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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/3/99
updated: 11/9/00

The X-Files: Fight the Future

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits


The X-Files: Fight the Future (New version)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

The X-Files: Fight the Future
Enhanced Widescreen - 1998 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/B

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

Specs and Features

122 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch in chapter 7, at 40:11), THX certified, Amaray keep case packaging, 3 theatrical trailers, The Making of The X-Files featurette, audio commentary with producer Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman, THX Optimode test signals, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1), English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

The X-Files: Fight the Future The X-Files: Fight the Future
1998 (1999) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/B

Specs and Features

122 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch in chapter 7, at 40:11), THX certified, Amaray keep case packaging, 3 theatrical trailers, The Making of The X-Files featurette, audio commentary with producer Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

Review Note: The following text has been updated to include a comparison between the new anamorphic, Dolby Digital/DTS DVD release of this film, and the original.

"Take your greatest fear, and multiply it by X..."

FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) fight a lot more than just the future in this, their first outing on the big screen. Arrayed against them are their superiors at the Bureau, a shady global Syndicate, killer bees, a deadly plague virus and plenty of little green men. OK, big grey men - you get the idea. We're talkin' aliens here, and nasty ones at that.

The story goes like this: Mulder and Scully run a poorly-regarded division of the FBI known as the X-Files, investigating the Bureau's unsolved cases (which often have mysterious or paranormal elements). In the course of that work, they've uncovered evidence of a massive government conspiracy to hide the fact that extraterrestrials are here, and have nefarious plans for the Earth. But they've gotten too close, and the bad guys have shut their work at the FBI down. Reassigned to the Violent Crimes division, Mulder and Scully are sent to Dallas in response to a terrorist bomb threat. But when the bomb goes off, destroying a building and killing innocent civilians, guess who's made to take the fall? That's right - Moose and Squirrel.

Mulder realizes they've been set-up, but can't prove it... until the mysterious Dr. Kurtzweil (played by Martin Landau) appears, with word that the victims in the explosion were already dead, their bodies devoured earlier by an unearthly virus - "a plague to end all plagues." Armed with this information, Mulder and Scully risk their careers and their lives, in a desperate race to uncover the Truth - a truth more shocking than they could ever have imagined, and which threatens the very survival of the human race.

As you readers from outside the U.S. have probably realized, we Americans seem to have a very healthy paranoia when it comes to our government. Don't ask me why, but in a country with wide personal liberty, Americans tend to protect their freedoms with almost blind zeal and a definite degree of fear. It's this paranoia that explains the popularity of The X-Files I think - the show plays into everyone's fears ("See Margie - I told ya they was hiding those Roswell aliens! Damn government spooks!"). And let's face it - the paranormal is just plain fun.

I was fully pleased with The X-Files: Fight the Future. Some have said that it wasn't as big or grand as it should have been, but that's not what X-Files has ever been about. The series is cerebral - and what you don't see is far more important than what you do. It's about intangibles - mysteries that never quite get solved (or if they do, result only in bigger and deeper mysteries). Compare The X-Files to good, classic film noir, and you're in the right ballpark. In that light, The X-Files: Fight the Future delivered more than I expected. It managed to satisfy most fans of the series and, while it wasn't a huge blockbuster, just about anyone could watch this film and get what was going on. I know this, because several members of my family enjoyed it, and were never watchers of the series. The bottom line is that the good guys are clearly good, the bad guys are clearly bad... and there's aliens. It's pretty clear who you should be rooting for (unless you're bent, of course, and decide to root for the aliens).

For this first big screen venture, writer/producer Chris Carter has created a story that spans thousands of years, creating a deadly Earthly (yet still definitely extraterrestrial) threat, older than humanity itself. Fans of the series will immediately recognize familiar characters - Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mulder & Scully's boss, played by Mitch Pileggi), and the series' answer to the Three Stooges (conspiracy geeks The Lone Gunman). And of course, there's a bad guy as bad as Darth Vader himself, the evil Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis). Thrown anew into the mix are Martin Landau, Blythe Danner, Glenne Headly, and Armin Mueller-Stahl among others, and all fit perfectly into this rogue's gallery of spooks, wierdos and counter-agents.

There are two DVD versions of The X-Files from Fox Home Video. The original DVD features non-anamorphic widescreen video. The picture is very good, with excellent color, spot-on blacks and good detail. The transfer does, however, suffer just a bit from light grain, a slightly dirty print and from occasional analog artifacting. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is fantastic, creating a deep sound stage, with terrific ambience. The bass is deep and rich, and there is some very nifty (but fully appropriate) use of the rear channels. The dialogue is clear and properly centered, panning is excellent, and composer Mark Snow's spooky soundtrack is nicely woven through it all. This is definitely an active surround mix.

The new DVD version features a brand new anamorphic widescreen transfer that really looks wonderful. Color and contrast are superb and there's great detail. Once again, there's some light grain and artifacting, but not as much as appeared on the original DVD version. And the fact of the matter is that the improvement in picture resolution resulting from the new anamorphic transfer does make a difference. The new disc includes the same Dolby Digital 5.1 audio as the original, along with a new DTS 5.1 soundtrack as well. The DTS sound adds a definite measure of clarity and ambient naturalism to the audio experience, with very good low frequency, smooth panning and sufficiently active rear channels. Both tracks are excellent but, as expected, I prefer the DTS.

This needs to be made clear - BOTH DVDs deliver the exact same extras, with one minor exception. The new disc includes THX Optimode test signals. On both discs, you get all three of the theatrical trailers that were created for the film. There's a good behind-the-scenes documentary, narrated by series regular Mitch Pileggi, which runs for nearly a full half-hour, and reveals the making of many of the film's set piece action sequences. It also gives viewers unfamiliar with the series a look back at the history of the characters. This is NOT the same featurette that appeared on the VHS and laserdisc editions - it's much more in depth.

Both DVDs also include a feature-length commentary track with writer/producer Chris Carter and director Rob Bowman. This is interesting to listen to, but could have been better arranged. The two never introduce themselves, and they weren't even recorded together, so it becomes very difficult to tell them apart - their commentary is just sort of edited together haphazardly, with Carter talking about the characters and plot, and Bowman chatting about the making of the major action scenes and the like, at about a 60/40 ratio. Once you get used to it, it's very interesting, but still this could have been better. And I would have really liked a second commentary track with Duchovny and Anderson, talking about their characters and their experience on the film. That's picking nits though - these extras should definitely satisfy most X-Files fans.

The X-Files: Fight the Future is, in my opinion, a completely entertaining film. Non-fans should have no trouble wading into the story, and fans of the series should be plenty happy. And the new DVD version, in particular, really delivers top-rate video and audio quality. Fans of this film with the original DVD will have to ask themselves if it's worth upgrading to the new version, since the extras are the same. But if you're a fan who appreciates anamorphic video and/or DTS audio, the decision to upgrade should be easy. This is just fun stuff. By the way... did I mention there's aliens?

Bill Hunt
[email protected]

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