THE SENTENCE THAT MAN WAS NEVER MEANT TO READ (or, why the new X-Files movie stinks)

Aliens, Film, Horror, Narrative, Science Fiction

A quick post today, as – what with one thing and another – I’m running around at high speed. So, a high speed rant about what a total dog the new X-Files movie is…. As it is an epic of badness, a truly colossal set of plot and ethics blunders, a movie that gives duncery a bad name, a Fuckwitiad of an epic of an idiotic abortion of a waste of celluloid that should have never been made. And, come the end of the post, it’s going to have me typing THE SENTENCE THAT MAN WAS NEVER MEANT TO READ. I can’t type it here, because reading it will bring about the apocalypse. Sorry, but the new X-Files movie is that bad. I have to type THE SENTENCE THAT ETC.

Oh, and this review is going to be full of spoilers, but this film is so awful I really don’t think anyone should see it (in fact dissing it feels like some kind of religious calling – perhaps I am the new SF fuelled religious guru de nos jours, and can found a religion based on doing the exact opposite of everything that happens in the X-Files movie? We shall see. If I am driving a gold plated Rolls Royce this time next year, you’ll know it’s worked, and perhaps some positive thing will have come out of seeing this eye gougingly painful acrapalypse of dismality. Anyway…)

So, why’s is it so bad? Well, at the most basic level, it feels like it’s several rewrites off a finished draft. For example, there’s a weird ambiguity about whether Mulder and Scully are living together or not. At the start of the film, Scully drives off into the middle of nowhere to find him living in bachelor-y isolation; suddenly they’re in bed together; suddenly they’re splitting up (!) and Scully’s saying she’s not coming home again, which upsets Mulder deeply. Have they been living together? When did that happen? WTF?

Then, there’s a truly nutty twenty four hour sequences where Scully stays up all night bustin’ crime in the freezing fields of Virginia, before going to work, arguing for the life of a dying orphan she’s treating (he’s not really an orphan, but the film works at that level of manipulative emotional pap, so that’s what I’m going to call him), discovering a previously unknown miracle cure for him, researching it on the internet, accidentally cracking the case that she’s on with Mulder (by this time it seems to be early afternoon), going into full surgery with several doctors, nurses, watching nuns (yes, really), and then wandering off to sort out more crime.

The NHS should hire her! She’d make everyone immediately healthy using previously unsuspected techniques she found on Google, save many other orphans at the last minute, sort out the London knife crime epidemic while her kettle’s boiling for elevenses, and then discover that by playing with the wiring on the kettle she could sign a peace treaty with those whacky dudes from Alpha Centauri. Result!

There’s the berserk ethical front loading of Scully’s rationality. As any fule kno (ta Molesworth), the Scully / Mulder conflict is built on the conflict between Scully’s rationality and Mulder’s sense of faith (I want to believe, as the movie clodhoppingly subtitles itself). The movie seeks to reaffirm faith, in a god-vomitingly programmatic and absurd way, so as it begins it sets up a seemingly unopposable argument for rationality over faith.

Scully gets to try and cure her orphan using THE POWER OF SCIENCE. Mulder gets to listen to prophecies and visions about a kidnapped FBI agent from a 36-choirboy buggering paedophile (the script is very precise about its numbers) priest who lives on some strange self-policing paedophile compound. I’m really not making this up. But you won’t believe me, because now I have to tell you that Father Joe – the aforementioned choirboy fiddler – is played by Billy Connolly.

Honestly, I’m really not making this up… Cosmically peculiar casting of a cosmically awful role. Anyway, of course by the end of the film Scully realises that she can only cure her orphan with THE POWER OF FAITH; and Father Joe has quite possibly been forgiven by God and received into Heaven, etc. Not that I have any problems with forgiveness per se; rather, I’ve got considerable disdain for such boneheaded moralising that seeks to be ‘challenging’ by dealing in such absurdly opposed moral opposites.

Anyway, as yet I’ve only scratched the surface of the awfulness of this nonsensical melodrama, this cinematic purgatory, this inferno of any form of the televisual arts, this film so pointless that – had the first caveman who first put chalk to wall to create the first cave paintings seen it, thus seeding the visual arts as we know them today – he would have fed both his hands to the nearest woolly mammoth and gone and sat in the sea to try and de-evolve into an amoeba for the good of creation as a whole – because I haven’t mentioned the villains.

And once I’ve mentioned the villains you’ll think, nope, it really can’t get any worse. And that’s when I’ll start talking about its sexual politics. And at that point you’ll be on your way to the sea to start de-evolving into an amoeba yourself. And only then will THE SENTENCE THAT ETC be unleashed, and the apocalypse won’t matter, because we’ll all be happy little amoebae and won’t even notice it.

So there is a silver lining after all.

Anyway, the villains. So these rather shitty looking Eastern European guys (probably Russians) have set up a severed head (and, it’s implied, other limbs) swapping facility in a kennels somewhere in Virginia, using various local women (who they meet at a swimming pool and select for their rare blood type, detected apparently by watching their swimming style and drawing according conclusions – there’s some nonsense early on in the film about how two of the victims have been treated at the same medical facility, but that’s just forgotten about as the film goes on and the narrative torture continues).

The limbs are discarded in a conveniently frozen river (how they mystically teleport into the feet of ice they’re found in, rather than just sit on top of it like severed limbs would if you or I tossed them in there, is beyond me – give Scully half an hour and a Kit-Kat and she’d no doubt develop an entirely new branch of theoretical physics to explain it, but anyway…).

No motive is given for this nutty limb swapping facility; no sense of what it’s up to, how it pays its multiple doctors and nurses, why they might want to swap limbs and heads in Virginia, is defined. No back story for any of it; no groovy alien or conspiratorial connections (surely a sine qua non of any X-Files movie?); nothing. They’re just a bunch of whacky Russians who decided to go and swap some limbs around in a kennel somewhere. As you do. And in fact, we only see one head and limb swapping patient – and he’s at the heart of this Dreckenbury Village’s spectacular fucked sexual politics, so I can’t hold back the rant gates any more…

So, the two antagonists of the film – a severed limb delivery bloke (really) and the guy who runs the firm he works for – are gay lovers. One of them was one of Father Joe’s choirboys. Implicit in their presentation is the sense that homosexuality is catching, that it’s spread by paedophilia, and that homosexual love can lead to the kind of mass murdering moral depravity we see in the film. And that’s not all; this sclerotic codpiece of awfulness doesn’t even have the courage of its comprehensively repugnant convictions. Because the action of the film takes place because limb delivery boy needs to find a new body for his lung-cancer dying lover; and so he’s kidnapping women to find a replacement body for him.

WTF??? I kid you not. Our loopy antagonists are busy trying to transplant the head of a gay man onto a woman so that – presumably – antagonist gayness can be neutralised in a bout of ‘actually I’d rather shag you as a woman’. So contemptuous of gay relationships that it goes as far as an entire body swap to avoid having to deal with them, having first presented them as some kind of ethical leprosy, this film is built on possibly the most fucked sexual politics I’ve ever encountered. It has no redeeming features, beyond the fact that it’s finite. And, one day, with the onset of senility or similar, I might actually forget that I’ve seen it.

Oh, and one of the plastic severed heads in the final scenes is actually pretty good. It needs a better agent, tho’, if this kind of cobblers is the only sort of thing it’s getting offered.

Anyway, so that’s the rant over and done with. And now it’s time for THE SENTENCE THAT MAN WAS NEVER MEANT TO READ:

Don’t go and see this film; go and see ‘Battlefield Earth’, it’s better.

Enjoy the apocalypse, amoeboid regressing friends! I’ll see you in the swamps…

9 thoughts on “THE SENTENCE THAT MAN WAS NEVER MEANT TO READ (or, why the new X-Files movie stinks)

  1. Yup, keep on meaning to watch that. Don’t want to comment on Duchovny in X-Files as if I fire up the rant engine again I won’t be done till 3am… Tho’ was interesting looking at his and Gillian Anderson’s performance in the light of Michael Caine’s comment the other day that a star fits the script to them, an actor fits themselves to the script. Duchovny a star, Anderson most definitely an actor…

  2. Hmm, point taken – he is rather good (having youtubed). Suspect that might be the case – I wonder if the film took a long time to happen in part because both leads wanted to get beyond any possibility of typecasting by doing lots of other varied stuff first?

  3. While I agree that the film is a dog – and not even a two-headed one- I think to attack it for putting a gay man’s head on a woman’s body is a little unfair.

    I got the impression that the point of the transplants was to use the women’s bodies – any body’s body – as a holding position until the right fella with the correct genetic makeup went swimming.

    Or maybe I’m just projecting my inner gay russian mad scientist onto proceedings?

  4. Hmm, the film could be read like that; I guess in part its loose scripting that means either position in viable. That’s hardly less unpleasant, tho’; not quite so homophobic, but deeply misogynistic!

    Been pondering all this more the last few days; the film has a fascinating relationship with sexual aberrance, setting it up through the Billy Connolly character as something to be expiated through remorse, repentance and (obliquely) action to remove the end results of that aberrance.

    The BC character gets forgiven in part as a result of his neutralising of the gay-Russian-body-swapping ring; the film makes the link very explicit through Mulder’s final speech, where he points out that (if I remember correctly) the BC character died at exactly the same time as the final action at the body-swap factory. (oh, and come to think of it the lung cancer thing is also a very direct link between the BC character and the dying Russian).

    Given this, I wonder if you could read the male-to-female bodyswap as an attempt to expiate the aberrance of homosexuality (as the film reads it) that the two gay characters display? Certainly I think it works with the (no doubt completely unintended, but nonetheless troubling) deep sexual themes that the film is built around!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.