X-Files: Fight the Future

The makers of the “X-Files” movie have been insisting for months that the film would have its cake and eat it too.

They said it would answer questions that fans of the TV show have been asking for years, but that it would also be self-contained and not alienate people who have never seen the show.

Many of us who are “X-Files” junkies doubted that it could do both. We were wrong.

“The X-Files” (officially subtitled “Fight the Future,” though those words do not appear in the on-screen credits) is an enormously satisfying, exciting movie that yes, answers some questions we’ve had (about that black-oil alien stuff, and where it came from), and yes, is self-contained enough to appeal even to non-fans.

Except for that potential problem of turning off either the fans or the non-fans — and again, it’s incredible the way that turns out to be a non-problem — there was no way this film could miss. The same people who do the TV series did the movie, too, from the stars (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson), to the writers (Chris Carter, who is also the series creator), to the guy who does the moody background music (Mark Snow, who makes the leap from small-time TV music to full-blown movie score admirably). Rob Bowman, a veteran “X-Files” director, directed the film, too.

So with all the same people involved, the movie winds up having everything the show has, only bigger. It’s smart, funny, exciting, confusing (yet ultimately satisfying), suspenseful, scary, gross, as well as being brilliantly scripted, paced, and photographed. The TV series has all those qualities, and the big screen only magnifies them.

The plot has Mulder (Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) tracking down the roots of a cover-up, as some firefighters and a young boy have died of a mysterious virus. They are doing this free-lance, though, since the X-Files division of the FBI has been officially closed, and in fact Scully is being reassigned (“Salt Lake City, Utah,” she says glumly, drawing cheers from local moviegoers).

Fans will appreciate a few subtleties. Duchovny’s legendary deadpan performance is mocked when he, as Mulder, shows Scully his “panic face” — which looks just like his regular face. Fans who have long wondered if Mulder and Scully would ever express romantic love for each other will be glad to see them express more feelings than they ever have, and in fact, there’s a kiss, sort of … but I won’t ruin it for you.

Are all the questions answered? Heavens, no. But enough are answered to where fans will be satisfied. Imagine the coolest three-episode arc of the show, all crammed into one two-hour blockbuster of a movie, and that’s what you’ve got here.

And what about the non-fans? Mulder’s believe-everything attitude and Scully’s scientific skepticism are established with their first conversation, and everything else is set up pretty well, too. Whatever is confusing in the movie is that way on purpose, and the non-fans can rest assured that the fans are as confused as they are.

But in the end, things are wrapped up nicely (well, as nicely as things are ever wrapped up on “The X-Files”), and satisfyingly. “X-Files” is the most intelligent, least patronizing summer action film in years, and it’s refreshing to see Hollywood make a movie that isn’t dumb, and that doesn’t talk down to its audience.

B+ (2 hrs. 1 min.; PG-13, some intense violence and gore.)