz Tomczeszyn), Marco Niccoli (Christian Fearon), Carrie Ruscheinsky (Margaret Fearon), Spencer Maybee (Blair Fearon)

Buy The X-Files: I Want to Believe from Amazon.com:
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By Kelvin Cedeno

In a summer congested with sequels and remakes, there had to be casualties. Among the most prominent of these was The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a continuation of the hit television series. The film earned a meager $20.9 million domestically, far short of the franchise's first picture gross (which earned $83.8 M back in 1998)
and awfully low considering the reputation of the "X-Files" brand. Some would pin the blame on the timing, for it came six years after the sci-fi program left Fox and a mere week after the box-office juggernaut The Dark Knight opened. Others would say the quality of the film was responsible for the underperformance.

I Want to Believe catches up with Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), now a doctor at a Catholic hospital. The FBI contacts her on the whereabouts of her old partner Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) for help on a strange case that has arisen. An FBI agent has gone missing, and a priest (Billy Connelly) purporting to have psychic powers has been trying to locate her. Both Mulder and Scully have their misgivings, albeit for different reasons. Mulder is dubious of the FBI requesting his help after he's been labeled a fugitive for the past few years. Scully not only wants nothing more to do with cracking cases, but she can't bring herself to trust Father Joe after she finds he's been convicted of pedophilia. The two can't help but get dragged into it, however, as the case grows increasingly more bizarre.

Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are drawn back into the world of the X-Files in "I Want to Believe." A dark figure with a haunted past, Father Joe Crissman (Billy Connolly) leads a team of FBI agents to a critical discovery.

With six years of anticipation, fan expectations for this film were undoubtedly high.
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This often does more harm than good, and that's what happened here. I Want to Believe was met with lukewarm response by both audiences and critics. This is understandable considering one major problem the picture has: it doesn't feel like "The X-Files." It comes across as a standard thriller with little in the way of supernatural elements. It also lacks the often playful sensibility of the series, instead being quite maudlin throughout. Perhaps the biggest reason why this feels different is that Mulder and Scully spend too much time apart. Scully feels she has moved on from supernatural paranoia, which leaves Mulder spending the majority of the film piecing together the case by himself. It's a similar problem the last few seasons of the series faced in that the duo is much stronger together than apart.

That's not to say I Want to Believe is a bad film, for it certainly isn't. In fact, when taken on its own, it's actually a very good one. This is thanks to the deeper questions it asks, such as the crisis of faith. The characters, particularly Scully, aren't just there to push the plot forward the way as other thriller heroes are. They're individuals with doubts and moral agendas. Alongside this emotional aspect, the film also succeeds at keeping the audience involved. It crafts suspense and tension in an almost old-fashioned way, not relying too heavily on cheap tricks the way many modern entries to this genre do.

As a part of the established franchise, I Want to Believe doesn't gel quite so well. The story isn't grand enough to sustain a feature film the way 1998's unofficially titled Fight the Future did. One need not have strong exposure to the series to follow along here, and the intimacy of the characters and their development make up for any slightness in plot. Fans who made it through the last few seasons of the series should be pleased with this entry, though those who'd prefer those years didn't exist aren't likely to warm to this entry.

Note that this Ultimate X-Phile Edition Blu-ray Disc contains both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film. A mere three minutes separate the two versions and most of these stem from a bit more graphic footage. A couple of character moments also appear. The added footage isn't drastic enough to either help or harm the feature, though the character bits are nice to see. Fox should be commended for including both versions here instead of releasing them separately the way studios are prone to do.

Buy The X-Files: I Want to Believe on Blu-ray Disc from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Isolated Score)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean
Release Date: December 2, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two Single-sided discs (1 BD-50, 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Slim-line Blue Keepcase
Also available in 2-Movie Blu-ray Pack (with Fight the Future),
1-Disc DVD and 3-Disc Ultimate X-Phile Edition DVD
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VIDEO and AUDIO

The X-Files: I Want to Believe comes to Blu-ray in its original 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, presented in 1080p. It's becoming more and more difficult to review Blu-rays of modern films because they're so often presented in the finest way possible, and this disc is no exception. There's nary a digital nor film defect anywhere, with detail remaining excellent and hues coming across as true to the original color timing.

The 5.1 DTS-HD track also excels, almost unexpectedly so given how dialogue-driven this film is. That aspect of the track remains clear and concise, and the surround effects are utilized well without being too understated or too gimmicky. The score is also presented nicely, never overbearing the other elements. Both image and sound are of true reference quality.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

This Ultimate X-Phile Blu-ray delivers an exhausting wealth of supplements, all of which are presented in 1080p. The bonuses start with Fox's In-Movie Experience. Here, the viewer can sample most of the disc's features during the film via the color-coded buttons on the remote.
The red button acts as an index that alerts the viewer when one of the other buttons is accessible. The green button turns on the visual commentary (for those whose players aren't equipped with BonusView, this button will activate the commentary audio without visual accompaniment). The blue button branches out to relevant behind-the-scenes clips. Finally, the yellow button displays concept art and storyboards concurrent to what's being shown in the film. It's a good way for people to get a feel of the disc's contents in a compressed amount of time.

The bonus material is also accessible in its own full form beginning with a visual commentary by director/writer/creator Chris Carter and producer/writer Frank Spotnitz. Because the player used for this review did not have BonusView, only the audio portion could be accessed. This is just as well as it's a very informative track. Carter heavily dominates it, going into shooting anecdotes and story details while Spotnitz occasionally chimes in mostly to jog Carter's memory. There's much to be learned from this satisfying listen.

