Thursday, July 31, 2008

Diminished Xpectations

For several months, my wife and I looked forward to seeing the new X Files movie. Having bought and watched the entire nine seasons of the series (including the first movie) on DVD as a substitute for going to the theater – and lately, on our second round of watching, subscribing to cable – we were hooked on the endearing if quirky characters, finely drawn plots, and both thought-provoking and entertaining themes. Now it’s all we can do to try to forget the latest installment and hope for something more fulfilling in the future.

Reportedly, creator Chris Carter wanted to make a standalone movie that required no previous knowledge of the series, harkening back to the spirit of the earliest episodes. What he came up with was a two hour version of what might have been the worst of the series’ 45-minute episodes. The main characters were caricatures of the ones we knew; and instead of carrying the arc of the last set of episodes forward, “fighting the future” of an imminent alien takeover, they inexplicably acted as though it had all been just part of one character’s obsession.

With as many resources as it takes to make and market a movie in theaters these days, not to mention how much it costs people to attend it, the story better be compelling, worth telling, and the implementation artistically well done. All but one of the reviewers whose opinions I consulted after watching The X Files: I Want to Believe agreed with my assessment that this movie met neither of these criteria.

I blame the movie’s mediocre quality, in part, on the trend that seems to have engulfed so much of news and entertainment these days: the targeting of the least informed and least critical members of the public. This may sound arrogant, but I believe as my parents’ generation did, that our culture should set a high bar for all of the people who share it, forcing us all to grow toward something better. When the economic principle of serving demand invades every aspect of our lives, we are pre-empted from getting higher quality than we can currently imagine, ultimately diminishing our lives along with our expectations.

No comments: