If "The X-Files" is alien to you, it's time to prepare for invasion.
Unless you've been living under a moon rock, you've at least heard of the Fox TV series about two crusading FBI agents exploring the supernatural and extraterrestrial. Almost since it began in 1993, every other Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide cover has beamed with the faces of Fox "Spooky" Mulder and Dana Scully.
There are "X-Files" conventions, comic books and Internet confabs. The alien phenomenon is so commonplace that it's gone cuddly -- you can actually buy tacky little stuffed extraterrestrials at the mall. And now there is the clearest sign of pop-culture saturation -- "The X-Files" movie, which opens tomorrow.
It's possible, however, that a few folks haven't been X-posed. And even those who have may be mystified by the ever-evolving plot, which has more cul-de-sacs than Columbia. The movie is an extension of the TV show and assumes its audience has a certain amount of knowledge, so some X-plication is in order.
Face it. There wouldn't be much of a show if series creator Chris Carter actually told us what was going on. Though a lot of "X-Files" episodes are simply scary stories, many -- and the movie -- deal with the incredibly complex tale that its creators call "the mythology," a conspiracy concerning government cover-ups and extraterrestrials. The Roswell alien-crash story, which figures into the mythology, seems quaint in comparison.
The movie, die-hard X-Philes will find, actually spells out a few things, much more than the TV show ever does. But newcomers are still going to be perplexed by the galaxy of shadowy X-figures, many of whom don't even have real names. Here are the bare facts you'll need to survive "The X-Files" movie -- and, remember, trust no one.
X-Files: Secret FBI cases concerning inexplicable or supernatural events. Not for the first time, the X-Files office was shut down (actually, burned) at the end of this TV season.
Fox Mulder (David Duchovny): Agent assigned to the X-Files whose sister was (he thinks) abducted by aliens when they were kids. Late father was linked to major players in alien conspiracy. Has a sense of ironic humor but often talks in really long sentences full of overblown philosophy and abstractions. Obsessed with proving the existence of aliens as well as a bewildering number of supernatural phenomena and twisted plots. JFK conspiracy freaks got nothin' on this guy.
Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson): Agent and medical doctor (degree from University of Maryland) originally assigned to the X-Files to debunk Mulder's theories. Since then has been his staunch ally and the voice of rationality, at least when she's not agonizing over her religion or hearing the siren call of the alien (?) implant in her neck. Survived a puzzling abduction and, later, brain cancer probably caused by removal of implant. Among deaths in her life: her sister and a girl she discovered was her biological daughter. Says "Mulder!" a lot in a plaintive, piping voice.
Will they or won't they? Fans wonder if Mulder and Scully will become romantically involved, in light of the agents' smoldering intensity and passionate commitment to their work and each other. Carter says no, but the look in their eyes says yes.
The story so far: Essentially, there are space aliens, though even Mulder didn't think so for a while. They have a dastardly plan for colonizing the Earth, and a powerful international committee of old guys in suits knows all about it. In fact, they are collaborating with the extraterrestrials, in part by creating cloned alien-human hybrids (Mulder's sister appears to be one).
The government is hoarding lots of evidence of all this, including implants and alien fetuses, hidden behind doors helpfully labeled "Top Secret." The conspiracy has more layers than a Vidalia onion.
When they're not being confused by the alien plot, Mulder and Scully track down a lot of monsters and murderers suspiciously derivative of serial-killer movies and horror tales.
Cigarette-Smoking Man, aka Cancer Man: Identified only by his habit of perpetually sucking on a cancer stick. Frankly, we're surprised he's not dead yet. Has pivotal role in mysterious international committee of old guys in suits. Nominally a villain, he occasionally shows surprising moments of sentimentality and keeps claiming to be people's father.
Well-Manicured Man: Another member of the international committee of old guys in suits who occasionally pops up in Mulder and Scully's life. His gentle British accent belies his iron will.
Conrad Strughold: A sinister German, he's the first member of the international committee of old guys in suits to be identified by name. He appears for the first time in the movie.
The Lone Gunmen: A Baltimore-based trio of conspiracy nuts and techno-nerds who are big Mulder supporters. They act as fonts of information and as comic relief. Plus, they make all of us geeks watching the show feel less geeky in comparison.
Assistant Director Walter Skinner: FBI supervisor who acts as guardian angel, mentor and angry parent for those pesky kids Mulder and Scully.
Black oil: An alien essence/virus known to turn normal people into pawns of the critters from space (as happened briefly to character Alex Krycek, an agent of the international committee of old guys in suits, two seasons ago) or make them deathly ill. The international committee of old guys in suits has been working on a vaccine for it, but as you'll find out in the movie, the rules of the game are changing.
Bees: Seen in the TV show as specially engineered carriers of disease.
Black helicopters: All-purpose, cliched symbol of covert government action. Thus their role in the "X-Files" movie is guaranteed.
Pub Date: 6/18/98