Next come three deleted scenes (5:52). Two of these serve as little other than extended versions of what's in the final film while the third seems rather random out of context. They're all presented in the same excellent quality as the feature presentation, though a lack of explanation for their deletions goes missed.

The disc's centerpiece extra is a three-part documentary titled "Trust No One: Can The X-Files Remain A Secret?" (1:26:01). The first portion of this, "You Can Go Home Again" (29:01), acts as a sort of pre-production featurette that deals mainly with how secretive the screenplay was. "Misinformation" (28:38) represents the production phase and focuses on the fake news stories the filmmakers "leaked" on the Internet to throw fans off. "Don't Give Up" (28:21) is the most traditional of the three pieces as it looks at the post-production process.

The documentary as a whole is quite good, though it doesn't dig as deeply as one would expect given the subject matter and running time. Undoubtedly due to how paranoid the filmmakers were about spoilers getting out, very little behind-the-scenes footage is shown. Instead, the documentary is generally made up of sound bites, film clips, and production stills. Of the three parts, "Don't Give Up" gives the best representation of its stage as it not only features the most candid footage, but the interviews discuss the actual process as opposed to how it relates to fans and the public. Overall, it's a great look at how much a fan base can sway a production, but it doesn't hold up so well in terms of how the film was actually made.

"Chris Carter: Statements on Green Production" (6:16) is a sit-down interview with the director in regards to how environmentally conscious the production was. While it's nice to know of the efforts taken to preserve the earth, this featurette comes across as little other than bragging and preaching.

"Body Parts: Special Makeup Effects" (8:12) follows special makeup effects designer Bill Terezakis as he reveals the special body parts created for the picture's darker sequences.
The X-Files poster The X-Files - X over Blue poster
Scully and Mulder in action - 8x10 photo Duchovny and Anderson are Mulder and Scully - 8x10 photo
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Enough time is given to properly examine each prop and the shocking amount of detail that goes into them. This is an excellent and enlightening piece.

The Gag Reel (9:49) proves to be surprisingly amusing, partly because it's bizarre seeing so much levity attached to a film this serious, and partly because the editing is steady enough to let the goofs breathe on their own.

"Dying 2 Live" (4:03) is a music video for a song performed by rapper and X-Files co-star Xzibit. The song annoys more than pleases, and the video itself (comprised solely of production stills) feels like something a fan made on YouTube.

Much more useful is "The X-Files Complete Timeline." This interactive chronology offers a comprehensive look at the entire "X-Files" saga. One can choose to explore through entries on various events by year, show season, or character. Every entry is accompanied by a relevant video clip, and as such, there's at least one clip for every episode of the series, including the two feature films. It's an excellent bonus feature that's helpful to both casual and die-hard fans.

Galleries are split into four categories: "Collectibles" (89 stills), "Concept Art" (16), "Storyboards" (153), and "Unit Photography" (50). These collections are excellent, but their presentation leaves much to be desired. Instead of convenient thumbnails, they're played as a full screen slideshow controlled by the chapter search. This makes them a chore to go through, especially in a section as vast as "Storyboards."

"Trailers" holds two clips: the Domestic Theatrical Trailer (1:26) and the International Theatrical Trailer (1:40). Both are welcome inclusions.

Next comes "Agent Dakota Whitney's Files." This mock portfolio features case studies and reports for characters in the series and films including Luther Lee Boggs, Clyde Bruckman, Father Joseph Crissman, Janke Dacyshyn, and Gerald Schnauz. The files are impressively rich in detail, making this a good supplement to the similarly deep timeline found earlier.

The final bonus is somewhat hidden
in that it's only accessible when the theatrical version of the feature is selected, and that's an isolated score. Considering how rare these are for modern films, it's a great addition to this set.

The second disc follows the now common practice of having a digital copy for use on a computer or portable video device.

The main menu contains a montage of shots as a low-key version of the famous theme song plays. The pop-up menus feature the listings hovering with a transparent background. This has both its strengths and weaknesses. By not having a background window pop up behind the selections, it's less of a distraction when accessed during the feature. At the same time, though, the lettering is hard to read while the film plays, coming clearly only when seen against the dark main menu montage. Each submenu listing stacks on top of the previous one so that the user always knows where he is.

The disc comes in a traditional slim Blu-ray case that replicates the theatrical poster. Inside, the Blu-ray disc and the digital copy are given their own hubs on both sides the case. No pamphlet is included except for the digital copy code, and there's no artwork featured on the underside of the sleeve.

The always complicated relationship between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully undergoes some unexpected twists. Will Mulder and Scully find the truth? Does anybody care?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The X-Files: I Want to Believe is not going to satisfy everyone.
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The years that have passed have given it a feel and sensibility from the series', a fact longtime fans may balk at. Casual fans and newcomers probably won't mind, though, and are more likely to see the film's strengths on its own terms without preconceived notions. Whatever one thinks of the movie itself, there's no denying the excellence of this Blu-ray disc. The film is presented in the highest quality possible, and while the supplements aren't always of consistent quality, as a whole they certainly impress. Those who've already enjoyed this are recommended to pick this up. For everyone else (including diehard fans willing to keep their expectations in check), a rental is suggested.

Buy The X-Files: I Want to Believe from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray / 2-Movie Blu-ray Pack / 1-Disc DVD / 3-Disc Ultimate X-Phile Edition DVD

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The Cast of I Want to Believe:
David Duchovny: The TV Set Things We Lost in the Fire The Best of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist | Amanda Peet: Martian Child
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Reviewed December 16, 2008.



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