Film: File under 'fantastic'

The X Files


The Day the Earth Stood Still


In the paranoid world of The X-Files, dark extraterrestrial forces are responsible for any mildly peculiar incident. They were standing on the "grassy knoll", they bought the Sasquatch his monkey suit, and they're probably the reason why all my ball-point pens keep disappearing. As anyone who has been near a television in the past five years will know, it's the job of Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) to sniff out their presence. And it's a tough assignment, as their enemies are not an obvious invasion force. They operate through human quislings, a praesidium of shady suited men who ensure that secrecy is maintained - a process that seems mainly to involve having sotto voce conversations in smoke-filled rooms with the curtains drawn.

Rob Bowman's The X-Files adds one big twist to the curlicued complexities of the TV series: before they requisition our real- estate, these aliens want to have us for breakfast. "We are nothing but digestifs for a new alien life-form," announces their chief human collaborator (played by Armin Mueller-Stahl). I think it was digestifs. "Digestives" would be too perverse, even for The X-Files.

Rob Bowman is one of the regular directors of the TV series, and despite the pumped-up production values, he has kept the movie close to its small screen inspiration. The effortless transfer that Duchovny and Anderson make to the big screen must have made the cast of Friends sick with envy. They succeed not because they're overburdened with star quality, but because their roles rely on the wooden pronouncement of reams of elaborate pseudo- science. There is very little emoting required: Duchovny and Anderson just have to deadpan lines about "causative microbes" and maintain an expression of intrigued intensity while looking at phials of gunk and suppurating bodies. And they both do it beautifully. My only qualm was that Gillian Anderson has now lost so much weight since the first series of the TV show, you'd think she was the victim of some sinister Hollywood conspiracy to turn women into anorexics. But who'd believe a crazy theory like that?

As the power of the X-Files concept derives from its atmosphere of dark confusion, you'll be disappointed if you go to the movie expecting straight answers. The value of "X" will never be disclosed. The movie's narrative is a constant exchange between explication and obfuscation. Any titbit of information we are thrown is then rendered meaningless by a new mystery.

The film has Martin Landau - completely goggle-eyed and with a face like a sack of coathangers - who pops up in alleyways to offer Mulder fragments of conspiracy theory. But, of course, he's not what he seems. The X-Files has built up a baroque network of half-comprehensible mythology, but it's a very fragile construction: Mulder's sister was abducted by aliens, probably. Mulder's father was mixed up in the Roswell incident, possibly. But anything we've been told could be reversed or contradicted in the space of a scene: the conspiracies can just keep unpeeling to reveal new ones. And what we're left with is a sense that every event we witness contains some sinister significance that can never be cracked. Like they say, trust no one.

It's a galaxy away from the shiny Cold War certainties of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robert Wise's classic sci-fi melodrama from 1951. Wise's movie deals with hi-tech threats - atom bombs, vaporising rays fired from the skulls of steel robots, machines built from glass that can neutralise every electrical power-source in the world. But the threats of are biological: aliens incubating inside human bodies; a clawed hand twitching under a thin layer of their victims' eyeballs. The Day the Earth Stood Still has Klaatu (a silver-suited Michael Rennie) landing in a huge flying saucer. The X-Files has abandoned any attachment to technological progress and replaced it with primitivistic body horror. Sleek flying saucers have been replaced by something nastier. Just to underline the point, Rob Bowman has Duchovny urinate on a poster for Independence Day.

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Gravelle on trial for Danny Latimer's murder as Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Review: Broadchurch episode 7

Arts and Entertainment
Barry Norman has predicted a Best Actor win for Michael Keaton at this Sunday's awards

Arts and Entertainment
The right stuff: 'Ukip: the First 100 Days'

Review: UKIP: The First 100 Days TV
Arts and Entertainment
Anastasia Steele with Christian Grey in his offices in Fifty Shades of Grey

Arts and Entertainment
Class act: Julia McKenzie and Keeley Hawes in 'The Casual Vacancy'

JK Rowling's story is a far better drama than it is a book

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers

Arts and Entertainment
The BBC's version of 'The Crimson Petal and the White'


Arts and Entertainment
We will remember them: 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London

Art Police investigate abuse sent to Paul Cummins over Tower of London installation

Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman was named worst actress for her performance as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game; the film’s producer, Harvey Weinstein, said the UK government ought to honour its subject
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower