The Movie Tourist Visits the Federal Building from ‘The X Files – Fight The Future’
The X-Files: Fight the Future is a 1998 sci-fi mystery about Mulder and Scully fighting the government in a conspiracy at find the truth about an alien colonization of Earth.
“A random bomb threat or does it perhaps hide a darker purpose? This federal building in Texas would help revive Mulder and Scully’s search for the truth … only issues being that it’s in the building across the street”
On the surface, a Texas Federal building might not seem like the most remarkable of movie locations with downtown Los Angeles standing in for Texas but despite the disposable nature of the location, it’s one which subtly serves multiple purposes both in terms of the plot of the film and Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) journey as characters which becomes apparent when examined closer.
It was shot during the filming hiatus between seasons 4 and 5 of the television show, with further reshoots being undertaken during the production of season 5 and covered for by Mulder or Scully being less prominently featured during certain episodes. The film placement in the mythology sees it serving as a way to bridge the fifth and sixth season, making it quite an ambitious film in the fact that the writers had to craft a story that not only appealed to the established fans but also could provide a draw for newcomers. No easy feat, especially when the show had already established at this point a complex conspiracy plotline that had slowly unfolded between monster-of-the-week episodes that only made the show, much like its leads, such a cultural touchstone of the 90’s.
Rejoining Mulder and Scully here we find them still somewhat in the wilderness as the finale of season 5 The End originally designed as a way to turn the show into a film franchise saw The X Files being closed, seemingly for good and the agents work being set ablaze by the villainous Cigarette Smoking Man. However, with the show being far too profitable for the Fox Network, this first movie adventure, much like the second film, I Want To Believe, served instead as a link between seasons while giving the showrunners the opportunity to do several major set pieces such that they would never be able to do on their budget for the series, such as a North By Northwest inspired cornfield chase or the Antarctica set finale.
Now tasked with carrying out general FBI duties, we’re reunited with the agents as they search the building as part of a bomb threat against the federal building. Mulder of course, who’d rather be continuing his personal quest to investigate the unexplained, is shown to be more of a pain to his fellow agents and no doubt his superiors than he was when he was still assigned to The X Files as he cracks jokes with Scully and generally takes a surprisingly laid back approach despite the fact that he is supposed to be investigating what by all means is a very real threat. Scully on the other hand can be seen as being as equally lost as her partner, even though we would assume that with her permanently sceptical world outlook, especially for her former assignment so might relish the opportunity to salvage what credibility remains of her career as an FBI agent.
The kicker of course for this opening scene is that the FBI agents are searching the wrong building and that the bomb is in fact across the street, with Mulder’s hunch of the actual location of the bomb proving itself all too true as he finds himself in a Saturday morning matinee cliffhanger, being trapped in the same room as the bomb, it disguised as a vending machine. The setup for the scene really leaves you to wonder how Mulder will get out of this situation, especially with the door lock soldered shut. However just as the scene is starting to build some genuine tension, he is quickly rescued by the FBI team on site, which still remains something of a bugbear for this moment and perhaps would be worse were it not for the payoff in which we get the perfect shot of Special Agent in Charge Michaud played here by the legendary character actor Terry O’Quinn, as he stares down the bomb as it counts down to detonation. Interestingly, despite being blown up, O’Quinn would still return to play the Shadow Man in the season 9 episode Trust No 1.
Despite having a background in television, especially cult television, with credits ranging from Stingray and Dark Shadows through to Star Trek: The Next Generation, Rob Bowman would be credited with 33 episodes including many of its most memorable episodes over the course of the seven seasons he worked on the show. It makes sense that show creator Chris Carter would hand pick him to direct this first feature despite his only feature film credit being the forgettable rollerblade movie Airborne. Still, as the above scene illustrates, he has little trouble in expanding his style to a larger canvas, certainly making the most of having a larger budget to work with, though sadly his later films; the cult dragon movie Reign of Fire and Daredevil spinoff Elektra lacked the style he brings to this film, with the later temporary killing off the studio interest in comic book movies until Marvel Studios turned them into box office gold once more with Iron Man.
The bomb detonation being largely a practical effect rather than a CGI effect means that it still looks impressive now, especially with Mulder and Scully escaping in a police cruiser launched by the shock waves of the blast the aftermath of which is eerily similar to that of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Authenticity for the sequence was only further added by former LAPD bomb squad officer Herb Williams and former FBI agent William O. Heaton serving as consultants, which also saw them appearing in the film as the FBI agents seen with Scully during the scene.
The scene could be seen as just another impressive set piece to open the film, something the movie certainly has no shortage of. There’s the cavemen discovering a cave alien, the black oil at the centre of the plot, and the cover up team rolling into the small desert town in those subtle pure white trucks, seemingly rented from the same place that Robert Davi’s drug lord from Licence to Kill used … what is it about bad guys covertly trying to do things using snow white trucks?
While perhaps on the surface, just seemingly like an enjoyable collection of set pieces, these opening sequences are cleverly brought together by this bomb blast which we soon learn was designed to hide several bodies linked to the alien virus conspiracy which forms the main focus of this first film and which the series had been introducing elements of in the seasons leading up to the films place in the timeline. Thankfully for the more casual fan or newcomers this bomb blast provides an entry point into the story as they are given a mystery to follow and one which is arguable wrapped up by the films credits, even though it would continue to evolve with the seasons of the show which followed. Yes it might not at times be the cleanest of storylines to follow, especially with characters from the show being introduced and in some cases killed off without the introduction that someone new to the show might need to know to understand their importance, in particular Well-Manicured Man who here might seem like just another piece in the puzzle rather than the key conspiracy figurehead he is to the established fans.
Viewed as a stand alone adventure or part of the larger conspiracy, the film still stands up with this re-introduction to the agents still remaining a polished and well paced scene which reminds you of just how good the show really was. A fact only further confirmed by the still rabid fan base whose continual support of the show now only saw a second film release with I Want to Believe. This film helped return the agents from the wild once more and essentially put them in the right position for the recent season 10 and with season 11 currently set for a release in 2018. It would seem the Truth is very much still out there.