Science is all about the pursuit of truth, and so is Agent Fox Mulder, though I’m not sure The X-Files is 100% scientifically accurate. However, with every other IMAX screen in town busy awakening the Force, the California Science Center’s large-format screen was the best place for Fox to show off the first X-Files episode in almost 14 years.
[Note: Nerdist will have a proper review of the episode closer to the airdate of January 24th, but keep reading for some early, non-spoilery impressions.]
On a weeknight, the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena looked not unlike a landed UFO, making the perfect backdrop. The stars arrived under a dome filled with imitation celestial bodies, among them Mitch Pileggi, Annabeth Gish, Joel McHale, Kumail Nanjiani, and of course David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Not spotted were the Lone Gunmen, though since Dean Haglund lives in Australia now, that wasn’t totally surprising.
Inside, the popcorn and drinks expressed a desire for faith. And I’m right there with you, Smoking Man — I never trusted a Pepsi One.
So how was the episode itself? In a word: good.
Let’s talk about the technical aspects first — it looked great blown up to IMAX size (which means it should look nice on Blu-ray as well). My only qualification is that there’s one scene involving makeup prosthetics where, on the big screen, you can clearly see the edges of the glued-on bits, and given how important and shocking the scene is supposed to be, that’s a shame.
Even in an era where special effects can realize anything X-Files creator Chris Carter can imagine, the show doesn’t use them to retcon every visual as a shiny new effect (though it does have shiny new things too). Rather, the looks at vintage-style UFOs that we do get feel not unlike those in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! The CG makes them look real and tangible, but with a goofy retro charm. The opening credits, however, have not been tinkered with (except to give Mitch Pileggi equal billing with Duchovny and Anderson).
Aside from his movie-star good looks, McHale’s new character Tad O’Malley is a pitch-perfect parody of right-libertarian conspiracy show host Alex Jones, and the perfect device to bring The X-Files up to date with mainstream paranoia-mongering. Everything from FEMA death camps to 9/11 trutherism gets a mention.
A few more tidbits to whet your appetite:
- Don’t worry if you have no idea what was going on by the end of the original series. Carter pulls a maneuver that will be familiar to fans of Doctor Who and Steven Moffat to explain that what you think you knew may have been wrong anyway.
- Mulder and Scully’s relationship has changed, but believably so. The actors’ chemistry has not faltered.
- The episode takes place in two different time periods, in a move which may have been inspired by Lost. If you think hard enough, you’ll figure out what the other period is.
- Though Gish was in attendance, Monica Reyes is not in the first episode, nor are the Lone Gunmen.
- Despite the fact that Carter has made every effort to make Mulder look messed up — with an unshaven Duchovny in clothes he looks like he’s slept in for five days — the actor remains fabulously handsome.
- There is at least one alien in the episode.
The way to the after-party was almost like a Halloween maze, with green mist randomly and suddenly shooting upward. And the party itself was held under an actual, honest-to-Cthulhu SPACE SHUTTLE, Endeavor.
…where we learned that the government’s big secret is apparently a Moscow Mule. Somebody alert the ghost of Joe McCarthy.
“The Paranormal” packed quite a punch, so much so that I was one and done.
Pileggi seemed unamused by my addressing him as “Horace Pinker,” but he agreed to let me take this picture:
Things have begun well. My biggest hope is that they stick the landing on a good ending this time.
Are you excited for new X-Files? Let us know below!