So there I was, standing in line outside of the beautiful Majestic Crest Theater on a stifling hot Sunday evening in Los Angeles. I was growing impatient because ever since I heard that the new X-Files picture was going into production a little over a year ago, I’ve been salivating just thinking about what Carter, Spotnitz and Co. had for their fans. When it came to the television series, I arrived late to the party. And that’s weird because, at the peak of the show’s popularity, I was the perfect age to enjoy the incredible storytelling. But for whatever reason, I just didn’t tune in. Now that I think about it, it’s probably because the show was beginning to focus exclusively on the alien mythology arc. I watched the series finale just because… well, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Granted, it was entertaining but I was obviously missing out on the emotional context of the characters; after all, Mulder and Scully are considered two of the most interesting characters in television history for a reason. At any rate, I fell into the show after watching a couple of episodes on DVD. From there, I became addicted. The characters were interesting, flawed and human (sometimes) and the stories were absolutely incredible. The alien mythology arc was intriguing, but what interested me even more were the “monster of the week” episodes, the stand alone episodes that threw Mulder and Scully into worlds that existed only in our imaginations.

That is what made The X-Files such a great show, it tweaked and jumped genres effortlessly while still maintaining the strength of the established characters. That, right there, is storytelling at its best. Arguably, The X-Files is a show the likes of which will never be seen again. It beautifully captured a generation, a time and place. And that’s probably why Fox was so apprehensive about bringing Mulder and Scully back to the big screen after their successful 1998 outing. So much has changed in the world and technology has most definitely matured, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the storytelling landscape. At the end of the day, if you have a great story to tell, an audience will find it. Clearly Carter, Spotnitz and Co. believe that because here we are in the summer of 2008, a number of weeks away from when The X-Files: I Want To Believe is set to be released. 

So now I’m taking us back to my waiting in line at the Majestic Crest for the Los Angeles Film Festival panel for The X-Files: I Want To Believe. I was surrounded by a mob of rabid X-Files fans (affectionately deemed X-Philes), waiting impatiently to hear Carter and Spotnitz discuss their highly anticipated and secretive new venture into the paranormal. As soon as I was about to keel over due to heat exposure and exhaustion, the line began to move. Anticipation was reaching the boiling point. We all nestled in and tried to find the best seat possible. I was dead center, the type of seat that allows you to see the special guests perfectly, but also one that gives you the best view of the movie screen. I had the best of both worlds. After a series of nail biting minutes passed us by, an LA film fest representative sauntered onto the stage and announced that before Carter and Spotnitz were to come out and discuss their picture, they will screen a number of scenes from the film to hype up the fans. As if they needed to be hyped up any more. Anyway, the anticipation was killing me, so I totally bit the bait. Then I saw what they had planned for us.

Seeing as how it was a panel presented by Entertainment Weekly, I knew that the Q&A session was going to hog the spotlight.  But I was hoping that the footage was going to be something that really sent the fans into a frenzy.  And it did.  Just not in the way I expected.

By now, we all know that Carter, Spotnitz and Co. have gone to great lengths to keep the film shrouded in secrecy.  I won’t lie, at first their approach really bothered me; I wanted to see what they had up their sleeve.  But just when we thought we, the fans, came across an interesting nugget of information, Carter and Spotnitz took two steps back and downplayed whatever it was we came across.  Understandably, that turns very old really fast.  But somewhere along the line, I began to fall into their little game.  I began to embrace that feeling that I haven’t felt in a long time.  The feeling I haven’t felt since the days before the world wide web.  Back then, going to a movie was supposed to be a surprise; the less we knew, the better.  Filmmakers are magicians, so when we know how they do their trick where’s the fun in that?  Ever since the net made such a huge impact on our society (and the film industry as a whole), we’ve been inundated with more information than we’d care to know about.  Suddenly, the doors swung open and the audience knew the tricks of some of the greatest magicians.  Well, not if Carter and Spotnitz have anything to say about it.

The audience was met with a total of 10 minutes worth of footage (“not yet seen by the general public”), that was even more of a tease than the teaser trailer itself. The first segment was, presumably, the film’s opening sequence in which a young woman is attacked in her garage juxtaposed with images of the FBI searching through the snow covered mountains and stumbling upon a disturbing and disgusting surprise. Without a doubt it was frightening and unmistakably X-Files in nature. But just as it was getting interesting, it came to an end. The next scene reintroduced us to Mulder and Scully, while also introducing Billy Connolly’s Father Joe. The tension between the two former agents is still there; although, this time, it isn’t sexual but rather something completely different. A lot has gone on between these two characters in the past six years. Based on that scene alone, I am dying to see exactly what happened.

So then, the house lights came up and Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz and David Duchovny walked on stage, ready for their conversation. They were an interesting bunch of folks; very funny, relaxed, self-deprecating and informative. To a certain extent. Carter and Spotnitz were relishing in the fact that we were dying to hear anything and everything pertaining to the new film. And they held back completely, giving us info that we’ve known for quite some time. But you know what? I had a great time. The trio was entertaining and really made me look forward to I Want To Believe simply due to their undeniable confidence in the finished product. Yes, it was infuriating from time to time when they led us in one direction, then pulled a swift turn in another. But that’s The X-Files, expect and embrace the unexpected. They’ve always worked like this. I think that since we’ve been waiting six years, we want to make sure we’re waiting for something worthy of our time. But damn it if this waiting game isn’t fun. And believe me, for me to say that is saying a hell of a lot, since, at one point, I wasn’t too keen on their approach either. Where are the TV spots? Web advertisements? Character posters? Nowhere to be found; though, according to Spotnitz, by July 25th, everyone will know that there’s another X-Files pick waiting in the wings. Okay, but surely Fox wants an audience that doesn’t consist solely of X-Philes, right? Or maybe I’m just crazy. We’ll see.

What did I take away from the I Want To Believe panel? The fact that Carter, Spotnitz and Co. have something up their sleeve. Something that will remind us why The X-Files is now considered one of the best television programs in the history of the medium. They know what their fanbase likes and will give it their all to please them. The real test will be making it accessible to the average moviegoer; pretty difficult, especially since The Dark Knight will be released only a week prior. Regardless, I’ve heard some rumblings within the industry (don’t worry, no spoilers ahead) that there are some incredible character arcs introduced in the picture, so it looks like the creative minds behind the property aren’t afraid of alienating their loyal audience for the sake of the story. Personally speaking, I would much rather be punched in the gut than let out a passive sigh and comment about how another studio dropped the ball on an established product.

After what I saw… actually, after the vibe that I felt at the LA film festival, I am willing to believe again. Unabashedly.

On Wednesday, I will present my opinions on the film that won both the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the LA Film Festival.