The X-Files (also known as The X-Files: Fight the Future) is a 1998 American science fiction-thriller film written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz, and directed by Rob Bowman. It is the first feature film based on The X-Files series created by Carter that revolves around fictional unsolved cases called the X-Files and the characters solving them. Four main characters from the television series appear in the film: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis reprise their respective roles as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man. The film’s tagline and sub-title is Fight the Future.
The story follows agents Mulder and Scully, removed from their usual jobs on the X-Files, and investigating the bombing of a building and the destruction of criminal evidence. They uncover what appears to be a government conspiracy attempting to hide the truth about an alien colonization of Earth. Viewed in the context of The X-Files chronology, the film’s story takes place between seasons five (episode “The End”) and six (episode “The Beginning”) of the television series, and is based upon the series’ extraterrestrial mythology.
Chris Carter decided to make a feature film to explore the show’s mythology on a wider scale, as well as appealing to non-fans. He wrote the script with Frank Spotnitz at the end of 1996 and, with a budget from Fox, filming began in 1997, following the end of the show’s fourth season. Carter assembled cast and crew from the show, as well as some other, well-known actors such as Blythe Danner and Martin Landau, to begin production on what they termed “Project Blackwood”. Mark Snow continued his role as X-Files composer to create the film’s score.
The film premiered on June 19, 1998 in the United States, and received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Although some enjoyed the style and effects of the film, others found the plot confusing and viewed it as little more than an extended episode of the series. A sequel, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, was released ten years later.
The film opens in what will become North Texas, 35,000 BC. Entering a cave, a hunter stumbles upon a large extraterrestrial lifeform. They fight and the caveman wins, stabbing the creature to death, but he is also infected by a black oil-like substance.
In 1998, in the same area, a young boy (Lucas Black) falls down a hole near his home and finds a human skull. As he holds it, black oil seeps up his body until it reaches his head, causing his eyes to turn black. Four firefighters descend into the hole to rescue him but do not come out. A team of biohazard-suited men arrives on the scene.
Meanwhile, FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) have been assigned to other projects since the closure of the X-Files. They are helping investigate a bomb threat against a federal building in Dallas. Mulder inspects a building across the street from the supposed target and discovers the bomb in a vending machine. Special Agent in Charge Darius Michaud (Terry O’Quinn) stays behind to disarm the bomb as Mulder and Scully evacuate the building. Unknown to the agents, Michaud makes no effort to disarm the bomb, which detonates.
Returning to Washington, D.C., Mulder and Scully are chastised because, in addition to Michaud, five people were apparently still in the building during the bombing. They are scheduled separate hearings at which their job performances will be evaluated. That evening, Mulder encounters a paranoid doctor, Alvin Kurtzweil (Martin Landau), who explains that the five victims were already dead, and that the bomb was allowed to detonate in order to destroy evidence of how they died. At the hospital morgue, Scully is able to examine one of the victims, finding evidence of an alien virus.
Mulder and Scully travel to the crime scene in Texas. They come across a strange train hauling tanker trucks and they follow it to a large cornfield surrounding two glowing domes. They enter the domes, only to find them empty. Suddenly, grates leading to an underground area open in the floor and a swarm of bees chases the agents out into the cornfield. Black helicopters appear and begin to chase them, but they escape and head back to Washington.
After returning, Mulder unsuccessfully tries to get help from Kurtzweil, while Scully attends her performance hearing and learns that she is being transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah. Mulder is devastated to lose Scully as a partner. The two are about to share a tender moment when Scully is stung by a bee which had lodged itself under her shirt collar. The sting causes Scully to quickly lose consciousness. Mulder calls for the paramedics but when an ambulance arrives, the driver shoots Mulder in the head and whisks Scully away. Waking up in hospital, Mulder is told the bullet only grazed his temple and leaves with the help of The Lone Gunmen. He then meets a former adversary, the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville), who gives him Scully’s location in Antarctica along with a vaccine to combat the virus that has infected her. The Well-Manicured Man is then killed in a car bomb, before his betrayal of The Syndicate is discovered.
Mulder travels to Antarctica to save Scully, and discovers a secret underground laboratory run by their enemy, the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis). Mulder uses the vaccine to revive Scully, disrupting the stable environment of the lab and reviving the cocooned aliens. The lab is destroyed just after Mulder and Scully escape to the surface. It turns out to be part of a huge alien vessel lying dormant beneath the snow; the vessel pushes up through tons of ice and snow and travels straight up into the sky. Mulder watches the ship fly directly overhead and disappear into the distance, as Scully regains consciousness.
Some time later, they attend a hearing, where their testimony is ignored and the evidence covered up. The only remaining proof of their ordeal is the bee that stung Scully, collected by the Lone Gunmen. She hands it over, noting that the FBI does not currently have an investigative unit qualified to pursue the evidence at hand. Later, appalled by the media’s cover-up of the incident, Mulder tries to persuade Scully to leave his crusade. She refuses, saying, “If I quit now, they win.”
At another crop outpost in Tunisia, the Cigarette Smoking Man is shown warning Strughold (Armin Mueller-Stahl) that Mulder remains a threat. Strughold is unworried, since Mulder is alone, and “One man alone cannot fight the future”. Instead, Cigarette Smoking Man hands him a telegram revealing that the X-Files unit has been re-opened.
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