New The X-Files makes a dazzling debut as Cannes hosts world premiere



October 7, 2015 – 7:31AM

It is an old adage in Hollywood that you should always leave your audience wanting more. So it seems extraordinary that after nine seasons and two feature films, a redux of paranormal drama The X-Files could become the biggest show of the year.

But with just six one-hour episodes commissioned by the US studio 20th Century Fox, anticipation for the series is running high. And if the interest generated at the annual TV market Mipcom is any measure, this is going to be next year’s biggest TV hit.

Consider the audience here: seasoned television industry executives unfazed by either celebrity wattage or media noise. It takes a lot to get them excited about anything that isn’t a game show with an over-sized lighting rig.

And yet, at the world premiere of The X-Files in Cannes’ Palais des Festivals, there wasn’t a spare seat. And the queue to get in snaked out of the building and down the Boulevard de la Croisette. That doesn’t happen often here.

And the premiere episode in a sentence? It’s a ripper. An absolute bloody ripper. And if you’re a fan of the original series there’s more than a few moments where you will squeal with delight.

But be warned: from this point in the review there will be very gentle spoilers.

The original series aired between 1993 and 2002. It ran for nine seasons and two feature films, in 1998 and 2008. In the 1990s it was a massive TV hit, not just in the US, but also in Australia.

If you did not watch it, it focused on FBI special agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) whose interest in the paranormal had seen him sidelined to the agency’s basement where he worked on unresolved “X” files. Into his world came FBI agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) initially to assess his work with a view to debunking it, though in time a great partnership blossomed.

The redux picks up the story in the present, more than a decade after the FBI’s “X Files” department has been closed down. The first episode is fast and tight, outlining a conspiracy which is worthy of the show’s best, blending everything we know with more contemporary connective tissue such as conspiracy theorist TV pundits, the Snowden case and the NSA scandal.

Brilliantly, it manages to be box up all the touchstones of the original series, in a very present framework. It plays fast, like modern television must, but as the pieces of its jigsaw slowly assemble themselves, we’re almost slowly, subtly turning back the clock to the point that Mulder and Scully are re-partnered and the X Files re-opened.

To some extent it works because despite the water under the bridge, the show’s authorship is unchanged. Chris Carter who created the series and has steered it through its entire life, returns as producer and writer. Mark Snow, whose music defined the tone and texture of the original, returns as composer.

At the heart of The X-Files now, as it always was, is an ages-old clash of ideologies. Mulder, the believer, a man of faith and hope, versus Scully, the scientist, whose logic must deny faith. Both positions have come a long way since the original, but at their heart they remain true to their original selves.

The first episode of the six foreshadows a compelling new series, with hints that it will ultimately knit together many of the show’s touchstones, such as the abduction of Mulder’s sister, The X-Files, Roswell and the origin of the show’s iconic Smoking Man.

There are also lovely moments, including the return of FBI assistant director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), and a conclusion -the details of which we will omit here – which will send fans into paroxysms of pleasure, horror and delight. (Clue: yep, it’s him, and he’s super creepy.)

From its first frame more than two decades ago The X-Files proposed a fascinating notion: the truth is out there. Whether it wholly or properly answered that in its original life is debatable. But it demonstrated, powerfully, that the journey, and not the destination is what mattered most.

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