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
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
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.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London